I have been giving Aloe House a more thorough cleaning than usual, and in the process I've been dismayed at the condition of my old friends. This climate isn't friendly to arts and literature; canvas, frames, and books especially dampen and mold, yellow and crumble. Trying to dust a paperback makes more dust, and even the "good" books - a hardbound collected works of Shakespeare, Tom's big history tomes, a couple of coffee-table prizes - are becoming limp and unglued.
We expected this, of course, when we shipped them down here. But what is a beach house without a varied collection of reading material? North Caicos is a wonderful place to sit and read. And so our books came with us.
The "library" has changed over the years. Airport consumables have joined our old favorites, I gave some away, and twice I made donations to the local library. But some of the books I bought and loved as a college English major remain, as do the histories and classic sci-fi that Tom regularly rereads. And it's sad to see them sagging and plumpening, just as we do with age.
Yes, my younger friends, I know. Hanging onto physical books in the day of the Internet and e-readers is stubborn nostalgia. The world of books is changing on all sides. And I must admit that slipping a loaded Kindle into my purse before heading to the airport is more practical than packing a bag with books.
Well, others before me have noted what's missing in the e-book revolution, including the tactile experience of a book and the inability to peek at someone else's book cover and perhaps start a conversation. Nor can you peruse another's collection and stumble across something you might like.
My contribution to the argument is that I would feel lost on North Caicos if I had to rely solely on my preplanned, prepaid Kindle loads. (And that is how it must be, as Amazon won't accept transactions from foreign countries.) I'm more likely to browse through my Shakespeare and read a play while here than select one to download in advance. And would I ever have finally read that Faulkner book I slipped by as a sophomore, if it hadn't been waiting on my shelf? Doubtful.
So I dust gently. Margaret Atwood's creepily fascinating The Handmaid's Tale awaits on my Kindle, but after that ... hmm, it's been a while since I peeked in on Walden.