At a recent dinner party, I heard a compelling argument in the Ebook vs RealBook debates: real books can connect humans (on subways). People actually start conversations with strangers regarding books. Covers add a layer of human play and interest to the fray of urban life. And yesterday, this truth showed itself during my hours at Books of Wonder.
Neil Gaiman reading & book signing!
The lines began. The most considerate way to have used my waiting time? Figuring out precisely what to say in 15 seconds about being inspired as teacher/writer, capped with a profound witticism.
Yes, I didn't do that.
Instead, I bought a copy of every day by David Levithan.
I read 35 pages as I shuffled in line. The novel caused four spontaneous discussions with strangers. Four. Not only did this say volumes about this particular book/author, it reminded me (a Nook user) of the power of books to connect people. And of the gravity of authors within an expanding universe.
Meanwhile, Neil Gaiman has very passionate fans. The store was packed. One older gent dressed up as Destiny from Sandman. A toddler was dressed up as Chu (from Chu's Day). Most fans had their picture taken with Neil (with several fan in tears of joy). I suspect the lines continued late into the evening. Neil himself seems a particularly down-to-earth guy, which made the spectacle rather warming for such a cold, rainy day in NYC.
Me? My back & legs cramped, but I was enjoying my new book.
The woman in front of me handed Neil and Adam Rex bottles of fine juice, which lifted spirits. Then as I approached, the owner of Books of Wonder, Peter Glassman, initiated a conversation about the non-Neil book I was carrying: "That's a great book!" So, I'm 10% blaming him for having nothing of import to offer Neil Gaiman when I stepped up. I had no fine juice. No personalized witticisms.
Only heavy admiration...
Sometimes words just suck.
As I watched him scribble "believe" in my book, I chuckled. Someday I will buy him a fine beer, I promised myself. Yes. Authors matter. Dead-tree-book-devices matter.
Whether they sleep inside dead trees, digital data, or our frayed neurons - stories, like the gods, need our warm blood & breath to live. I think what matters most is whether they guide us to improve ourselves. To be more human.
My rambling reflection is passive, cliche, & indulgent - yet embodied. Sometimes words just suck... :-)