A Book of Sparks
And Then There Were Books
This to me is emblematic of a very unfortunate cultural idea that the goal is to free ourselves from what are actually the right kind of burdens.
To wit, we have old people who don't want to be a "burden" to their children, children who don't want to be a burden to their work-obsessed parents, a government that sees the sick, the poor, the mentally ill as burdens. We bypass the "burden" of peeling and chopping the beautiful root vegetable known as a carrot in favor of a bag of fake, uniformly-sized, tasteless, faux carrot nubs. We have the "burden" of walking instead of driving. We have the burden of buying actual flowers instead of sending, I can hardly bear to type the word, an "e-flower."
We should burden each other. That is what we're here for. We should be willing to sweat and bleed a little for what we love, and for the writers who have laid down their lives in order to leave us their work.
Some of the happiest moments of my life have consisted in checking out books from the library, putting them in my little bag or pack, and walking them, rejoicing, home. The heavier the load, the more the prospective enjoyment, nourishment, delight, stimulation, companionship, connection with humanity, growth.
I remember reading James Kelman's How Late It Was, How Late in my brother's sweltering bedroom in Bangkok. I remember reading War and Peace in a wretched little pensione on the island of Syros, Greece. I remember reading Walker Percy's The Moviegoer in my room at a writer's residency in Woodside, California. I remember because the books were great literature, and I had gone to some trouble to bring and/or find them, and because they awoke something in me that can never quite be similarly awakened by anything I read on a screen.
The weight of the books I have carried, toted, lugged, moved in my life would come to the tens if not hundreds of thousands of pounds. But no way, not now and I pray not ever, am I ready for a Kindle.
Because I have never carried the books. The books have carried me.
With this column "A Book of Sparks" will close. Deep thanks to Elizabeth Scalia and all at Patheos who have given my work a place these past few months, and to all those who have read, responded, and silently argued or enjoyed. I hope you'll join me as I return to my own Shirt of Flame at shirtofflame.blogspot.com.
Heather King is an ex-lawyer, ex-drunk Catholic convert with three memoirs: Parched (the dark years); Redeemed (crawling toward the light); and Shirt of Flame (forthcoming - her year of wandering around Koreatown, L.A. "with" St. Thérèse of Lisieux). You can find Heather on Facebook. She blogs at shirtofflame.blogspot.com.