Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chris Bohjalian on our Totemic Connection to Books

Author Chris Bohjalian (Midwives, Before You Know Kindness) writes occasional columns for the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press.

Idyll Banter: Perhaps pulp is not fiction just yet, by Chris Bohjalian. (Burlington Free Press, 12/13/2011)

You'll want to read the entire essay, of course, but I was particularly struck by these two thoughts.

And, finally, there is this: We still have a totemic connection to books. To pulp. To dust jackets. When we see a cover or hold in our hands a book we once cherished, we do not merely recall a detail of the plot or a snippet of dialogue: We remember where we were -- and, yes, who we were -- when we first savored that particular story. William Peter Blatty's "The Exorcist" catapults me instantly back to the Hialeah-Miami Lakes Public Library and I am once again 14 years old. Annie Proulx's "The Shipping News" is a snowstorm in March 1993 and the wondrous news that my wife is going to have a baby.

In my own case....

...a period of my life when I prepared the boys, both still in preschool, this snack on a regular basis.

The truth is, I understand as well as anyone that the digital genie is out of the bottle. I respect digital reading devices, just as I respect my smart phone. I simply believe that paper books make wonderful gifts and am mighty glad there are still bookstores around. So, big props and happy holidays to those booksellers who are still fighting the good fight on behalf of pulp -- and can help me find the perfect gifts for family and friends.

As a gift, particularly 19 years after its initial publication, Gone South would be a decidedly curious selection, but I share it with you here because it holds the title of "Paul's favorite book".  It's a an off-the-beaten-path, surprisingly touching, and beautifully observed quest novel, one that deeply affected me in an unexpected way.   (Perhaps I should note here that the only time I experienced nightmares in my life was while reading McCammon's They Thirst.)

1 comment:

Elsie Gilmore said...

Your blog came up as I researched C. L. Richards. You mention him as the first contributor to the Poynette library. He was the Presbyterian pastor in Baraboo, then Kilbourn (Wisconsin Dells), then Poynette. I'm writing a history of the Baraboo church that includes him. Thanks for the little tidbit!