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Man of the House: He can speak volumes about the demise of books

August 07, 2010|Chris Erskine

They say these Kindles and other electronic reading gizmos will replace books one of these days, and to that I say, "NOT SOON ENOUGH!"

I am all for that. I can never get paperbacks or hardcovers to work. They won't hold a charge, and they're so hard to reboot.

The other day, I was trying to upgrade a cherished old copy of "The Great Gatsby" and I couldn't get the install to go. Then it froze up on me. I mean, it wouldn't do anything, this stupid book. It wouldn't upload, it wouldn't download. It just sat there. Seriously, the traditional book must be the dumbest, most antiquated thing ever.

Yep, books blow. It seems only right that they have no future, for their past is so mixed. A book never changed the world. Oh, there was the Bible, sure, and Shakespeare wrote some stuff that might've advanced love and language, so what? Surely "Tom Sawyer" was pretty good in its day, but children change and so should books.

There was also, if I remember, "Mein Kampf," which didn't really do the world much good, not to mention any of the crud Nicholas Sparks ever wrote. See, books aren't only obsolete. Many can be harmful. I actually can't wait to see them go.

Know what I really hate? Days like this — warm August afternoons by a lake or an ocean, when there's a gnat floating in your margarita, both of you comatose. On a perfect day like this, how do many people spend the time? They ruin it with books.

Fitzgerald and Conroy, Updike and King. Those are just some of the writers to be wary of. John Irving? I've wasted weeks of my life reading his novels, cover to cover to cover to cover.

Here's more good news: If we don't need hardcover books, soon we will no longer need bookstores, or those annoying old libraries where, if you're not careful, you end up whiling away an entire day.

Ever spent a rainy afternoon in a library or a bookstore? There's nothing worse. As a young man, I was once seduced in a bookstore. Her name was Jane Smiley. I loved her. She didn't even know I existed. That's the heartbreak of books.

Perhaps worse than libraries or bookstores are those homes lined with books. I've rented summer cottages just brimming with books. Do people really think that's appealing? Really, a home full of books is no home at all.

What happens in such a place is that you start browsing till you find a title you just can't resist. You'll crack open the book, and it'll smell a little musty, like the forest after a good rain. And, if you're really unlucky, its binding will crackle like an old set of stairs.

You know what'll happen next? You'll sack out on the couch or on an Adirondack chair in the yard, and you'll get lost in this book. The next thing you'll know, the whole day is ruined.

Yep, a book can go anywhere — the beach, the bathroom, the moon. They are so low-tech they can ingest salt or sand or sunscreen and still keep right on working. No company would ever support that kind of lame technology. Imagine producing a product that would still work in 100 years. That would just be stupid. Who could make money like that?

Obviously, a book is an awful, out-of-date thing. I have no patience with them, the way they steal our attention and clutter up our lives forever. To be rid of them is the best possible outcome.

In fact, here's what these soon-to-be-gone books remind me of: They remind me of oysters, another simple-stupid thing that evolution left behind. Oysters are just ridiculously succulent rocks. And books are just ridiculously succulent trees (but with a few more pearls).

So, yeah, it's a no-brainer to get rid of books; we're actually lucky to see them go. Good riddance, books. Please take those lousy oysters with you.

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