A few years ago, after Anne Mcaffrey died, I resolved to reread my favorite of her SF novels, The Ship Who Sang. Alas, I couldn’t find my copy. But, as I recall, the heroine, Helva, a human being born with severe physical disabilities, is implanted in a spaceship as its brain. She chooses a human partner to live and work with: the human provides the brawn. Sadly, they have different life spans: she outlives her partners and is “widowed” more than once.
I love SF, and any excuse to read it will do. But I also thought it might illuminate the complexity of our modern communion with computers.
I love my new iPad, but today, after several hours reading on it, I developed a headache. The screen was too bright: I haven’t quite got the hang of adjusting it. And once again I thought of The Ship Who Sang. I wondered about my relationship with my tablet. Which of us is the brain and which the brawn? Which of us is Helva?
It’s hard to say.
Well, I’m not goofing around with Siri or any complicated smart apps, so I consider myself the brain and the tablet the brawn. I confess I am using it as an e-reader, because it provides e-book apps for the Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and iBooks. Between us, my husband and I have had six e-readers of various persuasions over the years (they don’t last forever). On my iPad, I have access to ALL my different e-libraries except the Sony Reader. It’s great!
It is ironic that I am getting serious about e-books when others are going back to the book, or so the newspaper articles say. But, honestly, I have so many books that it verges on clutter. I never thought I’d say that. I don’t mind all the bookcases, but I don’t even know what we have in the boxes. I give away books the minute I finish them these days.
Then there are the local bookstore problems. I mentioned last week that I could not find a copy of Tessa Hadley’s The Past at an indie. What I didn’t tell you was that I couldn’t find it at our local B&N, either.
So I bought the e-book.
Hadley’s The Past is very enjoyable. Four siblings spend three weeks in the old house where they grew up, which is disintegrating yet redolent of enchantment and fairy tales. The middle sister, Alice, 46, adores the cottage and loves her grandmother’s letters, the beautiful china, and especially their childhood books. She picks up a copy of E. Nesbit’s The Wouldbegoods and is transported to another time.
And here’s where I know I’m letting down the side by reading e-books.
The very weight of the book in her hands, and the thick good paper of the pages as she turned them, and the illustrations with the boys in their knickerbockers and the girls in pinafores, seemed to bring back other times–the time when she had first read this, and behind that the time when such children might have existed.
Heavens, E. Nesbit was my favorite writer when I was growing up. I even know those illustrations by H. R. Millar!
So what am I doing with these e-books?
Well, it’s modern life. What can I say?