Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Literature Rant Post.

I love technology as much as the next person, but you know what I don't love? Electronic books. I understand it, sure, and if you love it, kudos to you, but here's the thing: There is nothing that will replace the way it feels to turn the page of a book. Actually turn it, like, with your hand. And books have a scent, it's a smell all their own, and I just sometimes think about my children with their electronic books, and they'll never understand the joy of lugging books home from the library or the smell of old pages and how it's different from the smell of new pages, and they, like so many other people lately, will not understand the power of the printed word.

There is nothing like seven books from the library and the way that stack of books looks on your bedside table. Did you know you can balance teacups next to your bed at the perfect height with a stack of 10-12 paperback novels? You probably didn't know that. And you probably don't know the excitement of reading a book under your covers with a flashlight because you can just turn up the backlight on your Kindle.

I had a nightmare that people were burning books and I kept shouting, "He was right! Bradbury was right!" but nobody understood and nobody listened, because nobody loved the printed word enough to care.

I guess I shouldn't complain about electronic books as long as they keep people actually reading, but I'm terrified of waking up one day and realizing a bookshelf for actual books is a futile device because every book I've ever needed is shoved inside my IPad. (If you've ever seen my bookshelf this is even sadder, because that thing is a beaut.) Books are not only beautiful by nature, but actually, physically beautiful. Have you seen the cover of Catcher in the Rye? And that's before you even open the thing and discover literature itself.

And literature itself! OH! Come on! Read more, for goodness sakes, people! I have never read Fifty Shades of Gray myself (and probably never will), but WOMEN ACTUALLY OPENED UP A NOVEL. This is a success, I say! And they liked it! Maybe they should try Jane Austen next. Maybe they should try Kurt Vonnegut next.

Here is my plea, really, at the end of the day: Just keep reading. The fact that you're reading this right now is hopeful. If I wrote a book (and I will someday), I hope you'd pick it up at B&N or something. Even download it on your Kindle (though the B&N purchase would smell better, I promise). As long as you're reading. That's my plea. Read Shakespeare. Read Chaucer. Read Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Read the Harry Potter series beginning to end. Read some poetry. Read Anna Quindlen's Commencement Address at Villanova. Read The Perks of Being a Wallflower and rejoice because you're a wallflower, too. 

And here's some good news: It's getting colder outside, so you can make tea and sit at home and read. This is the best time of year for reading. It will save you from seasonal depression and make you literate and well-read and incredibly dateable. I mean, I date readers. Usually. Or try to turn them into readers, at least. By the power of cuteness or something.

But in all seriousness, there is something about the printed word that is growing increasingly mortal. I am 17 years old and I have seen entire nations destroyed in my lifetime. We are a generally destructive species, but if we destroy literature, destroy the printed word, what comes next? Art in general? Humanity?

We're an apocalyptic novel already, my friend. Go read one if you don't believe me. Just stay word-hungry.

Audrey Hepburn.
All my love,

"Date a girl who reads. Date a girl who spends her money on books instead of clothes. She has problems with closet space because she has too many books. Date a girl who has a list of books she wants to read, who has had a library card since she was twelve.
Find a girl who reads. You’ll know that she does because she will always have an unread book in her bag. She’s the one lovingly looking over the shelves in the bookstore, the one who quietly cries out when she finds the book she wants. You see the weird chick sniffing the pages of an old book in a second hand book shop? That’s the reader. They can never resist smelling the pages, especially when they are yellow.
She’s the girl reading while waiting in that coffee shop down the street. If you take a peek at her mug, the non-dairy creamer is floating on top because she’s kind of engrossed already. Lost in a world of the author’s making. Sit down. She might give you a glare, as most girls who read do not like to be interrupted. Ask her if she likes the book.
Buy her another cup of coffee.
Let her know what you really think of Murakami. See if she got through the first chapter of Fellowship. Understand that if she says she understood James Joyce’s Ulysses she’s just saying that to sound intelligent. Ask her if she loves Alice or she would like to be Alice.
It’s easy to date a girl who reads. Give her books for her birthday, for Christmas and for anniversaries. Give her the gift of words, in poetry, in song. Give her Neruda, Pound, Sexton, Cummings. Let her know that you understand that words are love. Understand that she knows the difference between books and reality but by god, she’s going to try to make her life a little like her favorite book. It will never be your fault if she does.
She has to give it a shot somehow.
Lie to her. If she understands syntax, she will understand your need to lie. Behind words are other things: motivation, value, nuance, dialogue. It will not be the end of the world.
Fail her. Because a girl who reads knows that failure always leads up to the climax. Because girls who understand that all things will come to end. That you can always write a sequel. That you can begin again and again and still be the hero. That life is meant to have a villain or two.
Why be frightened of everything that you are not? Girls who read understand that people, like characters, develop. Except in the Twilight series.
If you find a girl who reads, keep her close. When you find her up at 2 AM clutching a book to her chest and weeping, make her a cup of tea and hold her. You may lose her for a couple of hours but she will always come back to you. She’ll talk as if the characters in the book are real, because for a while, they always are.
You will propose on a hot air balloon. Or during a rock concert. Or very casually next time she’s sick. Over Skype.
You will smile so hard you will wonder why your heart hasn’t burst and bled out all over your chest yet. You will write the story of your lives, have kids with strange names and even stranger tastes. She will introduce your children to the Cat in the Hat and Aslan, maybe in the same day. You will walk the winters of your old age together and she will recite Keats under her breath while you shake the snow off your boots.
Date a girl who reads because you deserve it. You deserve a girl who can give you the most colorful life imaginable. If you can only give her monotony, and stale hours and half-baked proposals, then you’re better off alone. If you want the world and the worlds beyond it, date a girl who reads.
Or better yet, date a girl who writes."
-Rosemary Urquico

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