We started off talking about libraries. One thing led to another and libraries led to our shared love of books. Books led to e-books and e-books led to tech and tech led to cursive script, which led to future generations.
Trust me, it made sense. You had to be there.
First she told me about her granddaughter, who’s a junior in University, and all the techie equipment the school expects her to have (and use and haul around.)
The point she was making was that she was thrilled that, despite being part of the digital generation, her granddaughter still loved to read real books — the paper kind — with the pages you turn. And how, in fact, having received a book of poetry from a friend for Christmas, she ignored everyone and buried herself in it, not coming up for air until she’d finished it.
Something I can definitely relate to. It’s what I’ve done my whole life.
In our next exchange she mentioned that schools no longer teach cursive writing, that from kindergarten on kids use computers; and then she wondered if, generations from now, cursive writing will be thought of as the “hieroglyphics of our generation.”
Ponder that one for a while.
After we signed off I have to tell you I became quite melancholy. Don’t get me wrong. I thank god — okay I thank Steve Jobs — everyday for computers. They make my life as a writer so much easier. Back in the dark ages when I first began my career I hate to tell you what it took for me to get my thoughts down on paper.
Of course I made it far more laborious than it had to be — I could have used a typewriter. But no, I wrote everything out in long hand first, then when I was finally happy I typed it up. And not only did I write it out, I didn’t use just one piece of paper at a time. For some bizarre, and unknown, reason every sentence I wrote had its own piece of paper. Then I’d weave a paragraph together on another piece of paper. Then I’d start new sentences on new pieces of paper, etc. etc. etc. Then I’d go through it all again with each and every revision.
So I am not some stubborn old crone who lives in the past and longs for the “good old days.” My MacBook Air is my best friend. Wouldn’t want to live without my iPhone either. Or Google. What used to take days or even weeks to research takes mere seconds now. And most of you know I’m never far from my Facebook timeline. Being able to download a book anywhere you happen to be, regardless of the time, is wonderfully convenient.
But, it makes me sad to think that there will come a time when folks will have no idea what it’s like to feel the delicious weight of a book in their hands, and on their laps, to close their eyes and run their fingers over the texture of the paper, to smell the ink, to hear that gentle “snap” when they turn the pages, to be comforted at the sight of books stacked in cases, on shelves and on tables.
It makes me sad to think that there will come a time when folks will have no idea what it’s like to spread the Sunday New York Times all over the dining room table, or your bed, or the floor — and then take the rest of the day, or even the week to soak every bit of it up. A ritual I have looked forward to and enjoyed since I was a young girl.
It makes me sad to think that there will come a time when folks don’t know what it’s like to come home to find a letter waiting for them in the mailbox — that feeling of anticipation, ripping the envelope open before you even have your coat off — trying to make sense of the words scribbled on each page. They won’t have a clue what “personal” stationery is. And as for legible penmanship, what’s that???????
Handwriting analysts will go the way of the dodo, I guess. And forgers, too.
Nobody worries about forgers any more.
Now we have hackers.