The Kindle Cometh

Today my Kindle arrived. All I can say is, it’s a good job I got the simplest, most foolproof model, because it has taken me hours to get it set up. Mainly because it won’t charge on my computer, and then because Amazon wouldn’t recognise my account. It’s sorted now—charged on husband’s computer, and hooked up to husband’s Amazon account. You’d think the Taliban had infiltrated the Amazon eco-system.

I was getting on fine with WIP until the postman beat on the door and knocked the letterbox off in his inimitable fashion—he does this regularly, trying to push large parcels through a small slot, but today he did it without trying to push anything through; it’s a knack he has.
The first fight scene was out of the way, the first argument scene was dusted off, and I was steaming ahead with some extreme introversion, when the Kindle took over. Will this be a life-changing experience? It doesn’t look like a book. Will I enjoy reading from it?
It’s rare that I buy new books. Most of the books I own are second hand, and the rest come from the library. Smelly, dog-eared books hold no mystery for me, nor do books with the odd page torn out, or some stupid comment scrawled in red biro over a particularly good bit. Then there are the dubious smears and stains that make me want to wash my hands every time I turn a page, and certainly preclude reading in bed. If that’s what people mean when they talk about the print book experience, then I can’t say I’ll miss it.
The Kindle doesn’t smell of musty old paper, but nor does it smell of whatever the last owner dropped it in. So, I won’t get the bacteria, but on the positive side, the Kindle is certainly lighter than any paperback and the pages stay open all by themselves. The text is clearer than many mass-market paperbacks with their smeary ink and super-absorbant paper. Not to mention the lurid covers.
Tonight will be the test. Tonight I will curl up with my (clean) Kindle, click on the only book I have so far purchased, and I’ll see if I manage to read it without too much nostalgia for the whiff of…

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Who are the New Adults?

In an earlier blog post I wrote about the difference between Middle Grade writing and Young Adult, often dumped in the same basket. Now there’s a new genre, New Adult to fit into the relatively few years that lie between childhood and adulthood. My first reaction was enthusiastic. Maybe this is the category my books should be in. Then I had a look at what was included under the New Adult heading.

Judging by what I’ve seen so far, this new category seems to be used to add sex scenes to writing otherwise aimed at younger teenagers, so it can be presented to the eighteen plus group who I would consider adult anyway. Is this not just another marketing ploy to point eighteen/nineteen-year-olds in the direction of books with sex in them but no long words? Why can’t nineteen-year-olds read adult books like the rest of us?

When I was a young adult, we didn’t exist. You were either a child or an adult for literary requirements. When you were thirteen you got an adult library card and you graduated from the children’s section, which included books by Alan Garner, Henry Treece and Rosemary Sutcliff to the fully-fledged adult section. Or you oscillated between the two depending on your capacity to ‘get’ the adult concepts. Contrary to what some parents believe, teenagers read only if they enjoy reading—thirteen-year-olds rarely pick up a book when they are after a cheap thrill, they turn on the computer.

Which begs the question: do we need this kind of censorship in reading matter at all? I am only too pleased to see my children reading anything, and would never dream of riffling through the pages to see if I could find a dirty word or a steamy sex scene. I am much quicker to pour scorn on the quality of the writing than to be shocked at the number of swear words used in it.

But then, I am maybe just a born-again hippie with utopian tendencies, who subscribes to the ideas of out of date educationalists like Piaget and Montessori, and who believes that giving children free access to pens and paper is more important than any electronic gadget you can name. l am probably an irresponsible parent, and it’s not surprising that my children are lazy, happy, under-achievers.

Part of growing up is pushing back the boundaries, testing, and experimenting. If a thirteen-year-old wants to read Anna Karenina, fair play to her/him I say. And I certainly wouldn’t plough through The Brothers Karamazov to see if the language was a bit iffy: my sixteen-year-old read it without me poking my nose over his shoulder to check, and didn’t take any harm from it.

It seems to me there is a growing tendency to keep children babies for longer, to cosset and protect them long after they should be flying with their own wings. Some of this protectiveness is laudable and understandable. We are lucky enough to live in an age when we can expect all of our children to outlive us, and it is the ultimate tragedy for a parent to bury a child. So we can give free rein to all the love we want to shower on our children without fear of losing them. That loving and cherishing shouldn’t retard their independence though. Should it?

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