Interstitial Moment

The start of a new speech, one I am giving in Indiana:

Unless you have been living under a bridge with the trolls, you will know that books are under a real threat these days after 500 years of type on paper.

Now I can’t be absolutely sure about all of you, but I still believe in books. These days such sentiment means one is either an author or a very old person, or perhaps a very old author—and I readily admit to being both. I couldn’t disguise it if I tried. And while saying in public that I still believe in books is somewhat tantamount to sitting on one’s front porch and shouting at anyone who comes close, “Get off my lawn!” I tell you now a third time, I still believe in books.

And as we have seen, in rather too many fantasy novels lately, anything that is said three times has power. And while it’s true I may be indulging in some actual magical thinking, I believe in those hard or paperbound creations with pages that must be turned by hand and which–once upon a time–were well and carefully edited, beautifully and professionally illustrated, and (dare I point out) well written, too.

There, I have thrown down a particular gauntlet. Take it up if you will.

But to place something more onto the blaze I have started, I remind us all that Steve Jobs just died. I have a vision of him sitting somewhere with a long-faced, heavy-browed, bearded man who is wearing a cloth cap and a heavy robe that is surmounted by an accordion-pleated stiff lace collar and. . .no, dear friends, it is not God he is sitting with. Rather, it is Johannes Guttenberg the blacksmith, goldsmith, and publisher who invented modern printing. In my vision, Jobs and Guttenberg are drinking beers and discussing the delivery systems for story.

Because as much as I still believe in books, I believe in story more, as well as poetry and nonfiction. I believe that we humans are the only ones in our universe who are able to tell stories, make up poems, and craft pieces of nonfiction. Yes, animals have their own communication systems: they can speak to one another of flight and food and that other F best left to chic lit and slippery soft porn novels. Yes, bees can dance out a map to the nearest honey source, dolphins can click sophisticated alerts about the next school of edible fish on the move, wolves in packs hunt by calling out their positions to one another,  crows advise their own flocks and others of danger, chimps and apes have been taught minimal signing.

Yes and yes, I know all that. But we humans have not only a talent, but a craving for, an addiction to, and a cultural need for stories. We are, if you will, the lying animal. The storytelling creature. The owner of the make-believe gene.

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