Monday, 31 March 2008


I hope the screen doesn’t replace the book. People say I’m out of date and of course, screens will replace books at some point. Of course they will, it’s inevitable. Besides, look at the ecological benefits, they say.

But I say, look at what we’ll lose.

I had three books through the post. All beautiful. And all with the gift of the writer’s signature. A message, overlaying the messages inherent in the words anyway.

Writers can’t sign screens. Make presents of a few words.

The books are beautiful things. Hold them, they feel right in the hand. The slip covers on the hardbacks are great, like wrapping paper over a present. The feel nice, look nice, they move. That’s important. There’s a life to them.

But the permanent covers are important too. Take the covers off, and Tattoo:Tatu by Nuala Ni Chonchuir is the colour of a wise old wine, with gold blocking on the spine. The Searching Glance by Linda Cracknell is a brighter red, with silver lettering.

They feel nice, smell nice. The pages whisper as you riffle through them. The words look good on the paper. The paper is different for both. Tattoo reflects itself. There’s a shadow of each poem left when you turn the page. It says ‘hish hish’ when you feel the pages

The Searching Glance says ‘hush’. It’s like they are reminding you that they require respect. A little silence so they can speak.

The creak of the spine, the hush of pages turning when I’m curled up on the sofa… books speak to you.

What sounds wills screens make? The click of buttons, the pale skit of finger on plastic to ‘turn the ‘page’.

I was brought up surrounded by books. My mother was a librarian. But very few lived permanently in the house; they went back to the libraries. That drove me mad…what if I wanted to revisit something, now?! What if I wanted to add something, notes, thoughts? So now, I buy and keep my books, most of them, and my study walls, upstairs and downstairs, are lined with books. So many that a lot have to lie down on top of the upright ones.

I write in them. Notes along the margins. They are MINE! They are not hallowed things not to be touched and loved. They are friends, companions.

I may put one down, mislay it. Just as I mislay my iPod. But my books don’t run out of battery time. They are more faithful than that. They have their own lifeblood, they don’t require the downloading of electrical possibility.

Yes they use up trees. But with all the technology at our disposal, I’m sure there are alternatives, alternatives that breathe a little life into the words, and don’t just display them on a screen, as cold as meat on a slab.

If I was a tree, I wouldn’t mind being a book.

And actually, come to think of it, I might be, one day. No graves for Chris and I, when the time comes. We’ve decided that. Just a couple of trees. And who knows, if the world doesn’t change too much, one day we may be cut down and turned into a book of poetry.

I like that thought.


Brian G Ross said...

Yeah, the internet is a good medium for so many things, and a great source of information, but please leave the books on the shelf where they belong.


Women Rule Writer said...

Thanks for the nice words about Tattoo:Tatú, Vanessa. I like to think of my book saying 'hish hish'.
And, yes, long live books.

Sarah Hilary said...

Brava, Vanessa! There is nothing to beat the FEEL of a good book (unless it's the reading of it, of course). The fact that Persephone thrives and that Everyman and Penguin routinely republish their back catalogues in new and repro-old editions must mean that the industry knows and values this principle. I have bought two or more copies of the same book just because I couldn't resist a beautiful new (or old) edition. Also, books furnish a room, don't they? All those rows of colourful spines; much lovelier than wallpaper.

Shameless said...

I also love getting books in the post. I've just received your book and Elizabeth Baine's book. They are scrummy to hold. :-) Now I am waiting for a nice, cosy day to slip into them. :-)