Thinking Out Loud About Writing and Reading

My blog posts are usually about a specific topic, with a beginning, middle and end. Or at least that’s my intention. This time, I’m going to do some more musing. I tried it a few weeks ago and decided it was a useful approach (when I really have no idea what to say as I apply fingers to keys).

Pieces of writing — novels, stories, memoirs and expository pieces — are sold, bought, lent and borrowed, just like manufactured products such as clothing or tools. But what is it, exactly, that the reader buys or borrows?

A book, of course. But what is a “book?”

Several ounces to a pound or two of paper, glue (or other materials) and ink. Or a text block and cover bearing an image and title. A disc containing a sound file. A text file accompanied by a “cover image.” These are all “books” — hardback, paperback, audiobook, ebook. The intending reader forks over a sum of money and acquires one of these items. Just like selecting and buying a pair of shoes. Or  is  it?”

Hardly anyone buys a book for its paper or typeface, and even though the cover may be an initial attractant, I suspect it’s rarely the deciding factor in the acquisition process. A book, ultimately, is words. Words strung together in a specific order, which, when read, cause images to appear in the reader’s mind, generating emotions and ideas.

But wait — people sometimes acquire a book because someone has said that it is “brilliant, thrilling, heart-stopping” or some other superlative. Or because it has been awarded a prize. Or because someone in the media raved about it. Or because “everyone is talking about it.” Just what is that “it?” A thing or a mind-movie or a fleeting phenomenon to be dropped into conversations?

The more I think about all this, the more complicated it seems. And yet — is it so different from buying a pair of shoes? Shoes are complicated too, when you think about them. They are certainly more than mere “footwear,” just like books are more than paper and glue and words strung together.

This is definitely a path worth moseying along. Moseying, musing, paths, shoes, boots, books. Who knows where I’ll end up?

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