Monday, October 11, 2010

Light reading catch-up (travel edition)

Too much time in airports!

It was beautiful in Portland, Maine, though - I was there for a dear old friend's wedding, the weather was perfect and the foliage is brilliantly gorgeous already. There was a girl's night out on the Friday night at Local 188 and the wedding itself was held at the appropriately named Grace.

In the meantime I had had a nice little run along the waterfront and also what was almost certainly the most delicious pizza I have ever had, a slice of mashed-potato-bacon-scallion at Enzo on Congress Street.

I didn't have time to set up my new Kindle and charge it before I left, so on the way up I read Connie Willis's absolutely delightful Blackout (and the sequel/continuation is imminent, I have pre-ordered it, this is good) and a highly mediocre novel purchased at LaGuardia which I think is exactly the sort of thing which the Kindle in future will spare me.

Once I was at my hotel (which had a quite reasonably sized rectangular swimming pool, though I did not have time to swim in it!), I charged up the device and loaded eight or nine books onto it. Preliminary report: it is excellent in many respects, it will save me all sorts of anxiety about light reading supply (especially while traveling). It was a godsend this weekend, and it's awfully nice to have something so light to carry in the bag.

The downside: all three of the books I've read so far suffered slightly from being read on the Kindle as opposed to in the format of bound book. Stephen White's The Siege might partly just be a bit disorganized and/or badly written, but it uses a multiple time scheme (several different groups of characters followed over a few days' events, but the events presented out of order - i.e. "Saturday afternoon, "Friday morning") that I found much more disorienting without the visual orientation of flipping through pages and seeing headers, etc. Terry Pratchett's I Shall Wear Midnight is as delightful as all his Tiffany Aching novels, and features a good table of contents (with titled chapters) that helped me navigate when needed, but I found it so annoying to click on the footnotes and then have to press another button to go back to the main text (I just don't like anything that slows me down, that's the honest truth!) that I ended up skipping most of them. And Kristin Hersh's Rat Girl is a wonderfully compelling and worthwhile book, only I felt I must be missing all sorts of things to do with the layout of the page (quoted song lyrics, vignettes from childhood that seemed to be marked differently i.e. with central rather than full justification but that just looked muddled in Kindle format). Also, there's a giveaway on her website of all the music alluded to in the book for which one needs a word from a specific page of the book! Will have to go to a real bookstore and consult, I suppose...

More fundamentally, I feel that the Kindle will have a dangerous potential for me to feed a bottomless-maw version of fiction-reading. If input is so undifferentiated by the traditional printer's tools (typeface, margins, layout, choices about headers and format/size of book etc.), something is lost - I will definitely prefer a future device that keeps the old-fashioned structure of the page. The Kindle is in many respects a more powerful and indispensable tool for me than my various iPods (I haven't yet worked with a PDF file, but will look forward to seeing how it plays out in terms of ease of use), but it produces none of the salivatory longing that the Apple devices do - my first iPod was a revelation in a way that this device is not.

(An associative aside - Kristin Hersh's book is a useful corrective to the rather wish-fulfilling elements that have crept into William Gibson's version of the independent artist's life...)


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  2. Btw, how do you feel about those little foot-of-page and head-of-page repetitions that were standard in 18th cent. editions?