Hey, remember when Reader’s Digest used to be good? Remember when there used to be fights about who got to read it first, till things got ugly and there were time slots allotted to each family member? Remember when the joke page used to actually make you laugh? Remember when there were bleeding heart stories about how a mother helped her five year old son fight cancer, or adventure stories about how someone fought off a grizzly bear? That slim, notebook sized volume had such a great exhaustive tank of good reading, that I remember certain stories even to this day. Ooh, remember the one where…ah never mind. I don’t recall exactly when it was that the magazine just straight up stopped being as entertaining as it used to be. I’ll wager it was around the time Brooke married her 700th Forrester husband on The bold and the beautiful.
But the magazine had some glory years, I’ll tell you that much. Reader’s Digest and the National Geographic were the only two magazines that my household didn’t give away to the raddi waala. You just didn’t do that kind of stuff. For years, a falling down bookcase in my grandmother’s house held editions from the early eighties. Tattered things that held great big-hearted true life stories. And we even had a separate shelf that held those special edition RD Volumes- you know the ones that were denser than the Bible. Yeah, we were purists all right.
Sundays were spent at my grandparent’s little cottage back then and there were three main events in the day. Lunch, which was always amazing. A 3 o’clock, kids movie on Star Movies. And then going to the bookshelf and choosing a dusty, hard cover volume of Readers Digest, special edition. The dust would stick to my fingers and mix with the sweat on my palm and form a kind of grimy paste, but I would read lovely illustrated stories like Good Morning Miss Dove, My son Goggle, Old Yeller and Mr Hobbs Holiday. There was no greater joy than a Sunday and reading.
I was reminded of this exhilarating joy when I read this argument recently. Its heavy stuff, but let me sum up the essence of what Piper is saying. A real book, a paper and jacket cover and ink book, actually stands for something larger that what it is. It’s how your body acts when it’s reading. How you lie down on your back, holding your book up on your stomach, or on your stomach with your ankles crossed in the air, or propped up on your elbow, or sitting up at a table or whatever. When you’re reading a book, your whole damn body is reading with you. Your fingers feel the paper, the paper yellows over time and the heavy weight of a book in your hands can never ever be replaced by some cold, chrome thing. In any case, I’m fighting a lost cause. Technology will be technology after all and it will go on ahead and change lifestyles and values. But it gets me upset, because when it comes to certain things, nothing beats old school. Reading and literature is one of those things. A grandiose Forrester wedding is another.