Picking It Out

In the Backyard – May 17, 2019

I’m reading Ulysses in the Modern Library Edition published by Random House (1992), mainly because it is features a hardback. I first ordered the more popular Gabler Edition, now affordably and conveniently available, like most all other things, from Amazon.com. When I received it, I discovered it was the size of a healthy city’s phone book (remember those?). It was also in paperback. I didn’t relish the idea of hauling it around. It would soon be ragged and dirty from overuse. I was certain the cover would be bent and torn within a month of travel. But I was determined to make it work.

Two weeks later, I was meeting someone for coffee at the Bronte-Bistro at Joseph-Beth. I thought, “While here, why not inspect the Ulysses section?” There it was. The copy I have now underlined, written in the margins and transferred many of the Gabler identification markings that line up with the equally massive notations from Gifford’s 1988 Ulysses Annotated.

After spending too much time on Kindle (further Amazon-manipulated convenience, and even rationalized by me as saving needed room on the bookshelf), and from reading other e-books, periodicals, newspapers, blogs, social media posts and other linked articles online, it feels really good to have a bona-fide book back in your hands again, one with a firm cover, a sewn spine and pages you actually have to guide and maneuver by rolling them over the tips of your thumbs and fingers.

I’ve missed you my old familiar friend. But I’m not sold on turning back time and reading most everything the old-fashioned way. There’s too much out there and still scant space on the shelves at home.

But the worthy stuff needs a special status. All noise is not music. All images are not art. All words are not literature. There are certain books that deserve to be held in the hand – to literally and figuratively feel the weight of the words resting in your palms, and pressing down upon your thoughts, to turn down a page like the welcoming sheets of your waiting bed so you can rest between the folds and return to the replenishment granted to all seekers and holding on to be filled, once again with the magic and wisdom of dreams.

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