Sunday, January 17, 2010

Daily Thoughts 1/17/2010

Biblioteca Nacional Madrid, Spain. Photograph by Hugo Contreras, 13 July 2003, Gnu Free Documentation License Version 1.2

Daily Thoughts 1/17/2010

I watched a bit of Watchmen The Complete Motion Comic this morning. It modifies the original panel art in the graphic novel Watchmen and does a bit of narration, and simple animation. This makes it very true to the original graphic novel Watchmen. Dave Gibbons who did the original graphic novel also does many of the changes in art to the new version.

I have also started reading The Man Who Loved Books Too Much by Allison Hoover Bartlett. This is a story of literary obsession and book thievery. It is quite interesting. Quite a bit of it is about the obsession to collect things and what books represent to different people.

I had lunch with a colleague today. It was pleasant. We talked about working in different places. He suggested a site called Educational Movie Reviews Online. It is an open source database of educational videos.

I have been reading more of The Man Who Loved Books Too Much. The book makes me think of the collecting habit. For the most part I find little urge to collect books or comics that are easily available. If I can get it in a library easily to read or use, I don't really have an urge to buy a book. I like to read new things as they come out. To look at them and see the content. I consider the dust jacket and the design to be part of a book. For me an ebook seems like a rough draft, incomplete. I don't get to see how the paper is cut, the pictures are laid out on the page, the dust jacket is coated, how heavy the book is. It feels unfinished.

I am not enamored by age, or fine binding except as a form of art which is well beyond my current means. I am interested in content. The reason I buy a book or a comic is often that I know that I won't likely get it at a library, find it easily in a bookstore, or have ready access to materials. I collect ground level comics-- these are not that expensive yet, they are the grey area between underground and popular comics. I also buy reprints of science fiction and fantasy comics sometimes, not very often. Even the reprints are starting to cost money.

I also occassionally buy science fiction and fantasy art books. I don't have a huge amount of these books. I want material I can look at, reading copies, but even these are not readily available in quantity. I believe in reading the books I own. I put eye tracks on the books which I own. I am not into the idea of having things with beautiful dust covers. My fingers have touched the pages and my eyes have seen the letters of the books I read.

I am not the person who attempts to collect books worth thousands of dollars. The antiquarian book world is interesting more for the characters of the people in the trade than the books which they are selling. There is tremendous character in many of the old booksellers and people who hunt for books. I am familiar with, but not part of that world.

I like going to book fairs to see the ideas that have faded, the unique pieces of past, the things that have fallen out of fashion. The dying ideas in the war for ideas, or the ideas that are held and treasured by a few people as a memento of the past. There is a sense of nostalgia.

For a while, I thought that I might be interested in having a bookstore, but I now realize it is not quite what I am looking for. I am just as interested in content if it is online as in a book. The stuff that explodes outside the book is where books are heading. Books are a beautiful device. They are cultural objects that have greater validity than pure online content in many ways. However, it is at the edges where books become more than books, they have sound, video, pictures, embossing that fascinates me. The vook, the iphone, the oversize art book with glossy high definition art work, the bamboo book, the childrens picture book with songs interest me.

I am not the person who is deeply fascinated by the value or prestige of the older items, but the cultural and literary value of the content. So many people have lost sight of the classic and better writers; Lord Byron, Rainier Maria Rilke, Anthony Trollope, George Bernard Shaw and others.

Even when I hunted for old books, I was interested more in finding things which could expand my reading that were not in print anymore, or would make me more read. I sought out Barrington J. Bayley, Philp Wiley, Olaf Stapledon, Lord Dunsany, William Morris, H. Rider Haggard and other science fiction and fantasy writers to expand my reading not my collection. I also looked for books on Frank Kelly Freas, Aubrey Beardsley, Edmund Dulac, Howard Pyle, and Arthur Rackham to understand fantasy art and illustration more than own them.

The Man Who Loved Books Too Much is an excellent introduction to the obsessive side of collecting books. The place where the object and owning it is more important than the content or ideas that the book represents.

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