Re: RARA-AVIS: Chandler- Library of America

From: Doug Bassett (
Date: 19 Jul 2000

Hi, Steve:

Hey, disagree all you want. No sin, believe me. :) But I'm afraid we're going to have to agree to disagree.
> 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.

If tomorrow, when you woke up, the only way to get FAREWELL, MY LOVELY was as an e-text on the internet, would that change the quality of Chandler's writing? The quality of the story? No, of course not. It's the same damn thing -- just in a different form.

I think it's a very good idea to seperate form and substance when you're talking about art. Or else, next thing you know, you'll start confusing the two. The quality of a piece of hb writing stands or falls on the *writing*, not the fact that it's being published in a cheap paperback edition and has a painting of a good-looking blonde falling out of her dress on the cover. As good as those kind of books often are. :)

And man, if you're getting intimidated by your books
--well, fight back! Scribble on those pages! Rip that flyleaf! Hell, you paid for it -- don't let it run your life! :)

More seriously, I'll conclude my thoughts on the subject by restating them slightly -- while obviously things like fonts, layouts, format, covers, etc. can enhance or detract from a reading experience, ultimately, in my opinion, they're all ornamental aspects. The main thing is the writing, in whatever form.


===== Doug Bassett

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