Victor Hugo’s New Notre Dame

René Magritte ~ ‘Marche des Snobs’ sheet music cover (1924)

Prejudice can be difficult to witness or to experience. Its various forms — sexism, ageism, and racism, among others — can erode relationships and destroy communities. Prejudice helps to lay the foundation for religious intolerance and class envy. It colors discussions of politics, and often renders problematic the most well-intentioned attempts at conflict resolution. Even minor irritants like social snobbery and cliquish behavior evince prejudice. 

I suppose all of us are prejudiced in one way or another, but in a wonderful bit of irony, none of us wishes to appear so. It’s simply who we are.

On the other hand, not every bit of prejudice is necessarily destructive. The world is filled with pre-judgments that serve as a kind of human shorthand, and they’re often quite amusing.  American football fans think soccer is beneath contempt. Soccer afficionados contend American football is thuggish and unskilled. Sailors refer to powerboaters as “stink-potters,” while those making way with the help of engines indulge in disparaging remarks about “rag-haulers.”

Country folk regard city slickers with disdain. Mrs. McMansion feels scandalized by the cottage-dweller who refuses to tear down and rebuild. High-school dropouts make smart remarks about the highly-educated who “pile it higher and deeper,” while Ph.D.’s dismiss high-school graduates’ common sense as useless and irrelevant. 

Fortunately, such stereotypes can be overcome by shared experience, new information, or personal encounters. Even so, lying beneath our snobbery and stereotypes, at the very bottom of prejudice’s heap, lies a response so unthinking, so immediate and pure, it seems instinctive: a primordial rejection of the unfamiliar or the new. 

Take, for example, my first experience with the venerable Brussels sprout.

I wasn’t a fussy eater as a child, but I had my preferences, and I was willing to express them.  When my mother showed up one night with a bowl of Brussels sprouts in hand and asked, “Would you like some?” I was polite. “No, thank you.” “Why not?” “I don’t like them.”  

Perhaps because she knew the answer to her next question, she asked it anyway. “Have you ever tasted them?” “No.” “Then why don’t you try one?” “I don’t like them.” My mother was nothing, if not persistent. “You like cabbage, don’t you?” I agreed that I did. “Well,” she said, “don’t they look just like little cabbages? Aren’t they cute?”  They did look like miniature cabbages, and they were cute. “Why don’t you try just one?” It didn’t happen.

Years later, I found Brussels sprouts at a friend’s house, grilled with lemon, butter and garlic. When they arrived at the table in their pretty yellow bowl, dressed with lemon wedges, I decided the time had come. I put three or four on my plate and tried one. In an instant, my childhood prejudice was confirmed; those sprouts were the worst veggie to come down the culinary pike since grass.

I’ve since learned to eat them, politely, but you’ll never find them in my shopping cart.

Over the years, I’ve been reminded of my response to Brussels sprouts in quite different circumstances.

When a friend suggested I ought to purchase a Kindle, the first word out of my mouth was, “No.” Curious, she asked about my objections. I had quite a list:

My books always are “on” — they’ve no need for batteries.
I can physically turn the pages.
No one will hack my bookshelf.
Books don’t break.
Books smell good; plastic doesn’t.
I can press flowers and leaves in a book.
I can turn down the corner of a page.
I can add comments in the margins.

When I stopped for breath, she said, “But you can put a thousand books on a Kindle.” I suggested I wouldn’t have time to read a thousand books before my death. She tried pointing out that I could make the text bigger, and I pointed to my reading glasses. She explained there were free books available, and I told her about a place called the library. “Well,” she said, “it’s easy to prop one up in front of a bowl of ice cream.” 

That stopped me. Of all the advantages a Kindle might have, that one had possibilities. Still, it wasn’t enough.

“Listen,” I said. “Just tell me. What makes your Kindle better than a book?” “It’s not better,” she said. “It’s different. They’re great. Everyone loves them. I’ll loan you mine for a week. Don’t you want to try it?” While I appreciated her willingness to share her new toy, the answer still was “no.”

Over time, I began to understand the Kindle as a strange e-quivalent to the Brussels sprouts I refused as a child. While my objections sounded rational, my opposition was tinged with irrationality. In fact, I was prejudiced against e-readers in a way I wasn’t fully able to explain. 

I suspect Victor Hugo would have understood my ambivalence, since he spent much of his life pondering the significance of an earlier technological revolution — the introduction of movable type — and its implications for human culture. Writing and publishing were his business and his passion, so he certainly didn’t reject books. Still, reflections embedded in his novel Notre-Dame de Paris make clear he could imagine the discomfort of living in a time marked by conflict between old ways and new.

Early in Notre-Dame de Paris, the antagonist, Claude Frollo, encourages two visitors to lift their gaze from a book lying on his desk to the massive silhouette of Notre Dame.”This [the printing press] will kill that [the cathedral],” he declares. 

Frollo’s point of view is the conviction of Hugo: the history of architecture belongs to the history of writing. Before Gutenberg, culture was communicated through architecture. From Stonehenge to the Parthenon, from The Alhambra to the soaring grace of Europe’s Gothic cathedrals, stories were preserved in “books of stone.” With the invention of the printing press, everything changed. In Book Five of his own grand story, Hugo dives directly into the depths of his argument.

Human thought, in changing its form, was about to change its mode of expression… The book of stone, so solid and so durable, was about to make way for the book of paper, more solid and still more durable. Architecture was dethroned. The lead characters of Gutenberg succeeded the stone characters of Orpheus.
In its printed form, thought is more imperishable than ever; it is volatile, elusive, indestructible. It mingles with the air. In the days of architecture, thought had turned into a mountain and taken powerful hold of a century and of a place. Now it turned into a flock of birds and was scattered on the four winds, occupying every point of air and space simultaneously.
We repeat: who cannot see that in this guise it is far more indelible? Before, it was solid, now it is alive. It has passed from duration to immortality. You can demolish a great building, but how do you root out ubiquity?

Hugo never pretended architecture would disappear, or that it would cease to communicate in its own, particular way. He knew that, in the age of printing, the age of building would survive. But architecture no longer would be “the social art, the collective art, the dominating art. The grand poem, the grand edifice, the grand work of humanity will no longer be built: it will be printed.”  It was to be a both/and world.

Today, even those who’ve become most enthusiastic about the transition to e-readers and tablets aren’t willing to argue that printed books, the heritage of Gutenberg, will disappear. But with a system to support them, with electrical grids, wireless networks, and computer chips to make them viable, e-readers have joined the printed page in keeping the richness of culture soaring above an ever-changing world: winged and full of life.

Watching the transition, I finally admitted the truth.  While I like to declare myself a both/and kind of person, in the matter of digital vs. print, I had remained stubbornly either/or.  In fact, I’ve been so adamantly either/or I didn’t need someone pointing to the hem of my mental skirt and saying, “Pardon me, Ma’am. Your prejudice is showing.” I could see it in the mirror.

Once we see something in life’s mirror that displeases us, there are three choices: we can change what we see, we can stop looking into the mirror, or we can break the mirror. This time, I opted for change, and ordered my Kindle.

Once it arrived, there was no question which book I’d download first. Not only is a little literature good for the soul, the thought of reading musings about new technology on an even newer technology amused me.

And who knows? With its nice, sturdy cover and its perfectly legible text, my new Kindle might prop up quite nicely in front of a bowl of Brussels sprouts.

Comments are welcome, always

102 thoughts on “Victor Hugo’s New Notre Dame

  1. Prejudice is an enemy of culture and human spirit – but also part of it, unfortunately. I hate to admit it, but I have had to conclude I have my share of it, for instance being a soccer player and fan for as long as I can remember – and enjoying reading real books. But to my defense I have also read a couple of books on Kindle – and seen a couple of games of American football (but still laugh at the use of the word football)…

    1. One thing that’s helped me sort through some of these thorny issues is realizing that there’s a difference between preferences and prejudice. I suspect I’ll always prefer a printed book, but that’s quite different from refusing to engage with e-books because of irrational and untested beliefs that they’re somehow inferior.

      A preference for soccer over American football, for broccoli over Brussels sprouts, or for chocolate over vanilla, isn’t prejudice. It’s simply what makes us individuals, with our own likes and dislikes. Now, a vanilla-lover condemning all fans of chocolate as ill-informed, unsophisticated, and possibly stupid? That would be something different!

        1. And of course there’s also such a thing as uninformed preference. When I began following photographers, my natural preference was for color photography over black and white. Today, that’s changed. As I’ve seen more of what b&w can offer, and learned more about why a photographer might choose one over the other, my ability to appreciate a photo regardless of whether it’s color or b&w has increased.

  2. Some people claim that the way THEY make Brussels sprouts is the right way, and if only I made them THEIR way, I’d like them. I offer to let them make them for me, promising I will try them. But I will not make even one more effort of my own to make them edible.

    I liked this: “Now it turned into a flock of birds and was scattered on the four winds, occupying every point of air and space simultaneously.” Truly this has come to pass with our electronic age. All words and thoughts expressed are now permanent, even those that would be better to fade into nothingness. And now it is too easy for negative words and thoughts to be confirmed and even encouraged. We’ve seen a startling turn in how willing people are to express their prejudices and celebrate them, instead of seeing them as something they should overcome, or at least hide.

    I’ve written about visual weight and how in a quilt, areas that are brighter or darker will appear larger, even when they are not. I think that is how collective bigotry is. It isn’t larger than collective tolerance or openness, but it has more visual weight. It is easier to see. And that also gives comfort to those who are intolerant. They have no need to hide their beliefs since they think their mere weight makes them right.

    1. Then I take it you’d not be interested in the clutch of Brussels sprouts recipes I’ve collected over the years, from people who are determined to help me like the little critters? :)

      I liked the passage you quoted, too. I wondered what Hugo would think if he were able to be here today, and see how much more true his words have become. Every now and then I’m lucky enough to see a murmuration of migrating birds, and the sight truly is a wonderful analogue to words winging their way around the world: “occupying every point of air and space simultaneously.”

      Your mention of visual weight brings to mind the field of visual rhetoric, and how the placement of words on a page needs to be different for printed and electronic media. Now that we’re moving into an increasingly mobile environment, even recommendations that were common in the all-PC days are changing. Interesting times, indeed.

      1. No thank you on the recipes. About three years ago Jim and I were drawn to Brussels sprouts at the store. They practically sparkled like huge emeralds. We bought them. We tried and tried again, so many times, to fix them so we could eat them. And then we agreed to never buy them again.

  3. I smiled at your so-sure dislike for B-sprouts despite their cuteness. I like them well enough, but my favorite preparation was a blistering roasted version with honey and sriracha.

    Roomie and I were just talking this morning about how the grand soaring architecture of Gothic churches did much to lift eyes to heaven and add needed perspective. I’d never read Victor Hugo (I know, education neglected!) — what a great intro. Thank you.

    1. I didn’t know what sriracha was, nikkipolani. Now, I do. Honey and hot sauce probably do something for the sprouts, but I have to confess: I’m not so fond of truly spicy-hot foods, either.

      I agree about the Gothic cathedrals. Even smaller churches that take the concept of sacred space seriously can do much to lift the spirit — and provide wonderful acoustics in the process. As for Hugo, I find him difficult to read, and well worth the time.”Toilers of the Sea” is another one I liked. The descriptive passages can be a bit much — sometimes, pages too much — but the power of negative example isn’t to be dismissed out of hand!

  4. I purchased my first Kindle from Amazon about five years ago. It was one of the first specimens that came out to the public’s hands. I even had to pre-order it because launch time had not arrived.

    English books in Panama are very expensive, and due to their weight, it’s also very expensive to order paper books from the States. So for me, it was a great deal to buy e-books and the Kindle did a wonderful job in getting them into my hands in less than one minute.

    That’s me. That’s what’s convenient to me. I don’t care for the smell of a book, or the texture of its pages and other preferences of people who love physical books.

    I’m okay if others love their paper books. I don’t own the truth about reading. Normally I use my Kindle Fire to read my e-books, but I also have the option of reading them in my computer screen or my iPad. All of them look exactly the same. The small Kindle Fire is more convenient to take to my bed at night; other than that, the other options are quite satisfactory.

    I think e-books will not make physical books go away, Both will co-exist each with its own legions of fans—peacefully.

    Just my two cents on your blog post about prejudice and Kindles. Oh one more thing…I love your writing style, no matter what you write about, with or without a Kindle :-)

    Enjoy the rest a peaceful Sunday. It’s drizzling outside. I love the rainy season.

    Best Regards,


    1. Just a small correction on the purchase time of my Kindle Fire. I went to my Amazon’s account and discovered that I made the purchase on October 7, 2011. Less than five years. Sorry about that time error.



    2. Your situation is quite different from mine, Omar, and I can see why you gravitated to the e-readers and ipad so quickly. Even when I was resisting the change, I understood how people who travel a lot would prefer them. You can load some books, and carry enough reading material for an around-the-world trip on a single device. It cuts down on weight, and bulk, and is far easier than dealing with physical books.

      Another difference between us is that you love all things tech in a way I don’t. I appreciate my computer, and I’m glad for cell phones, but I tend to be what they call a “late adopter.” If a gadget will fill a need, I’ll probably get it. But if I don’t feel a need, I’m just not interested in the latest and greatest for its own sake.

      At least now I’ve figured out how to hook something up to my wi-fi. Better late than never, as they say!

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I suspected you would, just because you love reading and technology. For you, the Kindle and books are the perfect marriage of form and function.


  5. I’ve always found prejudice a very destructive force. Destructive to the person who harbors those prejudices… And so, when I find it in myself, I try to eradicate it. On the other hand, there are certain issues of taste which can’t be decided objectively. And there is a resistance to change, which becomes stronger as we grow older. I’m convinced that books of paper will be resigned to a similar role to that of scrolls of parchment. I imagine it’s only a matter of time. I have a large personal library, and I don’t intend to exchange those books for digital versions. But most of the books I buy today are digital.

    1. You’re right, Shimon. Like anger, vindictiveness, or jealousy, prejudice does damage people who harbor such feelings and attitudes, as well as the people around them.

      But you’re also right that preferences will differ from person to person. “To each his (or her) own” isn’t a bad guideline in matters of taste. An example: I’ve spent enough time trying to understand Jackson Pollock to know that I’ve spent enough time. I’ll leave Pollock to others, and move on to Vermeer, or Wyeth, or Hopper. I don’t want to tear Pollock’s canvases off the walls, I just prefer to move on.

      I did laugh at your comment about the resistance to change that comes with growing older. I’ve seen it in older friends, and I’ve seen it in myself. It’s one thing to prefer the old ways for specific reasons. It’s quite another to cling to old ways out of simple stodginess.

      Just to balance things out, I’ll post sometime about three other books I’ve purchased in the last couple of years: beautiful limited editions of out-of-print historical books, brought back by a small, private press. They’re treasures in a different way — the sort of book you’d leave to someone in a will.

  6. On paper vs. e-books: I’m glad to have both. If I want to read through, it is easy enough to do with an e-book. If I want as a reference, like my quilting books, I want it on paper.

    1. I agree, Melanie. I’m of a similar mind when it comes to my needlepoint books, nature reference books, and history books.

      One thing that’s occurred to me since getting the Kindle is that it offers some of the same advantage of digital photography’s freedom to delete. Free or dirt-cheap books that turn out to be boring or poorly written can be sent off in a flash. And if I want to read a novel I never would keep on my shelves, I can do that, too.

      On the other hand, I can see myself doing what some of my friends do: try out a book on the e-reader, and then purchase a print copy if it’s something that really appeals. There’s no question there are options I’d never considered.

  7. I have a prejudice about eating insects or grubs. I would rather not try them. Some say they taste good, they’re good for you, etc. I would rather not try them. I feel strongly about my choice.

    Suppose I decide to give them a try. They are prepared in a delicious recipe. I try them with an open mind and still decide I don’t want to eat them in the future. I feel strongly about my choice. Do I now have a bias instead of prejudice?

    Is one better than the other? The end result is still the same. I feel strongly that I don’t want them.

    1. I have had the experience of eating termites — “bug-a-bugs” — in Liberia. “Like popcorn,” they said. “Fried in palm oil and crispy,” they said. “Really good for you.” I prefer never to eat them again.

      I suppose that’s how I would draw the distinction: between prejudice and preference. A preference for plantain chips over termites might perplex the cook, or amuse the gathering, but it doesn’t actually hurt anyone. I don’t care if other people eat them, I’ll just stick with my snack of choice and be happy.

      And truly — I don’t think one is better than the other. I might give you extra points for trying them, but I surely wouldn’t condemn you for saying, “No, thank you.”

  8. I really like this post. It’s another one that is thought provoking. I identify with just about all that you have written here. I doubt there is anyone free of prejudice. I like books very much and love to look at them. I’ve yet to buy a Kindle and I’m not sure if I ever will.

    1. I think you’re right that everyone has at least some prejudices, Yvonne. I still remember my reaction when tattoos, pink and green hair, and piercings suddenly were the “thing.” It took me a long time to get used to it, and to stop making assumptions about people who looked like “that.”

      I’ve wondered sometimes if I don’t love books at least in part because I grew up hearing about the “good Book,” and the Sears “wish book.” And of course, books generally were honored. Learning how to open a new book was serious business, and if you broke the spine of a book by laying it face down? There were consequences.

      I suspect you might have had some of the same experiences. Those experiences are part of the reason I suspect I’ll like the Kindle well enough, but never love it like a book. We’ll see.

  9. Have you ever read Walter Ong’s Orality and Literacy or Eric Havelock’s The Muse Learns to Write? As a writer, I suspect that you would really be intrigued with the points that both authors make.

    1. No, I haven’t read either book, although I know of Ong. I was out of academia by the time the books were published, and post-modernism hadn’t yet gotten a grip in my classes.

      On the other hand, both look interesting, particularly in light of my time in Liberia. Among the Kpelle people, the transition from oral to written culture was far from complete in the 1970s. In fact, it barely had begun. The Kpelle language syllabary didn’t come into being until the 1930s, when Chief Gbili of Sanoyea created it. Today, the Latin alphabet is more often used, but the literacy rate still is low. In 2008-2012, the total literacy rate was around 42%, but of course that includes areas like Monrovia, and I would expect it to be much lower among the villages.

      As it happens, both books are available on Kindle — but a little steeply priced. I believe I might check the library first, when I get some time to read them. Thanks for the tip!

  10. Sigh. I’m not going to let you equate sprouts with the Kindle. Sprouts and say, drones? Flying cars? Some things are just not a good idea any way you look at it. It’s not a preference or taste or fuddy thing. Just because something is new or convenient doesn’t make it good or needed. We have convenienced ourselves into massive landfills and stuff and junk and too much electro radiation.

    Roast the quartered sprouts in olive oil with walnuts and raisins and flip the page.

    1. Well, look at that. You’ve brought along a recipe I’ve not been offered before. Quartered and roasted with olive oil: yes. Walnuts and raisins: no. Into the file it goes, under “Dishes for those times when I need to cater to someone else’s preferences, or am feeling particularly adventurous.”

      I agree wholeheartedly that just because something is new or convenient, it’s not necessarily good or necessary. However: in the case of yon Kindle, I decided it was necessary, and now that I have it, I think it might be good. If it isn’t, I’ll freely admit it. But it deserves a test run, first.

      Besides, there’s something both amusing and freeing about saying, “Ok. I’ve been railing against these gadgets for years, and now I have one.” It’s a different kind of page-flipping.

  11. I’m really curious to see what you think of the Kindle. I was really excited when I first got mine… and while I did appreciate the ability to read at night without disturbing my partner, and my wrists cried their thanks for not asking them to hold up a 400+ novel, I still find paper is where my heart is. There is something about the spatial memory that helps me remember what I have read better, and where, that simply hasn’t translated into my reading habits with the Kindle or computer.

    1. I completely understand what you mean by spatial memory being important to you, Alex, and I think I agree that the Kindle doesn’t provide the same sort of experience.

      I often look for passages from books by visualizing them, and, to this point, everything on the Kindle looks the same. It’s a little hard to explain, but, for example, if I want to quote a paragraph from Annie Dillard, I might not remember that the passage is from the chapter called “Seeing,” but I can visualize the page, and see the chapter heading at the top. Then, I know where to go. Everything plays into it: the paper, the font, the binding color, and so on.

      I never read in bed, so I don’t care about that — although the variable lighting is nice. And when I travel, most of the reading material I take with me (historical documents and such) isn’t available on Kindle, so the whole “it’s great for loading up for travel” doesn’t matter to me, either.

      But here’s something I did enjoy. A blogger I follow has just posted the fourth of a series on John Ashbery’s new book of poems. Only one or two are online, so I didn’t have access to them that way. And of course the book is expensive. So: I went to my Kindle, found “Breezeway” at half the price of the bookstores, downloaded it, and now can have the pleasure of reading her posts along with the poems. Having the gizmo around for even occasional use in that manner seems like a wonderful thing.

  12. At times, I dream about having some prejudice because it would mean the belonging to some group. The last would be great, because while living with disabilities and being out of any work, therefore I am alone – I have only mental life.

    While looking through the window I rejoice in discovery of myself in EACH passerby. In spiritual sense, we all are the same “I”. Such understanding leaves no place to any prejudice and opens the door to the spiritual wonderland. But there discovered spiritual peace demands the bodily sharing, which is hard to accomplish while being alone. Yes, I can and I paint, but the pictures also demands the sharing – that’s why I long for some prejudice at times to enter any group – to be not alone.

    1. Again, Tomas, it’s a delight to see you, and renew contact. You were one of the first people I met when I began blogging — so long ago! I just mentioned your blog to one of my friends, and I’ll come by to visit later.

      Your comments are interesting, and poignant. It is true — we need community, and the presence of others in our lives. Sometimes we are blessed to have that through work, or family. Sometimes, circumstances dictate that we must find other forms of contact, as you have through your art and your blog. But knowing that we belong to “this” group, as opposed to “that” group isn’t all bad. It helps to give us a sense of belonging, and security.

      Thank you so much for reading, and commenting. I’m glad to have your blog in my reader again.


  13. In many rural areas, there are Ford bars and there are Chevy bars, sometimes there are even Dodge bars. You know them by the pickups in the parking lot.

    If you want to start a fight and yes, there will be a fight, all you have to do is walk into the wrong bar and yell, “Chevy trucks suck.”

    It is human nature to divide ourselves any way we can. Sometimes we do this with grace and humor, sometimes we do it it with bigotry and violence. We do it because it creates social bonds and advances social interests.

    One of the most interesting and bizarre examples of this occurred in Constantinople, some fifteen hundred years ago.

    The city had a Hippodrome, a stadium. that held 100,000 spectators and sported a quarter mile long track for horse and chariot racing, it was in a word NASCAR.

    Like the race fans of today, who divide themselves by product loyalties (Lowes versus M & M’s), the hippodrome’s fans divided themselves by color. The two principle groups were The Blues and The Greens.(kind of like Minnesota purple and Wisconsin green). These colors not only defined racing team loyalty but religious and political fealty as as well.

    In 552, a riot broke out between the groups; 30,000 people were killed and much of the town destroyed.

    By the way, I don’t like Brussels Sprouts nor do I like the kind of people who like them. [smirk]

    1. Your mention of the Chevy-Ford-Dodge bars reminded me of the hippie-redneck division of yore. Up against the wall, Redneck Mother, and all that.

      Of course that reminded me of Oklahoma vs. Texas, and Texas vs. just about everyone else — or vice-versa. I once bought a postcard in the Salt Lake CIty airport that showed a skier on a mountain. It said, “If God had meant for Texans to ski, He would have made b-*** snow.”

      One of the best at encouraging Texas pride with a little humor and grace is Lyle Lovett. I’ve always thought his “That’s Right — You’re Not From Texas” is one of the best, partly because of the added phrase: “but Texas wants you anyway.”

      I’d never heard of the Nika riot. How I missed it, I’m not sure. Maybe I wasn’t paying attention in class that day. In any event, I found a certain Theophanes observing that, after peace was restored, “the chariot races were not held for a long time.” I guess so. And your comparison to Nascar is perfect.

      I don’t suppose the Greens wore slices of cheddar cheese on their heads.

  14. HA! Things do have a place (Some argue place gives order?)

    I resisted an e-reader for years: same reasons as you and it seemed like an expensive item to sit in the drawer. But after getting one as a gift, I do like it – for traveling, and sometimes reading in the dark so as not to bother another. But (as I am unloading book shelves ahead of some home improvement) I do love print books (and the library where some of these will go shortly).

    I’m gingerly handling old ones handed down from great grandparents (and amused at the classic titles and their “current times” titles). These won’t run out of batteries or contents oddly disappear for weird reasons, but those old elegant bindings, now delicate – wonder if the books from the modern era will hold up as well: content and bindings. Having my doubts.

    Prejudice – it’s just people. Instead of trying to extinguish it, might be easier to acknowledge, and learn to agree to disagree but still be friends – live and let live. Oh, concept from olden time so those must not be worth tending to.

    1. Your question about the durability of books published today vs. those published in earlier years is an interesting one.

      It used to be assumed that an appliance would last for twenty years, and many lasted even longer. When my grandmother exchanged her (true) icebox for her first refrigerator, that first refrigerator also was her last. Quality made the difference. That’s one reason many of the books that have come down to me are still in such good shape. Leather covers, well-made bindings, good paper. Quality.

      One of these days, I’ll write about the three books I’ve purchased from Copano Bay Press. Each one cost very nearly as much as my Kindle, but the pleasure they give is of a different order.

      Here’s one tidbit that tickles me. It’s smart marketing, and fun. When I open my Kindle, the screen saver that appears is distinctly retro: nibs for ink pens, calligraphy, lead type, ink bottles. It’s a slick way to connect new tech to old, and make the gadget seem more book-like.

      Speaking of retro: a live-and-let-live attitude seems more retro every day. Of course, that kind of attitude requires placing a high value on individuality. Not everyone’s into that, these days.

  15. Came via Sammy at Bemuzin. Stayed to read the very long post. Oddly, early on in my blogging “career” I did the A-to-Z April challenge on the three blogs I write (business and then personal). I was told by one of their handlers my posts were too long. HMPH! I say if the post is too long then the reader is not a good fit or the writing is BAD. I stayed, am following, and looking forward to more.

    I was an architect in another life and frankly think that architecture — or good design — ended with the computer. There is SOMETHING in the hand-to-eye sketching as a designing thinking person that is much more human, scaled differently, and produces better buildings. I almost never see a building I like anymore, unless it is from someone old school. They don’t make me hate them, they don’t make me love them, they are so, so boring!

    1. I had to laugh at your mention of this very long post. Maybe it’s a good thing you didn’t stop by for one of my really long posts. This one’s about average. They’re often shorter — much shorter — when I post poetry, but when I get rolling with some good Texas (or other) history, they can become so long I break them up into a series.

      I’ve always thought Flannery O’Connor gets it just right when she says, “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way, and it takes every word in the story to say what the meaning is.” I try and use just as many words as I need: no more, no fewer.

      I was given the same sort of advice when I began blogging: that I should post every day, never exceed 300 words (or 500, depending on the advice-giver), include plenty of memes, give-aways, and puzzles, and always participate in the various awards. I did some of that, for a while. But I had a fairly good sense of what I wanted to accomplish, so I set out to accomplish it on my own terms.. I’m happy enough with the result.

      Your comments about changes in the architectural field are so interesting. I don’t know enough about either architecture or design to offer much of a comment, but I certainly have experienced what you mention: buildings that evoke almost no response, or that seem fully as “cookie cutter” as anything from the 1950s suburbs.

      Thanks for stopping by, and for the interesting comment. You’re always welcome!


  16. Well, Linda, once again you’ve written a very thought-provoking post! I had to chuckle over Little Linda, who refused Brussels sprouts despite never having tried them. I was the same way and didn’t apologize for it — until I had Domer. Somehow, that same statement sounded wrong coming from his mouth, ha! So he had to at least taste new things before proclaiming he didn’t like them. My own mom wasn’t as successful with me. I can remember sitting at the kitchen table for ages after dinner one night because I refused to try something “icky” (perhaps okra, Lima beans, or broccoli!),

    Prejudice is an interesting topic. We’re quick to point out the prejudices of others yet we refuse to accept that we, too, have them. I think you’re right in saying they stem from the new and untried. Who knows? Perhaps prejudice is Nature’s way of protecting mankind from danger and harm. I mean, who among us wants to leap out of a moving airplane without a parachute, just so we’ll find out if we like it??!

    1. I’ve tried to think of other foods I wouldn’t try as a child, Debbie, and I haven’t been able to come up with a single one. There are foods I avoid now, but my avoidance is based on experience. Really hot peppers. Lutefisk. Octopus. Velveeta.

      I laughed at your turn-about when it came to Domer and food. Several of my friends went through the same thing with their kids. Behaviors they engaged in as children smply were not going to be allowed when they had their own children — or at least that was the goal. It didn’t always work out so well.

      I think prejudice is more complicated than just the presence of the new or unfamiliar, but that certainly plays a role. When I was in junior high, my friends and I passed the Catholic church on our way to and from school. I don’t know what we imagined went on in there, but we always were a little nervous until we were in the next block. I’ve wondered for years where that anxiety came from. The only reasonable explanation I’ve come up with involves my grandparents’ town, where the Catholic Croats and the Lutheran/Methodist Scandinavians sometimes looked askance at each other. Maybe we soaked up the old folks’ prejudices, without even knowing it.

      1. I’ll bet you did. I think we kids soak up more from our elders than they know. I kind of felt the same way about those “Holy Roller” churches! While I’m not sure that attending one would erase the prejudices, at least I’d have the knowledge of what really went on inside, rather than the suppositions, ha!

  17. Great post! You are so right about our resistance to change and pre-judging. I too like to think I’m a both/and, but mine comes with a dose of ‘it depends’.

    I haven’t yet broken down and purchased an E-reader. I truly understand and agree with its benefits. What I can’t get past is the physical separation between the print and me – reading anything on a screen puts an indescribable distance between the words and me. I simply don’t feel the same absorption. I tolerate screens for blog reading (how I long to have you in print) but not yet for books. When my eyesight is bad enough, I will embrace an electronic reader for its ability to enlarge the type.

    1. One of the interesting aspects of the both/and approach is that it doesn’t necessarily mean a 50/50 split. Both/and can be 90/10, or 40/60. It can fluctuate — and often does.

      As for the Kindle, I’ve already put it to use in ways I never saw described in any of the reviews or marketing material. I suspect I’m going to end up defining it as a “reading tool” rather than a book. It may be a distinction without much of a difference, but I’ve already decided the difference is real. Still, it will take some time to explore its potential.

      It is nice to be able to enlarge the text. There’s a choice of fonts, too, and when I changed mine the clarity improved a good bit. All in all, I’m glad I bought it, and want to know as much as I can about how it works. Then, we’ll see.

      1. I like that description ‘reading tool’. Perhaps our willingness to change is correlated to how the change is presented!

        I will be very interested, as you use your Kindle, to hear how and why you like or don’t.

        1. Perhaps. On the other hand, a perceived need may be a better motivator than all the marketing (or good-natured, friendly nagging) in the world.

          I’ve already found that it’s not so poetry-friendly. Weird line breaks and last lines separated from the body of the poem aren’t cool. It’s a problem some editors acknowledge, and I appreciate their efforts at solving it, but it still left me a little grumpy.

          1. I can see where that kind of snafu would be frustrating because proper ‘flow’ is essential for reading enjoyment.

            I had to smile at your use of grumpy – it’s not a description I associate with someone who writes as eloquently as you do about such meaningful topics. I guess you’re human after all.

  18. What an interesting post! Yes, we do have to look in the mirror now and then and see ourselves for who we truly are, and deal with that.

    Oh noooo….you don’t like brussels sprouts? But they’re scrumptious! I don’t like cucumber and have fought the same battle, the strange thing is that I grow them!

    I was smiling to see you bought a kindle, daughter and I were having the same conversation today and I’m still refusing to go there, I went to the library instead and found it closed due to refurbishment. I may need to re-think my dislike of e-reading!xxx

    1. Snowbird, your comment led me to wonder when “mirror” became favored over “looking-glass.” It seems mirror always has been favored. Still, where would we be without “Through the Looking Glass”?

      Here’s something that surprised me. I found a definition for “looking glass” I didn’t know: “being or involving the opposite of what is normal or expected: for example, ‘a looking-glass land’.” Maybe that’s why looking-glasses fell out of favor. People kept seeing things they didn’t expect!

      I’ve finally learned to like cucumber, so we can trade. I’ll give you my sprouts, and take your extra cukes off your hands.

      It stormed this afternoon, so I had a little time to explore the Kindle. I think it might be useful, but I’m not ready to declare it the coolest thing ever. Don’t cut up your library card!

  19. You know, I loved and still love Brussel sprouts, not only the taste, but also because they ARE like miniature cabbages, and I’ve always had a soft spot for miniatures, who knows why?

    On the issue of the Kindle, you may be amused to know that I, once so delighted at the concept, have stepped back from the brink. I do have one (actually a Kindle app on my iPad, which I’ve come to find as irritating as it is useful), but I’ve found I’m much happier reading yer actual book, including for all the reasons you name. It’s handy when you’re traveling, of course, and I use it for some things, but, in the end, call me old-fashioned, but

    There is no Frigate like a Book
    To take us Lands away,
    Nor any Coursers like a Page
    Of prancing Poetry –
    This Traverse may the poorest take
    Without oppress of Toll –
    How frugal is the Chariot
    That bears a Human soul.

    1. I remember your comments on the small, hand-made books you found — perhaps in England? There is something delightful about miniatures of every sort, from tea-sets to portraits. Even the Brussels sprouts still seem cute to me. I’d just prefer not to eat them.

      I’m trying very hard to not pass judgment on the Kindle too quickly. I did find one very good use for it that may amuse you.

      I saw you’ve posted your latest in the Ashbery series, and thought, “Ah, ha!” I went to the Kindle store, and found “Breezeway.” I wasn’t ready to pay the price they wanted for the book itself, but the e-version was affordable. A click and a download later, and “Strange Reaction” appeared on the gizmo, ready for reading. I’m going to go back and take a look at your previous “Breezeway” posts, now that I have the poems themselves in hand.

      Some of the poems did seem strangely awkward at first (even for Ashbery!) I went back and read the publisher’s note about line breaks, and the difficulty of formatting poetry on smaller devices. When I decreased the size of the text, some of the poems took on a different form: a result that was just slightly ironic, given that a selling point of the Kindle is the ability to enlarge text.

      I’m really looking forward to re-reading your posts. In this case, score one for the Kindle!

  20. Thank you for providing the Victor Hugo references. They indeed showcase what we, who are observant (like Hugo), recognize as first, our lament, and second, our resolve to push back against a change we cannot control.

    Yet architecture,with its grand spaces that cause voices to cease and words to evaporate ,was here before the book, be it printed or digital.

    I’d like to think that the old fortress in Edinburgh or the iron and steel buttresses of the magnificent Golden Gate or the vertical ghosts of Art Deco in downtown Chicago along the river–that all of them–like the Cathedral of Notre Dame–stand in a silence the word just cannot do.

    As for Brussels sprouts and Kindles, they have provided a lovely entry into a discussion of preference.

    1. Lamentation and resolve: that pairing has made for good literature and good counsel over the years. My first thought was of Rachel, weeping for her children, and, of course, the Book of Lamentations itself.

      Your list is good, and I’m glad you included the Golden Gate. I could add a few others, including a museum or two. The thought of museums called to mind this passage from Annie Dillard. I’ve always thought it a fine description of the silences-before-and-beyond-words that sometimes come to us.

      ““What I call innocence is the spirit’s unself-conscious state at any moment of pure devotion to any object. It is at once a receptiveness and total concentration…

      If you wish to tell me that the city offers galleries, I’ll pour you a drink and enjoy your company while it lasts; but I’ll bear with me to my grave those pure moments at the Tate (was it the Tate?) where I stood planted, open-mouthed, before that one particular canvas, that river up to my neck, gasping, lost, receding into watercolor depth and depth to the vanishing point, buoyant, awed — and had to be literally hauled away. ”

  21. I must muddle on this one. I do certainly have some resistance to change, though for reasons I’ll explain later, FAR less than ever before. I’m not so sure if it’s prejudice so much as preference in a lot of cases.

    For example, now you can eat those brussels sprouts. You choose not to (unless pressed). Did your prejudice turn to preference? Mine certainly did both with B-Sprouts (I grew up with them boiled soft and covered with Cheese-Whiz. It wasn’t until five decades later that they became a favorite and I’m glad Rick grows them!) The same with sweet potatoes which I now eat on a regular basis — not smothered in marshmallow crap but sauteed and savory.

    What do I prefer not to have? Well, right now, a Kindle. For a lot of the reasons you stated. But I do know that many swear by them and that when my eyes get funkier (or I suppose, if I was traveling for an extended period of time and distance), I’d buy into it. But for now, no, thank you.

    I think the thing is the willingness to try and/or the willingness to allow yourself to be changed. And if you still hate the sprouts or whatever it is, then I don’t see it as the prejudice anymore but the preference. Of course, if you are never willing to try…

    True story. Social media came on the scene during the years I was still working and we determined it should be a key part of what we did to help get our message out. I was nervous but excited to leap on the bandwagon. I really knew nothing about FB or Twitter or blogging (and I wasn’t sure I saw the reason for those — and in some cases, still don’t!), but I felt I needed to know to stay relevant to my work. My assistant did not have to do this as part of her job and she was adamant that she not. Another person was my back-up.

    Interesting thing was that when it came time for layoffs, by all logic, I should have gone before Diane. My position as her manager was higher (not that I had any say in her staying or going) and consequently more would have been saved by my departure. She also had more seniority than I. We were both solid writers and editors. One reason she was let go was her inflexibility and unwillingness to change, to learn the social media and web worlds without resistance.

    Now, I quit Twitter when I quit work (preference) and don’t know why I still have a Pinterest page I never pin or visit. But being able to look it in the face saved me a job at a time when I needed one. And that was a huge lesson to me.

    1. Here’s a thought, Jeanie — sometimes, we may prefer not to change! And of course, there are those times when we think, “I really need to change — for my own good.”

      Your story about the move to social media at your work is a perfect example. You were willing to change, and benefited because of it. I’ve missed a good bit over the years, in other ways, because of my non-traditional work. I came to computers because of the web,and never had the need to learn any of the skills associated with Word, Excel, Office, and so on. From time to time, I discover I need to know something that everyone else takes for granted, while I don’t have a clue. The solution? Get with it, and learn.

      As for prejudices being re-shaped by experience into preferences — I think that happens for all of us. And, truly, don’t our preferences help to make us who we are as individuals? I prefer white wine to red, and small independent shops to shopping malls. I prefer cats to dogs, barbeque to sushi, and green to blue. Some of my preferences are more substantive. I prefer independence to dependence, for example. You have your own preferences — some of which I know! — and even where our preferences differ, we still can be friends.

      In the end, that’s what matters.

      1. I’m trying to change my clutter — for my own good! Someday I’ll need to say “I wish I’d tackled that earlier.” Actually, it is less the clutter than the excess. What do I need, want, will use, really love. I’m fine till I get to the sentimental things!

        Yes, prejudices are indeed reshaped into preferences, whether they change or remain the same. And you’re right — that’s what makes us who we are. I love that preferences differ (just so long as on the big things, they differ in a civil way — I’ve seen that one go south!). When you are always with someone who always thinks and love the same things you do, one lacks variety. And independence. I know Rick would like it if I loved to bike — but he probably never would bike with me because he would get too frustrated and so would I! Meanwhile, I would like him to play in paper but i would also get frustrated because I know it’s not his thing. What we do is talk about our thing — and share other experiences. And we learn from those!

  22. Another delightful essay, exploring one of the most contentious issues facing us today and everyday – our constant need to change. Change is so difficult for humans but when change is reluctantly embraced new frontiers open for our exploration, new ideas lead us toward higher evolvement, new ways of being enrich our daily lives.

    Remember the old box brownie with its cumbersome roll of film? This had to be taken away to be developed before we could enjoy our photographs and when one or several copies were all we had to share with friends and family. Yet several of my friends today lament the loss of the old film, and staunchly refuse to embrace the digital photo with its opportunity for enhancement, its upgraded viewing on a back lit screen and its potential to be freely and inexpensively shared far and wide.

    Not every change needs to be taken up, and after thoughtful consideration some new inventions are deemed worthy of adoption while others will languish by the wayside.Yet no matter when or where we live out our daily lives this ever constant struggle to adopt the new will always be with us.

    1. One of the delights of purchasing a Kindle is that I now have “The Shipwreck Coast” on my very own device, I haven’t read it yet, but I’m looking forward to it.

      How easily we take for granted these miracles of modern life. When I think of the system that allowed you to write a book and send it to the web, so that I could download it in Texas, I get dizzy.

      Things certainly have changed. Some changes are good. Others have brought great loss. And of course, even if we don’t seek change for its own sake, we’ll be forced to deal with the changes time brings to our own lives: physically and otherwise.

      I do have some sympathy for your film-loving friends. Particularly when it comes to recording family or other special events, there’s something about having that tangible photo. When I look at photos on a screen or a device, it just isn’t the same as opening the box of old photos and spending time with them. Of course, I’m in the process of doing what so many of my friends also do — scanning and touching up those old photos, so they’re available in two formats. Both/and!

    1. I don’t know, Oneta. When you put it that way, it sounds more like a pot of soup bubbling on the back of the stove — with whatever’s at hand tossed in! I hope it simmered long enough for the flavors to meld.

  23. Since I’ve been reading ebooks using an app on my iPad, I don’t think I’d get a Kindle any time soon. But, it’s easier for me to switch devices and welcome new techno gadgets than eating Brussels sprouts. I simply cannot swallow it even if I reluctantly put one in my mouth.

    As for eReading, I do admit while I’m more used to it now, I still can’t find the gratification of marking, drawing lines, arrows, etc. etc. on my pages equal to any of the features an ebook offers. Maybe it’s different with the Kindle, more elaborate I suppose than reading through Overdrive (my library app). No matter. Congrats on your turning the page to a new chapter, Linda.

    1. I was in the Verizon store last week for some other business, and they did their best to get me to bite on their special deal on iPads. The cost of the gadget wasn’t bad, but those monthly charges add up. Better to edge into e-things with something that fits into the budget a little better.

      I keep finding new things hidden inside the Kindle’s program — like the ability to search Wikipedia, or translate a section of text — but the whole bookmarking and note-taking process seems cumbersome and not particularly suited to the way I like to do things. Of course, I’m very new at this, and haven’t yet worked my way through the entire user’s manual, so things may become more understandable and easy.

      Still, just like computers and iGadgets, the Kindle’s here. No sense sitting around the cave saying, “A wheel? Who needs a wheel? I can get where I’m going on foot!”

  24. I share a few similar preferences for things as they are…no Brussels sprouts in my diet and books as objects of desire, for a few. I don’t consider them as prejudices…more just stubborn refusal to change. The Brussels sprouts remain on the list…I bought a Kindle too. The idea was to prop it up and watch videos or read a book while on the elliptical. I do those things…but not on the elliptical.

    Prejudices are learned behavior. We can do the right thing and teach ourselves to unlearn behaviors like sexism, racism and ageism just as we can learn to enjoy foods by the force of will. Some people would rather hang on to those unfortunate beliefs out of fear and insecurity.

    Mary Beth enjoys the sprouts while I do not. Marinated and grilled might work.

    1. I was puzzled by your reference to watching videos on your Kindle. I finally figured out that you must have a Kindle Fire — the tablet. I thought I’d missed checking out a possible option, but it seems to be limited as an e-reader. According to the reviews, some functions present on the Paperwhite are missing, and they’ve limited or prohibited downloads of free books from places like Project Gutenberg, and even some for-purchase books. So, I got the right one, after all.

      I don’t think all prejudices are learned, but they certainly can be unlearned. It’s not necessarily easy, but it’s possible. But when it comes to adopting foods (or anything else) by sheer force of will — most of the time, you can count me out.

      I’ve had friends through the years who’ve insisted, “If you just would give yourself a chance, you’d love Scotch! Drink it on a regular basis, and you’ll get used ot it!” Uh — no thank you. In the same way, it’s a polite “No, thank you” to family members who used to say, “You should move back to the midwest.” When I mentioned the cold, the ice, and the snow, they’d say, “Oh, but you’d get used to it.” Maybe I would, and maybe I wouldn’t. But I don’t want to get used to it. Snow is to visit, not to live in. I’ll admire yours, instead!

  25. “The grand poem, the grand edifice, the grand work of humanity will no longer be built: it will be printed.” Even before I got to this sentence that you quoted from Hugo, I was reminded that the English-speaking world knows him primarily as a novelist, but French speakers know him primarily as a great poet. We have our electronic devices and our computer programs that purport to translate from one language to another, but there’s so much that doesn’t make it through the process, especially in the case of poetry.

    Your creation of the word e-quivalent is inspired. To translate in into French, all we have to do is add an accent: é-quivalent.

    As for that vegetable: have you noticed, as I have so often over the last several decades, that the people who make signs in supermarket produce sections frequently write “Brussel sprouts.” I always want to tell those sign makers that there’s a great job waiting for them in New Orlean.

    1. I didn’t know about Hugo’s reputation as a poet. I knew he’d written poems, of course, but when I went to Project Gutenberg last night, I was astonished to see the extensive collection. One thing seems certain: you’d better know some French and European history before you dive into Hugo’s poems. If you don’t, you’ll know a good bit more when you’re finished reading: at least if you take time to sort out the references.

      Since I’m not fluent in two languages, I haven’t personally experienced the difficulties of translating poetry, but I have had the experience of reading two or three translations and being astonished by the differences among them.

      Some new problems seem to have arisen with the movement toward e-readers. I downloaded the Ashbery poems Susan has used as the basis for her collages, and didn’t think they translated particularly well to the Kindle. It helped when I reduced the font size, to get more of the line on a screen, but it was a little disconcerting to see the shape of the poem change each time I changed the font size.

      It was rather like seeing one of my haiku as a sentence, or an etheree as a paragraph in the reader. For email or a summary like the reader, it’s all right. But it seems like a real limitation with the Kindle. I think I’ll take the gizmo down to Barnes and Noble and compare the print and electronic versions, just for fun.

      Isn’t e-quivalent fun? And how perfect, that you thought of turning it into é-quivalent. I confess: I was completely delighted with my own work in that instance. And, yes: those Brussel sprouts are advertised here, too, although my avoidance of the veggie mostly keeps me out of range of the signs.

      On another, completely unrelated note, I received a consolation prize yesterday, to make up for losing the dodder. When I was leaving for work, I noticed something new in the vacant lot across from me. They looked like rain lilies, and they were: except they were larger than I’ve ever seen. Most I’ve seen were only a few inches tall.These were at least a foot, and maybe more. That’s how I spotted them, showing behind the other plants in the field.

      When I got out to take some photos, it took me a minute to figure out that they were the source of the wonderful fragrance in the air. It was just indescribable. I’m even pretty happy with some of the photos I took: here, here, and here.

      1. That’s them, all right (rain-lilies, that is). I’m glad you got to see and smell some. The ones with a long floral tube (the part from just below the tepals to the bulge of the ovary) are Cooperia drummondii, which is primarily a fall bloomer (and we’re already in the early stages of botanical fall). I saw a few rain-lilies along the Mopac expressway yesterday and went to a place about a mile away where there had been some good colonies a few years ago. Unfortunately the property had been mowed to the ground and was brown and ugly and produced not a single rain-lily.

  26. I have the same unbending prejudice towards smartphones. I do not see the need. But, then again, I do not enjoy long conversations by text either…

    But, both e readers and Brussels sprouts have been favorites for as long as I can remember… Though, I held out for a good while before getting a Kindle. Back in the 90’s I had a pocket pc with Microsoft reader on it that I loved to read in bed. I made my better half much happier not to have a reading light burning as she tried to sleep. But now I find myself the proud owner of two, And over the years I find myself replacing many of my favorite books with kindle versions as the old (mostly paperback) versions wear out. The only thing I find that doesn’t work well with an e reader are reference books and guides… They just aren’t as easy to search electronically, which I find exceedingly strange

    My childhood equivalent to Brussels sprouts was asparagus. Since as a child the only samples I ever had were the limp weirdly tinny things out of a can I could never develop a reason to eat them. It was when I was working a food convention one time and had the opportunity to try a raw stalk without any seasoning that I became a fan. I still prefer my asparagus a close to that raw state as I can cook them but with a good sear…

    And, I now enjoy the use of an android tablet, a smartphone without the phone.

    1. There’s just no way I’d take a smart phone down to the docks. I still use a Samsung flip phone, with an industrial-strength case. It fits perfectly in my pocket, and if it happens to be lying about and I accidently hose it down — no problem. Well, at least if I get it dried off as soon as I realize what I’ve done.

      Some of the qualities of the Kindle that people often praise don’t make any difference to me. I don’t read in bed, for example. On the other hand, I can see where the backlighting would be handy during a power outage. We’ve had three in the past week because of the thunderstorms, and it was nice to be able to play with my new toy during them.

      I think I agree with you about the guides. I have a paper copy of a book which details all the historical markers in Texas. It’s available on Kindle, too, but from what I can tell, searching the contexts is awkward at best and nearly impossible at worst. But that might be me, not yet skilled enough to use it.

      You poor thing. Canned asparagus is the worst. I was lucky enough to grow up with a patch in the back yard, so I knew it as tender and crisp and quite good. The first time I met the canned version, I nearly gagged. That young-me would love asparagus and morels but refuse the sprouts is a little strange, but there you are.

  27. I don’t think I’ve ever tried Brussels Sprouts in my life – but since they keep being compared to cabbage which I HAVE tried & know I don’t like, I probably won’t try them. Well, actually, you’ve made me curious & maybe the next time some come my way I’ll take a bite.

    I loved my Kindle when I got it – so much easier to take books on vacation, read in the tub, and get new books from the library without actually having to leave my house. But now it sits neglected – since my boss got me an iPhone for work I read all my books on there now. Amazing. I would have thought the small screen would make reading annoying, but I upped the font size & don’t even need to wear my reading glasses. I don’t know when I last read a for-real book…

    1. If you decide to try the little gems, Dana, just be sure you get them roasted, or grilled, or even pan-sautéed, and not boiled. Boiled Brussels sprouts aren’t a food. They’re a punishment.

      I had wondered about reading on an iPhone. It seems to me the screen would be entirely too small. Even the Kindle screen seems small to me The only way to get what I “feel” should be a decent amount of text on a page is to reduce the line spacing and the font size. That’s when I give thanks again for my eye surgery. There’s no way I could have read what I think of as a “normal” page on the Kindle without it. But I have to keep reminding myself I’ve not had it for a week, yet. A couple of months of real use will be a better test.

  28. The Brussel Sprouts ending is great! I had a similar aversion in my childhood, but to parsnips. A number of years back my mother in law made them, with brown sugar and cream, and I was converted. I have also been converted, in a fashion, to my Sony reader. It has an lcd screen and so is soft on the eyes and power both. I read a lot of fiction on it, and maybe it does me a favour by providing me with a different tool for reading pleasure from work. I loved the bit about books and buildings and will think on that for a time!

    1. Whether I’d really exchange my bowl of ice cream or cereal for Brussels sprouts is unlikely, but as we know, unlikely isn’t impossible.

      To my knowledge, I’ve never had a parsnip. If fact, I’m not even sure what they are: perhaps a high-class turnip.. Somehow, I have them associated with Peter Rabbit, or Beatrix Potter, or some vague English author. But I know this — add brown sugar and cream to almost anything, and conversion could be on the horizon!

      Are you using Kobo now? I’d not heard about Sony Readers, and it seems they’ve discontinued supporting them. I did come across Kobo somewhere, but didn’t explore it.

      When I first traveled in Europe, I took some tours of cathedrals, because I knew so little about their history and architecture. It was fascinating to learn how to “read” them — not only the building as a whole, but also the decoration. I can’t remember which it was, but one had a certain mayor as a gargoyle. That sort of thing is funny, and endearing.

      1. Parsnips are like a pale carrot, but have more of a turnip taste. Hence, the brown sugar and cream accommodation! I am holding onto my Sony as long as I can since it has the very nice feature of many dictionaries pre-loaded in it. Since it is LCD the battery has a very long life, and the screen is very easy on the eyes. Because it is so ancient, I have to download books on my computer and then transfer them to my reader… a little bit like burning coal when everyone else has natural gas, I guess. I suppose books would be like a wood fire?

  29. Brussels sprouts are indeed the worst vegetable ever. At least okra is decent when deep fried. Fortunately, I was never encouraged to eat the dratted things as a child. When she was younger, my mother was traumatized by something exceedingly nasty when when she cut a sprout in half. To this day, she won’t tell me what it was, but it was enough to make sure Brussels sprouts never, ever made an appearance on our dinner table.

    1. I can take okra fried or pickled, and it’s all right if the gumbo maker knows her business. I know some people roast or grill it, but I’m not sure I’d go to the trouble.

      The thought of being traumatized by a Brussels sprout is humorous, for sure. Whatever it was that your mother confronted, at least it saved you from further trauma — always a good thing.

      Lovely to have you stop by, and add your story. You’re always welcome!


      1. Considering I tried one at a friend’s house, I know precisely how lucky I was not to have to do battle with that vegetable. Actually, my mother is such a good cook there are very few vegetables I don’t particularly like, Do you have a favorite? I’m pretty sure I know where you stand on the other end of the spectrum.

  30. My vegetable nemesis is celery but I will eat it and sometimes even enjoy it. As for Brussels sprouts, it’s not always about preference or prejudice. Often it is necessity which is at issue. I first met Brussels sprouts at boarding school. They were boiled to ‘death’ but we ate them because we were hungry.

    Later I encountered them in the UK. They were prepared quite well, but, again, we ate them because there had been a huge snowstorm and Brussels sprouts were one of the few vegetables which had survived the snowfall. In my city, Brussels sprouts are a reasonably cheap source of greens during the winter. So, out of necessity, I have found ways to make them very tasty. Better a fresh Brussels sprout than a less than fresh green bean imported from Australia. I don’t yearn for Brussels sprouts as I do for,say, rutabaga or parsnips but I am glad they are around when I need them.

    I don’t yearn for my Kindle either. But I am glad I have one. Like Brussels sprouts it fills an empty spot in a very satisfying way. Kindles, Brussels sprouts, technology or architecture, we need to be adaptable and willing to experience and experiment to make the most of life.

    Just imagining the Kindle debate as a first book debate. Do you think we should buy one of these fancy printed things? Will we use it? Isn’t it better to just listen to the story tellers and hear texts read at church? That’s more cost-effective. And if we have a book, we will have to learn to read. Can we afford to have tuition? We’ve managed okay without a book in the house for years. My grandmother didn’t need one…..etc etc

    1. Freedom and necessity apply even to our relationships with food, it seems. If I have the freedom to choose, I’ll choose nearly anything but the Brussels sprouts. If nothing else were available and I was hungry? A different matter, for sure.

      Your comment about imported green beans intrigued me. It suddenly occurred to me that I haven’t a clue what your agriculture is like, or even the basic foods. I went to do a little looking, and the first thing I turned up was the esteemed Pavlova. Give me one of those, and you can keep all of your veggies! It was especially interesting to see that a little corn flour is sometimes added to the meringue. I’ve never tried that, but once the humidity drops — like maybe November — I may experiment.

      Your imagined discussion about adopting one of those things called a “book” is amusing, and so true. I started thinking about all the discussions I’ve witnessed or taken part in when it came time to decide “yea” or “nay” on something new: television, a powered lawn mower, a cell phone, a microwave oven, electric heat. Even when I began sailing, the advanced navigation systems had Loran, but not GPS, electronic chart plotters, and so on. There’s been a lot of change, over very few years.

      The nice thing is, we’re always free to redecide. I watched the coronation of Queen Elizabeth on our new television with the 8″ screen, and never was without television again, apart from my time in Liberia. Now, I’ve lived without one for about four years, and am perfectly happy. It’s true that I pick up occasional programs or films on my computer, but that ony means I really want to watch them. It works for me.

  31. This was a well thought post as usual. First of all, I do like brussels sprouts. Actually I like most everything edible. Glad it doesn’t show too much!

    I love both my books and my iPad. I never bought a Kindle, never saw the need, but now that my eyesight is failing, the iPad’s ability to enlarge the print comes in handy. However, I still keep a stack of books on my nightstand just in case. I was amazed at the person who thought your post was long–they are always so interesting it doesn’t matter.
    My first look at Notre Dame cathedral was so overwhelming all I could remember when going back to hotel were the gargoyles! Had to visit each time in Paris to get the entire picture.

    1. Well, as these things go, I like nearly everything edible, too. But what fun would it be to write about all the things I like? It’s much more fun to point out what I don’t like, and let people weigh in (so tot speak — no pun intended!)

      I was going to say that it’s too early for me to love my Kindle as I do my books. We’ve just been introduced, after all. But I just reached over and opened it, and found that while I wasn’t paying any attention, it had been updated, with improvements to the type engine, and other things. I just downloaded the new user’s guide, and will be interested to see if a couple of the things I didn’t like so much have been addressed (to the extent possible).

      As for the length of posts, cynical me has thought from time to time that WP encourages short posts to increase the number of clicks on their site. If someone sits around reading one post for ten minutes, they’re missing the opportunity to click on ten short posts. Me? I just try to read and write good stuff, and don’t worry about all those pesky “rules.”

      One thing’s for sure — neither Kindle nor iPad nor book does justice to something like Notre Dame. They’re wonderful adjuncts. They help us recall what we’ve seen, and learn more about it, but the experience itself never fades. At least, that’s been my experience.

  32. I watch a television program called “Tiny House Nation” wherein a life coach and his carpenter partner get people into “tiny houses” (i.e., houses under 200 square feet) and show the downsizing necessary to accomplish it. E-readers are recommended for their space conservation, as storage is at a premium in a tiny house. BTW, there is, in fact, a free Pandora app for Kindle so you can read and listen to your Pandora playlists. A major selling point of a Kindle is that you can put your library in your bag and take it with you anywhere (that has WiFi, that is). There is also a free dictionary which I would download too. Highlight the word, and it looks the word up for you.

    I had never considered cathedrals as “books” but now that you mention it, the “decoration” was designed to teach the Bible to those who could not read. I wonder what it must have been like for someone from a small wattle and daub medieval village to encounter a great cathedral. Must have been truly mind blowing. To have grown up in a society where almost nobody read is hard to imagine for us who have grown up in such a literate society. I can still remember learning to read, and then being turned loose in a library. It truly was like being handed the world on a plate.

    BTW, I would get yourself a stylus — makes manipulating the touch screen easier, and keeps fingerprints off your screen. I would also consider getting a screen protector.

    Happy reading on your Kindle.

    1. I can get with downsizing, but I’m not sure I could deal with 200 square feet as a primary residence. Even the little cabin in the woods was about 250 sq. feet: enough, but lacking a few amenities.
      On the other hand, there’s a tiny house designer builder between Houston and San Antonio, and the sample houses they have displayed are pretty amazing.

      The Kindle Paperwhite is strictly a reader — different from the Kindle Fire. In fact, I didn’t even know about the Kindle tablets until after I purchased the reader. That’s fine, since I didn’t want a tablet. The e-reader’s just fine. I never listen to music while reading or writing, anyway. I did check out the dictionary that came pre-loaded. It’s the New Oxford American, so that’s good.

      I’d wondered about a stylus, but so far I haven’t had any problems, even with the keyboard. At least it’s there as an option if I decide I want it.

      When I was thinking about cathedrals as books, it occurred to me that cemeteries function in that way, too: at least they did before the days of memorial gardens with identical markers. I can understand the desire for uniformity (and easier grass cutting), but there’s something about wandering about and looking at the iconography that’s intriguing, and touching.

  33. I just love this juxtaposition of the Kindle and the humble brussel sprout – who would have thought it? And I so agree with you re the importance of ( albeit slowly, and with considerable resistance ) embracing change. My husband now calls me a ‘cyber-chick’. It took me the whole of 2007 to wrestle with my resistance until I decided to join the cyber-world in 2008. It’s been, on the whole, a brilliant experience. But one has to learn when to switch off and just munch one’s way through those brussel sprouts, nose in a book and not a Kindle!

    1. One thing that’s crossed my mind, Anne, is that we need to evaluate changes as well as embracing them. Simply adopting whatever comes down the road because everyone is gushing over it, or the experts say we should, isn’t necessarily enough.

      I’ve had the Kindle long enough now to know that (1) I’m glad I bought it, (2) it’s offered up some unexpected benefits, and (3) it never will be my primary way of reading, and it certainly never would do for research. A nice true-crime novel at the beach house? The latest issue of a magazine for the sake of one article? Sure. But much of what I want isn’t even available on the Kindle, so there’s that.

      Maybe a better way of looking at it is that we need to be open to change. We need to understand what’s being offered, and then make the choice that suits us best. Of course, that could be said about nearly everything in life, from philosophies to parfaits!

  34. Preferences and prejudices, Gothic architecture vs. the printing press, e-readers vs. paper books, and Brussels sprouts vs. cucumbers and cabbages – wow!

    I’ve yet to purchase a kindle (although I do have two novellas out on Amazon’s kindle), but I do read a lot of stuff off my desktop computer screen. For me, there’s no replacing the thrill I get with a well-written book in my hands, turning the pages slowly, and generally savoring my interaction(s) with a ‘real’ book.

    And, yes, you’re right: “… all of us are prejudiced in one way or another, but in a wonderful bit of irony, none of us wishes to appear so. It’s simply who we are.” The problem is with with our rigid, and sometimes, irrational adherence to our prejudices even when we are faced with the realization that there’s simply no logical basis for holding on to them.

    Another enlightening, thought-provoking post. Well done!

    1. You may not yet have seen my comment at your blog, Andrew. I found “House of Tears” on Amazon, and just like that, it landed on my new Kindle. It really is fun to be able to download books so quickly, and now I can enjoy both your excerpts and the whole book.

      Still, I’m with you when it comes to “the reading experience.” If it only were a matter of transmitting words, of course the Kindle and the book are roughly equivalent. But the paper, the scent, the favorite reading chair, the page turning, making notations: all of that is part of the experience.

      And here’s something else. I don’t know if this is quite the way to put it, but it seems to me that the Kindle is a kind of equalizer. Every book looks the same. There’s no different in size, or thickness, or binding color, and so on. On the one hand, you could say that puts the onus on the writer, to overcome the blandness of the medium with really crackerjack writing. But there’s more to it than that. Maybe as I gain more experience, my thoughts on this will be clearer.

  35. I do not have an e-reader, but they seem pretty neat. There’s nothing like a book, but you can’t fight progress, and would you really want to? My eyes are so lousy that I listen to audio books. It is not the same as having the words go directly into your brain and heart, but I’m very happy to live in a time when I have the choice.

    I’m having Brussels sprouts tonight. I even enjoyed them even when I was a child. I’ll think of you.

    1. Yes, actually — sometimes I do want to fight progress. In fact, sometimes I refuse progress. One woman’s progress is another’s really abysmal idea, I’ve found, and I don’t have enough years left in my life to be doing this or that just because someone says it’s the next great thing.

      So — with that out of the way, I have to admit that I’m glad I bought the Kindle, although what I’ve found to be its virtues at this point aren’t even close to what I read in the marketing literature. Since I don’t read in bed, and don’t spend hours on airplanes, those obvious advantages don’t matter to me.

      And here’s something else: with my new eyes, it’s just fine, because I can fit enough text on a page to make it seem worthwhile. But, if I were dealing with my old eyes, I would have had to really enlarge the text, and could only get 40-50 words per “page.” Reading “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” would require thousands of “page flips”!

      Still, if I were in a position where sight was an issue again, I’d be glad to have it. Besides, getting the danged thing finally made me figure out how to set up my wifi, and use a touchscreen. Who knows what’s next?

      I know what’s not next. Brussels sprouts. You can have my portion. I give them gladly.

  36. You did it again. Much food for thought here. And it’s not just about sprouts. I hope I’m not commenting twice- I’ve now read this post two times but I don’t think I commented. My two cents opinion here is that pride, preference and prejudice is more or less intertwined.

    I don’t own a Kindle yet- but I think I might get one some day. I like the feel and the look of a book on the shelf. I like the covers and the print. I don’t own classics or worldly books but I have those that interest me.

    Sprouts, I can eat or not. If I only had one veggie to eat and it was down to the sprouts, well, I’d eat the little green knobby balls.

    I do my dang-dest (made up word) to be open and broad minded and I think I am a tolerable person. I learned as a young person that if I could learn to tolerate other people’s quirks, beliefs, and life styles then life would be so much easier and not filled with hate.

    1. I just hope I never get forced to a choice between Brussels sprouts and okra. That would be a hard one. Fried okra is pretty good, though. I wonder if anyone ever has tried deep-frying Brussels sprouts? (The answer is yes. I know this thanks to Google. I still think I’ll pass.)

      A friend and I were comparing notes on our Kindles yesterday. We’re of the same mind as you, Yvonne: the real books have qualities that just can’t be replaced by an e-reader. That doesn’t mean the Kindle doesn’t have some advantages, or that it can’t be a useful tool, but it never will replace a “real” book.

      On the other hand, I made the move from film cameras to digital easily, and never would go back to film. I remember the experience of being in a darkroom — the red light, the smells, the excitement of watching an image emerge — and I can understand why some photographers want to use those older methods. For me? It’s not important.

      I suppose in the end we each find what works best for us — and what works may change over time. It certainly is nice to have a choice. Now, if we could bring ourselves to stop criticizing others’ choices, we might be on our way to that easier life.

      1. You’re right on all accounts, except for okra which I love boiled to just barely done. I grow it in my garden and eat it throughout the summer. That and the scalloped squash, Armenian cucumbers, butter nut squash and, cherry tomatoes

  37. Anecdotally speaking, as I understand it, independent booksellers are doing surprisingly well in the face of Kindle aggression. I haven’t tried one yet, but I probably should since my book collection is starting to spill over into my car.

    1. I don’t think it’s the Kindle that will do in the independents as much as Amazon generally. On the other hand (and also anecdotally speaking) I’m hearing more and more people talk about their search for small, independent bookstores in which to browse. Granted, my sample is small and probably non-representative of the population as a whole, but still, it’s heartening to hear.

      A friend and I were discussing our experiences with the Kindle this past weekend, and her take was the same as mine: a useful tool, with particular uses, but not a first choice for truly enjoyable reading. Of course, she still subscribes to a print newspaper, too, so there’s that.

  38. Ha! You really made me laugh with this…the argument that a kindle would prop against a bowl of Cheerios was the one that stopped me in my tracks, too! Also, as I’ve grown older I’ve found that heavier books hurt my hands and wrists and the smaller print is hard to read, even with reading glasses…my prejudice has also been showing, and maybe it is time I give it a try as well. Just for the big heavy books I’ve stopped reading. And for that midnight bowl of cereal.

    1. There is one thing I’ve discovered, Melissa. The ability to enlarge print is good, but had I purchased an e-reader for that purpose before I had my cataract surgery and lens implants, it would have had its own frustrations.

      When I enlarge the print to the size I would have needed, the number of words per page is between 50-100, depending on which size I choose. It could take a long, long time to get through a book that way, but even more frustrating is what I can only calll “jerky” reading. I like being able to have a couple of pages open, without constantly having to stop and go to another page.

      That’s not so much an issue now, but it could have been. Of course, as I’ve said elsewhere, if there’s no option, of course it’s a wonderful device for poorly-sighted people. But it’s not a panacea.

      On the other hand, it does prop up beautifully.

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