Tuesday, February 26, 2008

The e-book VS. Christine Schutt

The new year has thrust me ever so abruptly into that intangible chasm of mystery and ephemera feared most by bibliophiles/booksellers. This chasm is the e-book.

Some background info: as a left-handed, lit-obsessed liberal I have naturally never excelled much in the area of mathematics. Not to say that it isn’t possible for a person with those traits to overcome the anxiety induced by numbers, I’m reaching for something to excuse my inherent disdain for the subject. In fact, even when stumbling upon a signed first edition hardcover of Aimee Bender’s An Invisible Sign of My Own, a novel which features a mathematician protagonist, I couldn’t get past page twenty. Purchasing it was natural because I’m a book squirrel, tucking those treasures away in little stores around the house. Read it, however? Nope. It’s about math.

So, anyway, I digress. I am enrolled in a Statistics of Africology course. I chose the course over others because although it is stats. I hoped to perhaps broaden my Africology course base, which is already solid in foundation. But, in the end it’s really just a statistics course. Even worse, the class required the purchase of an e-book. The e-book is by far the most inconvenient , ineffective learning tool I have ever encountered. I went to the doctor to get my eyes tested for glasses the other day, 75 dollars out of pocket and what did I leave the shop with? Nothing on paper, I assure you. No prescription. Just the advice that I should “spend less time on the computer”. Leads me to wonder, will I be in any position to sue the university if in ten years I am blind from reading hundreds of pages of statistics jargon in my last year as an undergrad? Also, unlike a regular textbook the student doesn’t have the option of recouping any of the excessive funds used to purchase the book. Instead, the “subscription” runs out after a certain amount of time. Thus my relationship with the e-book is doomed. I mean, why get attached to something that will just end up leaving you anyway. My professor might buy that defense.

In closing , I am involved with a couple REAL books right now. You know how I do.
They are:

Our Aperture- The new chapbook from Ander Monson, available only online from New Michigan Press. This slight work requires a few reads, as it works a lot to challenge your notions of memory, cyclical narrative and the manipulations of language and meaning.

All Souls- The forthcoming novel from Christine Schutt. I received this upon request after Bayard Godsave introduced me to her work through A Day, a Night, Another Day, Summer, which blew me away. I have to admit that I will judge a book by its cover and All Souls really scared me upon first glance, for a second I thought, “Oh God, they’ve gotten to her.” But, upon reading, I can’t imagine Schutt could to turn out anything less than extraordinary.

Reading Christine Schutt is like entering a grand old mansion. A mansion built by some over-zealous speculator in early 20th century North Dakota, abandoned shortly after. Each sentence is a room in that house. You can just feel the potential energy. You look out the window, open and close the window, place your hat in the closet, take it out. You turn the light on and off. You take in the storied colors and smells. You know that this room is desperate for purpose and you feel comforted knowing that just standing there is fulfilling the wish and you start running from room to room until before you know it you’re out the front door again, outside marveling at this grand old mansion.

Verdict: e-books, bad. REAL books, best ever.


Anonymous said...

Yay, Schutt slays the e-book .. .. indirectly for now. Plus, she has her own MySpace page.

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