I took this past week off work to whack my writing on Rosa Praed into some sort of shape and figure out how to make it readable but, sadly, on Monday the b/f ended our relationship. This happened a few hours after I’d had my inoculations for India, so for several days I was thrown out of action by despair and by a very tired and useless body. Which was immensely irritating, on top of everything else, as I was physically unable to find solace in writing, as I usually do. At least the man had the grace to do it in person rather than by text message, although it is a bit sad that, having been dumped in this manner by a spineless wonder once before, it has become a benchmark for how well men break things off, although these things are never easily done.
Technology may have robbed people of courtesy, but it can still be a source of great pleasure, as an old friend bought me an eReader by way of congratulating me for the publication of Entitlement, and for cheering me up. I mentioned I wanted the Sony reader, because it comes in red, and I don’t like the design of the Kindle (nor Amazon’s monopolisation of the market), and the Kobo’s padding is a little weird. And heavens, have I been so excited! Not only because it’s pretty and red and it fits neatly into my handbag (I mean, how could I ever have taken A Dance With Dragons to read on the bus to work when it’s the same size as my lunchbox?) but because I have access to so many books that are affordable. For a povo writer, this is pretty darn overwhelming. Despite my palpitations, however, I still don’t think books will disappear, largely because of their tangibility: their smell, the feel of paper beneath your fingertips, their weight in your hands, and the pleasure of browsing in a bookstore and being among people who also love books.
What concerns me are libraries. If books are so cheap that they save one the effort of going to the library, we will lose these wonderful hubs of communality. Matt Lamb, one half of the Review of Australian Fiction, mentioned once in a conversation that we might return to the days of the salon. Certainly the salon events at Avid Reader, consisting of discussions with a number of authors, are the ones I enjoy the most, particularly as I’m not teaching at the moment and don’t have access to many like-minded people. Libraries already do work in this way through author talks and book clubs (as do bookstores, of course), but I wonder if they might need to do more. However, given that our esteemed premier is proposing cuts in the library sector (despite his being an ambassador for the Year of National Reading – clearly he doesn’t understand what constitutes irony or, as Nick Earls has pointed out, downright hypocrisy), this is probably not even possible.
I’m taking my reader to India with me (where I’m presenting at a conference on Patrick White), but rest assured I’ll still be pedalling to Stones Corner library to fill up my bicycle basket with books. Libraries are too valuable to lose my support.