I have been a bit under the weather lately, but have discovered two marvelous devices for enduring this chronic springtime condition.
The first is my Kindle 2, a spendy little device, about the size of a paper back book, with print one can change the size of, and a cell-phone technology that allows one to order up and have a novel delivered to one’s bedside in less than 2 minutes. The basic Kindle is an unsexy plastic device, very light weight, with relatively user-friendly controls. It works on rechargeable batteries, but turns itself off when it isn’t used. And the variety of images on its “off” mode are quite fun.
I love the ease of getting what I want to read when I want to read it. And I haven’t (yet) too much half-read material — I have only two books that I ordered but haven’t finished. This is greatly outnumbered by the number of books beside my bed that I have bought, started to read, fell asleep in, got interrupted while, and so forth.So long as I set some reasonable rule about the number of books that I can buy via the one-click system –mysteries one at a time, treatises allowed to be nibbled at, I probably won’t have to file for bankruptcy.
I was uneasy with the single bit of rigid plastic that the Kindle feels like, but happy with its functioning, so I ponied up for the official leather cover, and now I’m much happier. The front of the cover turns back, which makes me feel like I’m reading a book. At the same time, I am not breaking the spine of the book and/or turning over with consequent readjusting of light to read the next page. Since I spend a lot of time in bed when I’m in the throes of my woes, having the convenience of just punching a button to turn a page is a blessing.
However, I realized a couple of things about my reading habits in reading via the Kindle. One is that I have, in the past, judged a plot in part by the number of pages left to read. The Kindle has a nice little percentage counter along its bottom, but it isn’t as satisfying as knowing, just by sheer heft of the remaining pages, whether this murder will be solved shortly.
The other problem, which I’m slowly coming to grips with, is my long-time habit of marking, mentally, pages or regions of books that I want to return to, to check out the geography with a map in front of me, for example, or to really study and/or recount something brilliant that I always knew but never articulated. The Kindle has a “bookmark” and “notes” section of its menu, which I have learned how to use, but not yet how to access. But these are not yet good substitutes for physically thumbing back through relevant sections to discover what I’ve forgotten.
The other device that has made my throes of woes easier to take is far less spendy than the Kindle and at least as cheerful. It’s a sketchbook, bought at Powell’s.
Admittedly I have 5 — 10 partly filled sketchbooks, full of addresses and sketches of the backs of people’s heads and compositions for paintings long forgotten, but this had to be a new sketchbook. It’s going to be an adjunct to one of my long-standing habits. I subscribe to Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac and read it online almost every day. This sketchbook is specifically intended to make a sketch prompted by each day’s Almanac poem. Not an illustration of the poem, but the poem as prompt. I print out the poem, draw something in pencil and pen and sometimes add a bit of color, and the attach the poem to the other side of the page, so when I forget why I made that cigarette smoke curl around the head of the fellow eating yogurt, the poem might remind me why. Or might not, which is almost as interesting.
The sketchbook also gives my desk a bit of class; even its backside is elegant:
The kanji on the back apparently say “Not know/ Bright moon/ Autumn.” And the front Kanji is “Moon.” Seems appropriate for me at the moment.
Doing a daily sketch from a pre-set prompt is a quite comforting development for those times when I can’t dredge up the energy to paint but find myself yearning to be creative. I read the poem, I think about an image or two, I turn back to the computer where I can Google images of cigarettes and naked men and forsythia, and I draw whatever seems like a good idea at the time. Since I know I’m a dreadful draftsperson, there is no pressure to spend more time than I have energy for on any single drawing. Since the poems come once a day, there’s always the possibility that tomorrow will bring around something a bit more drawable.
And of course there’s a bit of art theory that floats around in these sketches. I have never been able to paint or draw using text as a prompt. It’s like politics — text and politics are left brain activities and painting a right brain activity; while I have overlaps in many areas, text/politics and visual art don’t really seem to make the leap. So perhaps this will bring forth some leaping neurons while I’m waiting for the time to paint again.
The other thing I have found is that I have a sly streak in me, a way of wanting to sneak in something subversive — like a cigarette and yogurt — or a naked man holding the treble clef like a crutch.
So off I go to my Kindle, to read more about Aereality, or maybe find a mytery or two to put into the queue. And think cheerful thoughts about what tomorrow’s email might bring. –June