so we enter into most interesting times, dear friends. It seems
that Book Again is fighting for its life, as no one with actual
cash to spend seems to need used books anymore. Why should they?
I'm sure it is far less trouble to order a couple of electronic
books, and have a reading experience that, while not quite what
you and I enjoy, is nevertheless far better suited, I'm sure,
to these fast paced times in which we live.
for myself, I am so old fashioned, I don't even text on the freeway.
Can you imagine? I am so old fashioned that I actually use phones
for talking. I have even been known to see movies in actual theaters.
fogy that I am, I recognize that books are clearly becoming a
thing of the past, and book lovers an anachronism that must be
tolerated with amusement until they fade away. The idea of reading
for enjoyment is certainly outdated -- who has that kind of time
to waste? Besides, if one is really forced to read anything, it's
really so much easier to scan quickly through the thing if you
can do it electronically. Who wants to sit around cuddled next
to a window, bidding time to stop and the real world to fade away,
as you drift happily into a time and world of your own choosing...
sorry, must have drifted off there -- no, books are just too old-fashioned,
too much trouble, and it's time we woke up to that little fact.
At any rate, I have no more time for such trivialities -- I have
a Halloween column to do.
dear, dear Halloween, here is something tangible -- much better
than those books... Here you can dress up as the Headless Horseman,
galloping through the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in search of --
me? I got that from a book, you say? Oh, yes, of course, Washington
Irving introduced that ghost in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow",
one of the first American short stories. (Irving really is the
father of the American short story, with all due respect to the
slightly later Edgar Allan Poe, who -- oh dear, I suppose we owe
a bit of the Halloween mythos to him as well. Bother.)
never mind. We will just find a local Haunted House and --
me? You say Irving actually wrote probably the first story titled
"The Haunted House"? I had no idea.
well, let's forget about these pesky Americans for a moment. Here,
let's find a truly classic Halloween costume -- here we are: Frankenstein!
Oh, right. A teenaged Mary Shelley, who nearly single-handedly
started the horror craze of the 1800's with that novel.
-- there are many others: Dracula! The Invisible Man! The Phantom
of the Opera!
Oh, of course -- Stoker, Wells, and LeRoux. Drat!
of more modern things, then? Radio! Television! The Monkey's Paw,
the Haunting, the Turn of the Screw --
my friends, I am beat. I am undone. Without books, Happy Who?
Certainly not Halloween -- where is Halloween without Irving's
ghosts, or Hawthorne's witches, or Poe's Red Death? Where would
the holiday be without Frankenstein or Dracula, the haunted dwellings
of Henry James or Shirley Jackson, the ghosts that no lesser notables
than Dame Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would conjure
up? The first modern novel was a ghost story, "The Castle
of Otranto", simultaneously creating modern supernatural
fiction as well as the Gothic Novel. We have already seen how
the birth of the Short Story is equally bound up with those wonderful
Things that go Bump in the Night.
little thing that gives us the creeps, that sends shivers down
our backs, that scares us into sleeplessness and leaves us itching
to do the same to someone else, every graveyard groan and murderous
moan owes its ancient origin, sooner or later, to a book. And
not to some modern electronic imitation, but to a real book with
page after page brimming with mysteries waiting to be discovered,
to revel in as you curl comfortably in your favorite nook, a million
years and miles away from this ever so efficient modern world.