Kana's Chronicles

Life in Kana-text (er… CONtext)

Hey, take your mind out of the gutter!

BOOK covers. I’m between the BOOK-covers of one of the hilarious social commentaries novels penned by Charles Dickens—and this particular copy of this particular book has me thinking…

I really do love the heft and the presence of a real paper book. BUT. Because I don’t have the shelf-space for a thousand books; and because a thousand books are portable on the iPad; and because I pick up all kinds of books for a couple bucks a pop from the Apple bookstore’s “sale bin;” and because I can look up, with a touch, anything I become curious about; and because I can read in bed without keeping a light on when my husband is sleeping; and… Well, because of lots of “becauses,” I do almost all my reading these days onscreen.

Still, when a mention (in another book) of this book prompted me to pick it up, I definitely went for the paper version. Because for this book I have a copy that belonged to my great-grandpa.

Charles Dickens Our Mutual Friend copy printed 1897
Great-Grandpa’s copy, “Our Mutual Friend”

As I turned the pages I got to thinking (in that rabbit-trail manner with which my mind works) about what age a work of literature gets to be before it begins to merit designation as “a Classic”—and that, then, got me wondering what age this printed copy of this classic might be, given what I did know of its provenance.

An easy answer was not forthcoming. Nowhere on the book could I find a publication date, edition number, or any other reference to the year. (Fitting, I suppose, for a novel that opens, “In these times of ours, though concerning the exact year there is no need to be precise...”)

Ultimately,I ran down my answer in a history of the publishing house, which went belly-up in 1898—the year after printing its run of Dickens novels. Huh, I thought, that’s kinda cool. (I mean, I knew it was Great Grandpa’s—but age-wise, that only guaranteed its birth-year preceded mine.)

Considering the hundred-and-twenty-three-year age of the book in my hands, my mind jumped next to pondering how new the novel itself was, when this copy of it went to press. (Did I mention a propensity for looking-stuff-up?) The answer, to frame it differently, is this: when this book printed, Our Mutual Friend was the same age of Tom Clancy’s Patriot Games NOW. Or Robin Cook’s Outbreak. Stephen King’s It. Fried Green Tomatoes. The Whale Rider. Mrs. Doubtfire. Where’s Waldo?

Where's Waldo joke cartoon

Imagine a Dickens novel being even a relatively recent piece of pop culture! What a shift in perspective, to think of Dickens in any light but “Historic”…

In my own mind that word—“Historic”—used to mean “before ME.” And when I was young-ish, that was a pretty decent working definition. But closing in on my own half-century mark, I acknowledge that the boundary line, the one delineating “History” from “Regular-Stuff-That’s-Familiar-to-ME”… Well, it’s moved. In fact, that line scoots right along, keeping pace behind me like a stick tied to a string tied to my belt loop, all the time converting some portion of Regular Stuff Familiar to Me into that “Other” category I think of as History. (Did I think only other people’s lives slipped into Historic rear-view? Did I think that regardless of how long I might live, my entire life would feel to me like “Now”?)

This book imparts an unexpected lesson of… Perspective.

As in… It Doesn’t End Here.

As in… I am not some grand culmination of everything History was building up to; in fact, I rank merely as “someone else” to everyone else in the world.

As in… What shall I DO with this role of “someone” in everyone else’s History?? It’s lovely to imagine, in 120 years, a great-granddaughter enjoying a book from my shelf. Better yet, from my pen. Maybe even, by then, “a Classic”?

I’m enjoying the book. Though I do miss the built-in Definitions I’m accustomed to summoning with a touch. (Because I don’t care how great your vocabulary is—Dickens requires a dictionary!! …Terpsichorean?? Anyone? Anyone? Beuller? …Nah, me neither. I’m gonna go look that up.)

Victorian era dancers being funny for a photograph

7 thoughts on “Between the Covers

  1. I’ve been living for a while with my teenage years in the 1970s being “history” and films from that era now qualifying as Classic Old Movies.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kana Smith says:

      Yes, there are those moments of shock… first time you hear a radio station playing “regular music” and then identifying itself as an Oldies channel… first time you hear kids talking about “regular clothing style” as a decade-specific costume… first time you admit to yourself that what you thought of as “regular” stuff is not EVERYONE’s Regular anymore… 😆 And definitely the first time I realized, in interacting with my kids, that I REMEMBERED my mom when she was my current age—and she was OLD then! 🤣

      Liked by 1 person

      1. idahograndy says:

        Hey, wait just a minute! Old?! I beg to differ!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Kana Smith says:

          It’s a funny thing, Ma:
          In your 30s you seemed ANCIENT to me.
          In your 70s you’re among the youngest folks I know!
          PERSPECTIVE! ;)

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve accumulated some 500 books over a lifetime. I know it would be easier to have them on an electronic device. But I have to agree with you, Kana, there’s nothing like holding a tangible tome in my hands!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Kana Smith says:

      The MOST difficult thing about going “minimalist” and moving into an RV was letting go of my many BOOKS! Even knowing that I had many of those same titles on the iPad as well, it was tough offloading all but a dozen-or-so of my physical books. Naturally, now that we’re in a house, I’m back to my old (UN-minimalist) ways: browsing the annual library sale! ;)

      Liked by 2 people

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