So I guess we’re in some sort of digital revolution. Whatever. I like the Internet a lot, iPods are fun and so are microwaves and Bagel Bites. Way to go on those things, technology. But there are some ways in which technology makes me want to go Thoreau my cell phone into Walden Pond. One of those ways is Amazon’s Kindle 2.0.
More like, I want to turn it into kindling for a fire and watch it burn! Forever.
Amazon promotes the Kindle as a “wireless reading device” (That’s funny. Aren’t real books wireless too?) in which readers can download the full text of books for $9.99 within a matter of minutes, with the capacity to hold up to 1,500 books. I have lots of technophobic/moral issues with the Kindle, but I’m going to focus more on the timeless sexiness that real books have in comparison to the socially awkward Kindle.
What Amazon doesn’t tell you in its promotion of the Kindle is that it looks ridiculous in real-life situations. Seeing someone reading a Kindle in a coffee shop or on the bus is like seeing a Dick Cheney-helmed Segway – absolutely not hip and definitely not sexy, unless you’re into avuncular, sheepish, off-balance neocons. Ride it, Dick!
In one of my favorite lines of his, comedian John Waters said, “We need to make books cool again. If you go home with somebody and they don’t have any books, don’t (sleep with) them.“
As a bibliophile (look it up, in a book), I would most definitely heed Waters‘ advice.
In a recent entry for The New Yorker’s book blog, The Book Bench, writer Thessaly La Force makes the point that reading is a difficult balance between “the solitary and the social,” and that this balance is best demonstrated through a good, old fashioned physical book – you know, the kind with paper, ink and pages you can coyly flip at a cafe.
It’s obvious that there is more to reading than its Circean ability to lure hot intellectual types at cafes into striking up a literary conversation. I could go on and on about how much I love the solitary comfort I get from reading and about the invaluable ways in which books enrich the soul and all that “Reading Rainbow” jazz. But let’s get real: It’s spring, and I’m sure some of you have the fever, and are looking to ease “the feve” by getting with someone with at least a smidge of intellectual substance. So I’m going to give you some tips on how to pick up some bookish hotties.
Tip #1: Reading in a bar is actually a great thing to do.
In Noah Baumbach’s “Kicking and Screaming,” a film that is crazy-applicable to our lives in college right now, one of the main characters, Jane, memorably reads a book by herself in a dive bar. It’s the middle of the day, but it doesn’t seem weird that she’s drinking stiff drinks and reading a book at the same time, because if you’re a true intellectual, it isn’t weird – it’s the norm. If you want to be perceived as an intellectual a la Ernest Hemingway or Dorothy Parker, who can enjoy a cocktail or two and still be incredibly smart and non-conformist at the same time, this is a good route to take.
Just ignore the fact that both Hemingway and Parker were suicidal alcoholics and focus on how to make your brooding more attractive. Remember to keep that Charles Bukowski novel tilted up, too.
Tip #2: Don’t display anything that was on your high school AP English reading list.
“The Catcher in the Rye” is very sweet and an obvious classic, but there’s more to J.D. Salinger than this book – I would recommend “Franny and Zooey” or “Nine Stories.” I don’t mean to take away from the greatness of “Catcher,” though, because it’s great and on reading lists for a reason. But unless you want to get hit on by one of the 15-year-old Westwood rascals who mistakes you for a girl in one of his classes at Beverly Hills High, save reading this one for the privacy of your own home.
Tip #3: The more battered, the better.
Old books are beautiful, and the more worn they are, the more metaphorically they have torn, so violently, so wretchedly, at the depths of your soul (and the soul of the books‘ previous owners). The aesthetic appeal of a used copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Beautiful and Damned” is much higher than a generic Borders‘ brand of the same title, because the fonts and cover art of older books are usually more dramatic and colorful, like a Michael Jackson effect. Buying a used book is also much cheaper, and could signify a trendy thriftiness that is yet another factor that could attract a potential suitor as you read in public.
The Kindle may be just one of the latest entertainment-geared technological inventions (I would go so far as to say “advances“), but we don’t have to accept its creation as the latest inevitable sign of a decline in the quality of interpersonal relationships. I hope, I pray to my holy literary trinity of Hemingway, Parker and Fitzgerald that books will be around forever.
Or at least until the next model of Bagel Bites comes out to distract me.