ode to a crumbling empire

With the news of Brain, Child shutting down, which rides on the primary-colored coattails of the 100+ year old classroom staple “Weekly Reader” discontinuing its print issue, it feels a little like those of us who love the printed word have more and more to be sad about. The paper pulp that we love apparently is crumbling, and turning into kindling around us.

But listen: just recently, at my son’s field day, I met a woman (the mother of one of X’s classmates) who works in marketing at our local Barnes and Noble. She was telling me that, yes – the national news is abysmal at times when it comes to print publications…but that at many of the stores they have seen a major upswing in both print and device sales. She thinks that bookish people are always going to keep things afloat, maybe just in a more concentrated, specialized form.

I’m guilty, you know. I write so much on here when I  should be affixing my words to print in a collection or a large, solid novel-length piece, and attempting to distribute that work. But you see, that takes more time, and a frightening sort of dedication and a testament of faith. I have modern failings. I crave instant gratification as much as the next American android.

An aside: the letters I have received in my little letter writing project have been so…life-affirming. Funny. Beautiful. Palpable. I hope you like the ones I’ve sent to you, and that my handwriting hasn’t made your eyes bleed out just yet. 

It’s sad to lose Brain, Child.  I remember reading an issue at this genius little place in Anchorage called Arctic Playgroundz, where parents and caregivers could drink proper coffee, eat a proper lunch, and sit on a comfortable couch while their children played in a sweet indoor playground. The place was sleek – with polished concrete floors (and tons of little tricycles and plasma cars for kids to scoot around in), red leather couches, colorful and soft lighting, and art hanging on the walls. It was a relaxed, playful, safe place where adults could do adult things while they’re kids wore themselves out. They had a great array of magazines on the side tables, and one of the ones I read often was Brain, Child. 

I often had my laptop with me, but most of the time, if a good work in print (magazine, alt paper, novel) was by my side I’d chose that over the glow of the machine. I absorb more by reading in print, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. I think there will always be those of us who appreciate the ephemera of the printed word, much like there have always been those who enjoy and collect vinyl records. Like good art, we’ll work hard to keep that heart beating, in whatever form it takes.

6 thoughts on “ode to a crumbling empire

  1. Gosh, you are so right about the instant gratification of blogging. I think it may be what’s making my bigger, longer committment tolerable. I have a Kindle, and my Sara has an iPad, but we can’t give up our print books. We have a library full, and we are forever getting more. It’s something about the smell of the paper–at least in part. Somehow ereaders just don’t smell the same, and it some ways, at least for me, reading is a sensory experience.

  2. It is multi sensory, isn’t it? Touch – the feel of the book in your hands, the smooth pages. Sight – the viewing of sometimes beautiful typography and delicious text. Smell – either the crisp chemical smell of a newly minted book or the comfortable, musty scent of an old one. Hearing – the ‘crack’ of a new book (crack open a book!), the sound of pages being turned softly, the ‘whomp!’ of a huge tome being slammed shut, the thump on the thigh of a bible thumper. Taste – hmmm. Maybe not that one. Although my dog licks books. And the sixth sense, too – just ‘knowing’ a book is calling to you, just waiting to change your life.

  3. I almost always write on the computer….it’s both good and bad. I fear that I am dependent on typing to make poems (well, I would use paper if I had to, but it’s never my first preference, which is so odd).

    i think paper books will almost never go away (as long as there are people). I hope!

  4. Oh I hope so! I love the feel and smell of new books – I’d hate for everything to become electronic. And how is that any security that certain books will continue to exist? What about all the lesser known or little loved novels that are picked up years after the author’s forgotten about them and loved anew? x

  5. Katie, you’ve hit upon a good point. It isn’t just the ‘famous’ and ‘noted’ books that should be preserved…it’s the lesser known ones, too. Motivation to finish a few projects!!

"... all my lovers were there with me, all my past and futures."

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