In which I discuss the demise of books and then shamelessly promote my own

I have written about this in previous posts, but a recent Washington Post blog by Matt McFarland set me off again, so here I go. In a post titled “Books are losing the war for our attention. Here’s how they could fight back”, Mr. McFarland notes that while it is true that we are all reading more and more, we are not reading books, or at least not conventional books, and he includes e-books in this assessment. Interestingly, e-book sales have declined by 3% during the sales period measured between August 2012 and August 2013. McFarland also cites the fact that the number of people who do NOT read books has tripled since 1978. All of which leaves me to wonder, if so few people are reading books, why then are so many people writing them. With upwards of 10,000 e-books hitting the electronic shelves each day…yes, I said each day…one is left to wonder when the number of authors writing books will surpass the number of readers available to read them. Apparently, we are all spending far, far too much time on social media, reading Facebook posts, participating in Linkedin discussion threads, wading through email and monitoring Twitter feeds to crack an e-book, let alone a conventional book with real pages. In the words of, Russ Grandinetti, vice president of Amazon Kindle content, “Most people walk around with some kind of device or have access to some kind of device that allows them to choose how to use their time.” [my emphasis].

So there you have it…we are choosing do other things rather than to read books. So don’t go blaming the death of books on all that social media stuff – we aren’t reading books because we don’t WANT to…so there.

There are numerous solutions to our book reading problem (or lack thereof) being suggested. One suggested answer to the problem is to simply increase the number of words that we can absorb into our overloaded brains per minute. This is done by eliminating traditional left-to-right scanning of a page or display.

New software being developed by a Boston company, Spritz Inc. hopes to reinvent reading by “compact text streaming”. Freed from the burden of having to turn paper pages, or to swipe displays from page to page, we will be able to focus on a stream of information without moving our eyes, thus allowing us to plow through once formidable tomes in record time.

An example cited in Mr. McFarland’s blog post suggests that a properly focused reader using such a device might be able to read “The Catcher in the Rye” in a bit over three hours.

I wish them well with this. I am so behind on my reading.

*

Perhaps those of you who visit here often think it odd that I have nearly let the first third of the month of April go by without mentioning that April is National Poetry Month. Well, the fact is, I have been busy with my own poetry project lately. My collection of poems, “Traveling Light (and taking the back roads out of town)” is well under way and should be available in electronic format, and hopefully print format before the end of the month. Look for it advertised right here on EEOTPB — I mean really, where else. Download it to your Spritz app and you should be able to rip through it in about 48 seconds.

bus to Laramie?

I used to walk, to the mill
where I worked
trodding:
six blocks up Kandleman
to sixth, past the Tremont Bar
where a hooker named Janie
would shout
from the bar stool nearest the door
on summer mornings
when the doors were open
and you’d smell disinfectant
from the night’s ‘mop-out’
mixed with the stench of old beer
and cigarette smoke
and charcoal
and she’d act as if she knew me so well:
“hey, Big Shot, come on back here,
play me some music on the juke
…and buy us round,”
but I’d laugh at her
and I’d laugh at the others who were there
for role call
at the seven AM opener
and I would rush past them
black lunch box in hand
up Charleston — uphill to the end
breathing hard…
to the Trailways station
where the grey behemoths slept
at idle…
…Laramie…
…Salt Lake…
…Billings…
read the destination signs
and sometimes I would wave
to the people aboard,
and imagine them running
from
missing husbands
demeaning jobs
or their vanished lover…
…you know, the unvarnished one
who’d stayed long enough
to make a mess…
..like the one that she’d
married far too young
(six weeks shy of her nineteenth birthday)
to the old wino, who cared
too much for cards
and drink
and
smug introspection
and
cowardly destruction
and you think now
that
perhaps
she is in Laramie
wondering what the hell
had taken her
so long
to leave.

 

why I don’t cruise

my friend Mimi says
she’s leaving town
and tells me that she’s going cruising
NOT in the Volvo
I say to her
not tonight – please
because it’s in no condition
to be on the street

and neither are you

dear Mimi
for that matter
but she laughs and
we order more wine
(Bordeaux)
and she says she’s
cruising to
the Caribbean
to Nassau
and St. Kitts
and Barbuda
Barbuda?? What the hell??
Where the hell??
I tell her that you couldn’t get me
on a boat, for any price
Because
I can’t swim
I have scanty identification
I am of uncertain national origin
I’ve been investigated
and I have:
pale complexion
unpaid parking tickets
in the city of Margate
a delicate constitution
and my night vision
is compromised
to say nothing of the fact
that
my second wife
depleted my savings
my MasterCard is rescinded
so therefore, I have no inclination
to gamble with
Norovirus
nor with
real estate agents from Paducah
or CPAs from White Plains
nor with
long winded Dallas day traders
who cruise
with their platinum haired
mistresses
and I refuse to
listen to the confused ramblings
of a misplaced heiress
in the throes of delirium tremens
so I shall remain here –
until proverbial hell
freezes —
and again I say to Mimi
I’ll remain ashore
my feet in the sand
my dry elbows on
polished teak
right here
until the Bamboo Bar runs dry.

 

my last cigarette

last night I dreamed of you

wept for you, called out to you

but prayed fervently

that you would never

resurrect,

not you…

…you one hundred millimeter

mentholated bastard,

because I see you yet

in the last moments of

disintegration

your heinous life, snuffed

and ending in a bitter blue haze

that steams forth, as you lie

crippled beyond repair

your slender body

crushed and fragmented

into a cluster of a half dozen

tiny glowing cinders,

embers that gleam

like demons’ eyes

phosphorescent

and dying

as they devolve into ash

and join the others

in the black, hard-plastic ashtray

that sits beside a white, bone china mug…

“Patty’s Diner”

“Open all Nite”

“Since 1955″

it says on the mug

a mug that’s beside

(and slightly to the left of)

a plate of scrambled eggs

and overdone potatoes…

…the platter uneaten

as Charlie Pride sings

on the tablejuke

“Just Between You and Me”

and I declare that tonight

on April the eighteenth

nineteen hundred and eighty two

at ten thirty seven PM

we are officially over.

beach day

oh, you habitual absentee

you flagrant devotee to the sun

to the sand, to the salt air

you – the steadfast student of the

Royal Tern and the Western Sandpiper

who dares to lie about your

mid-day, mid-week

forbidden trysts

upon the sands of Pompano Beach

your face buried in the folds

of your Polar Fleece solar blanket

your golden hair scattered – unfettered

across your bronze, barren shoulders,

your lavender bikini askew and terribly

undone in a lone act of worship

to the Sun god

and you say to me that

the damned Bookshop deserves to be shuttered

because today…

…no one requires another second hand

romance novel by Nora Roberts, nor

Tom Clancy thriller,

nor used-boorish-business-book by

a self absorbed New York

billionaire

nor a moldy volume of earthy poems

by some

sodden old New England poet

nor a slim volume of

waggish verse

penned by a decrepit old beatnik

nor a magazine with prattling

celebrity scuttlebutt –

for

as you tell me so often –

and quite gently

that our days are measured

often in inches

and not in yards.

the defiant

I watch them in the afternoon

when the days of spring

bend close to summer

and I see them, in banter

flocked together

at the Bamboo Bar

in scuffed sandals and

Bermuda shorts and

nondescript dark glasses

drinking rum punch from

pink plastic cups

…they’re…

unruffled and warming themselves

seeking relief from the worst sorts

of high end dislocation

and seeking solace in diluted drinks and

in the company

of those of a feather

they’re the last of the snowbirds

…the ones who hang on, far too long

waiting…

for word from Grosse Pointe

from Upper Saddle River

from Cambridge

and the far shores

of the Delaware

to tell them that the final drabs of winter

have escaped

and cross-pollination is afoot

as the first daffodils of spring shoot

from the ground of

Chestnut Hill,

and Cherry Hill

and Beacon Hill.

and the pink dogwoods

are abloom in Brigantine,

and in Sea Gate, Brooklyn

And although the update is clear

it is unenforceable, and perchance

totally ignored

by these reluctant birds

the defiant and liberated.

midnight at the Edsall Road Denny’s

You,

dressed in your corporate finery

your laptop computer buried beneath

your legs

your sixteen hours at Labor

just another day

and my disaster

at Manassas

hidden in the bowels

of a locked hard drive

in the password protected

fucked totally

world of the Governmental

warlords

but:

together we push

our bodies toward each other

in the red faux leather booths

in the expression of final

Governmental Approval

all denied, then security

granted another day

amid the Beltway masses

half-assed coffee with creamers

pies with ice cream

scrambled eggs and

fries

on the side

workers from the night shift

poking their heads

around the corner

wondering if there is hope

in this  land

and we tell them

there’s not.