Cusp of books


BOOKS WRITTEN on tree cuttings are a dying breed, but many still embrace them, which amuses me.

Most people go their entire lives without reading a book that wasn’t required in school. Let us pity them. But for those of us who do read, who do know what’s going on in the world, who have active minds, there are now two camps.

Electronic and paper. The future and the past. Modern and old-fashioned. Convenient and, well, less so. Hip versus fuddy-duddy. I, of course, am in the hip category, the future, the modern, the convenient.

For those of us who live in Mexico but read books in English (though I speak Spanish, I never read books in Spanish), electronic books like the Kindle are a blessing because finding works in English can be challenging especially if you live far from Gringo havens like San Miguel de Allende and Ajijic. In those places, they have periodic book sales which, I imagine, amounts to everybody switching books, kind of like musical chairs.

So you better hope that someone who shares your tastes lives nearby. The better option, of course, is the Kindle or something similar where you can get about anything you want out of cyberspace. And trees are not involved.

We have three Kindles here at the Hacienda, but before they arrived (express-mailed separately to our front door in short order, not smuggled, which is the way most folks here get them), we brought books back from the United States during raiding expeditions to Texas. The used-book chain Half Price Books was always on our itinerary in San Antonio.

We have not been in the United States since 2008, making the Kindles even more valuable.

The shelves in the photo are in our living room. The first few years here it was an active location, but now it’s a museum. Nothing has been added there in years, but books look good, makes you look bright and provides a warm, learned atmosphere.

There are photos too. For the curious among us, they are, left to right, me sitting on the rocky shore of a river in the redwoods of Northern California. I am talking to Isabel Allende (House of the Spirits) and her husband, Mickey; the house in the Florida Panhandle where I took life-altering entheogens in 1997; my child bride; my mother who died in 2009; finally, me at the age of 26 on the Georgia farm.

A sharp eye will note the book with the swastika about midway between my mother and my wife. Aha, some will say, I knew all along he was a Nazi. But two books farther to the right show Mao. And between those two sits Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. The book with the swastika is the Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, and the book about the Chairman is Mao: The Unknown Story.

That last book, a biography, is particularly interesting because it’s only in the past decade or so that Red China has released information on the dictator to Western biographers. He was not a nice man.

But back to the cusp on which we sit. Like vinyl records and buggy whips, tree books are vanishing, soon to be of interest only to collectors and fuddy-duddies. The modern among us prefer our reads on a screen these days.