Re: RARA-AVIS: Chandler- Library of America

Date: 19 Jul 2000

I'm a dude. S is for Steve. (sorry for even the hint of Sue Grafton there!)

No doubt about it, as i tried to say in my first email: the LOA are beautifully (if boringly) produced, and its great to have the funding and skill they provide in gathering in one place what may not have been gathered in one place or otherwise available before. And folks like us couldn't ask for more than for Geoffrey O'Brien, the LOA's editor, to be the one applying his taste and knowledge towards the preservation of the works and genre we love.

So, while I respect and appreciate the LOA editions, and am glad they exist, there's just something about the size, heft, cleanliness and sheer damn respectability of those volumes that, while okay for a collection of Henry Adams essays or James Madison letters, just sucks some of the life out of the books for me. They're just so . . . institutional. Kind of like a Bound Mausoleum.

As Mr. T. wrote, "The words are the same but they do not taste the same."

Doug, I also have to disagree heartily and respectfully with you when you say that "to focus on anything else is really to focus on ornamental stuff, nothing important." I can't separate form and substance that easily. Reading is after all a physical and tactile experience as well, and a book is a tangible thing. So, if nothing else reading something in one form can be very different than reading it in another form. A book isn't just words - its an activity, a thing and an expereience. Its paper, ink, covers, fonts, layout, the ability to bend it backwards, stick it in your back pocket, scribble in it . . . . I'd feel like I farted in church if I wrote in the margins of the LOA volumes. And just wait until ebooks become ubiquitous . .
. . Sure, there are many ways to "access" words, but all reading experiences are not created equal.

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