Wednesday, April 4, 2012




B is for baby or bottle or bib.
For bull or for ball or for boat.
For bubble. For bible. For barrel.

For bake and for bread and for bagel.
For business. For ballast. Beatification.
For beast and balancing beauty.

For break and bash and blast
and bomb and blood. And
after the boom, for bust.

Bad words: Bitch. Bastard, Bullshit.
But also, if not for good, for better and best,
for boon and bounty and benefit.


Winged insect. Spelling competition.
When they make quilts. A decent grade.
Alternative plan. Existential exhortation.


Become. Beware. Bestow. Betoken.
Bewitch, bewilder, bemuse. Belittle.
Behalf. Beholden. Befuddled. Besmitten.


I wanted to talk about books. I was on my way to writing that when I started fooling around with B words, and that got pretty engrossing for a while and the whole sequencing thing and the whole rhythm thing took over and it was pretty fun for a while and then my brain began to buckle (once you start it's hard to stop) and I said, okay, enough of that.

I wanted to talk about books. Partly because they have been of central importance to me, to my upbringing, to the person I have become. I love to read. I have always felt more comfortable surrounded by books. Visit my home or my office and you're going to see a lot of packed bookshelves. I have trouble letting go of them. The books are in some sense the artifacts of my identity, the exterior representation of the ideas I carry around in my mind.

But I also wanted to talk about books because we've somehow arrived at a point when it is possible to conceive of a world in which books will be museum relics, objects from a period in history that it will be hard for people growing up in that new age to even imagine. Already I buy more of my "books" on the Kindle than I do in the bookstore. I walk around on the campus of my school and where I once saw students reading books everywhere, now when I see one it stops me dead in my tracks and I think, how endearing, how quaint. What I see instead is students with laptops and mobile phones and earbuds, plugged into the endless simultaneous overlapping data stream of words and sounds and visual images. I don't know what to make of that. It makes me wonder. Sometimes it makes me worry. It makes me wish for a return to the golden age. I tell myself, you're getting old.

I wanted to talk about books, about the feel of a book in your hands and the visual, tactile experience of falling through the words into a story, about the way you recall as you read an earlier passage that was somewhere up on the left hand side of the page, and how you can flip back to that page and check it out, holding your spot with your thumb. About how different that is from reading digitally. But I don't think there's much to say that hasn't been said better by bazillions of bloggers before me.

I wanted to talk about what is irreplaceable and inimitable about reading a book, and why even as I applaud and support the deployment of technology into the hands of our students and am fully convinced of the potential benefits it provides to them in the facilitation of learning and of personalized expression, I want to say, but don't forget books. It's not the same experience. It's not something you want to walk away from lightly. Hold a book in your hands. Flip through its pages. Sample a sentence here and a sentence there. Have a seat. Start to read. See what happens.

I wanted to talk about books. And I guess this is a start. But I feel like I've only made a dent, a scratch. A baby step. A beginning.

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