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mass and elbows

I am going to talk a little bit more about Super Sad True Love Story (I recommended it to a facebook friend) because things keep reminding me of the book, every day since I read it. The boy-girl love story in the book is nothing to write home about, if you ask me--no one ever does ask me these things--but the love, love, love of books story is a very sweet one.

In the book, Lenny Abramov has a romantic attachment to books, as do a whole bunch of us. chickenhat plaintively queried, "When WAS the last time you went to the library and got a stack of books to read?" and there were plenty of responses indicating that people love books. Not mere repositories of information, the physical presence of bound printed pages is important to us. A WP writer wonders, "As electronic readers gain popularity, what happens to the personal library?" in an article best summarized by this excerpt:

Electronic book readers are a great invention for people who actually read books. But what do they offer those of us who have an even more complicated relationship with books unread? Sitting on a shelf, Thomas Mann's "Magic Mountain" stares down as coldly and harshly as an alp in winter. Locked up in the digital ether of a Kindle or a Nook, it can never indict our miserable laziness.

There's a familiar resignation and a familiar resistance in Lenny's character. Subterranean Press has helpfully compiled Ray Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451 stories in a single volume, A Pleasure to Burn; I realized while reading it that Bradbury wrote and rewrote this love story many times.

Oh! And check out this bit from Long After Midnight:
"It started in the 1900s, I'd say. After the Civil War maybe. Photography invented. Fast print presses. Films. Television. Things begin to have mass, Montag, mass."

"I see."

"And because they had mass, they had to become simpler. Books now. Once they appealed to various bits of people here and there. They could afford to be different. The world was roomy. Plenty of room for elbows and differences, right?"

"Right."

"But then the world got full of mass and elbows. And things for lots of millions of people had to be simple. Films and radio and t-v and big big magazines had to be a sort of paste-pudding norm, you might say. Follow me?"

"I think."

"Picture it. The nineteenth century man with his horses and books and leisure. You might call him the Slow Motion man. Everyone taking a year to sit down, get up, jump a fence. Then, in the 20th Century you speed up the camera."

"A good simile."

"Splendid. Books get shorter. Condensations appear. Tabloids. Radio programs simplify. The exquisite pantomime of great actors become the pratfall. Everything sublimates itself to the joke, the gag, the snap ending. Everything is sacrificed for pace. [...] Great classics are cut to fit a fifteen minute show, then a two minute Book column, then a two line Dictionary resume. Magazines become picture books! Out of the nursery to the college back to the nursery, in a few short centuries! [...] Faster and faster the film, Mr. Montag, quick! Men over hurdles, dogs over stiles, horses over fences! CLICK? PIC!, LOOK, EYE, NOW? FLICK, HERE, THERE? QUICK, WHY, HOW, WHO, EH?, Mr. Montag! The world's political affairs become one paper column, a sentence, a headline. Then, in mid-air, vanishes. Look at your man now, quick over hurdles, over stile, horse over fence so swift you can't see the blur. And the mind of man, whirling so fast under the pumping hands of publishers, exploiters, broad-casters that the centrifuge throws off all ideas! He is unable to concentrate."


Super sad and true, right? I was very disappointed after hearing Mr. Bradbury speak once at a conference I was attending. He seemed so cranky! Now I know that I was too young and stupid to recognize that type of despair.

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