Monday, September 10, 2018

Books and sins

I've always had a strong (and maybe strange) reverence for books. Maybe it comes from my parents, who were avid readers. As a Jew, I am part of "the people of the book." When I was in college I sometimes spent food money on books. I was still building bookshelves two weeks before I was due to move out of my college apartment.

When I see books in the trash, I rescue them. In junior high school when a friend's older brother and his buddies gathered around a barbecue grill at the end of the school year to burn their school books, I tried to rescue them—but was blocked by superior forces. Assholes!

I seldom think of sin, but if sins do exist, book burning is certainly high on the list. (I'm posting this on Rosh Hashanah. That's the first day of the Jewish New Year of 5779, and the beginning of the ten "Days of Awe" or "Days of Repentance." This is a period for introspection, a time to consider the sins of the previous year and repent before Yom Kippur. Since I am absolutely perfect, I have no reason to repent. Other opinions may vary.)

Books have always been extremely important to me. As the photo at the top shows, even as a little kid, I used the bathroom as a library so not a moment of potential reading time was wasted. (I wonder why my parents put me on the toilet while I was wearing a diaper.)

The sales brochure for the Bronx apartment my parents brought me home to in 1946 boasts of "built-in bookcases in every apartment." Now in 2018, I can visualize only two pieces of furniture from that apartment: the bunk beds I shared with my sister Meryl, and a mahogany bookshelf that later moved with us to other homes.

As a child with an early bedtime, I read books by flashlight under the blanket. Even now, I share my bed with my wife and often a pbook or my iPad or Kindle Fire.

Before TiVo gave me the ability to fast-forward, I always read during TV commercials. I read at most meals—even at restaurants. Some people think it's rude. I think it's efficient.

After writing paperbacks since 1977 and ebooks since 2009, I decided to publish my first hardcover in 2011, a new format for my "stories" book. It evokes new emotions from me. The book feels very good. It looks beautiful, with a glossy dust jacket and the title and my name stamped in bright golden ink on the cloth covering the binding.

A hardcover book provides a special experience. Perhaps ebooks will replace paperbacks, but I don't think anything can replace hardcovers.

Torah scrolls are still handwritten, after thousands of years. Grave stones are still chiseled. Initials are still carved on trees. They should still be readable long after the last Kindle and Nook are recycled.

Even though I am the sole employee of my publishing company, my hardcover seems about 96% as "professional" as the similar Tina Fey book from publishing giant Hachette. Even though I've seen my cover design and read the title hundreds of times, I can't resist holding the book, feeling it and studying it. Even though I've read my own words hundreds of times, I can't resist reading again.

I got the idea to write this book way back when I was 11 or 12. I'll probably become 73 next Spring. I'm not sure if this book represents my life's work, but if it does, that's OK with me. I'm very proud of the book (I've never thought that pride is sinful).  I honestly think it's a very good book and fortunately, so do the reviewers.

Hardcovers make more impressive gifts than paperbacks and maybe they'll even impress book reviewers who would ignore a paperback.

My hardcover book seems so much more "real" than other formats. I'm almost in awe of it and didn’t want to mark up the first proof with a red pen as I do with my paperback proofs. It would seem like defacing a library book—and that's a sin.

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