March 24, 2009 § Leave a comment

Jeff Bezos at a tender age

Jeff Bezos at a tender age

The Times had a piece today about a medical student, Satre Stuelke, who’s been doing CT scans of ‘cultural icons’ like iphones and Barbie dolls so I clicked on the pix to see what my inner iphone looked like. I wasn’t impressed. The CT scan of my husband’s head done years ago was way more interesting, making me think that perhaps humans were not descended from apes but horses.*

They didn’t include a Kindle in the slide show but I know what I’d find if I looked inside, since it’s not thick enough for circuitry: relics from famous authors, a bone, a tuft of hair, sprinkled with fairy dust or holy water, depending on the writer, and lashed to service by the stern mumbo jumbo of somebody contemporary and prize-heavy like Ian McEwan.

The Kindle is re-igniting my buying lust. I’d gotten sick of accumulating things. Now I can surf at midnight and in an instant have one of thousands of books, at a steep discount. Last night I bought a fantasy novel for 00.00 cents. It’s a loss leader, the beginning of a series, similar to the $1.69 Face yogurt Trader Joe’s was selling until yesterday when they upped it to $4.99 and I swore never to shop there again.

Before that, I had a birthday gift certificate to use up. So I haven’t actually spent any of my own money. Of course, it’s only been a little over a week.

People like looking at my Kindle. It’s a strangely naked feeling, letting someone play with it and see the 3 or 4 books I’ve bought. I’m used to my formidable library presenting evidence of how much great literature and serious nonfiction I’ve read. While my Kindle has on it…well, never mind.

One answer for this is to jettison anything embarrassing after reading. And if you should want to re-read, being in the same low-brain-cell mood? Amazon has developed a system, intended to keep you from overloading your Kindle’s memory, that enables you to delete a book from the device while amazon keeps a record of your past purchase, and lets you download it again—only to the same Kindle, naturally—anytime you want, free. It’s your very own secret (from your friends) online library, pristine and climate controlled in Jeff Bezos’ paternal embrace.**

Some people will have privacy concerns about the non-friends with access, although purchase records are already being kept by amazon (and everyone else), so it’s a little late to worry.  But the things I read will not land me in jail or even banned from teaching in the Texas public school system. What I write is more likely to get me in trouble. I’ve been considering this—reading recent wordpresss posts about people losing jobs after twittering—and though the particular mistake highlighted (slamming a prospective employer online) is not one I’m likely to make, I can think of lots of blog scenarios causing more than personal-life ill effects.

But of course I can. I wouldn’t be a fiction writer dabbling in fantasy if I couldn’t conjure doom at will and festoon it with comic grotesquerie.

The more important lesson for me is the one I learned in group therapy: while you struggle to confess your agonizing, shameful secret, the one that will make people mock you and shun you forever, your listener is tapping her feet and mentally sticking her fingers in her ears so she won’t forget the radioactive, brontosaurus-sized secret she needs you to shut the fuck up and pay reverent attention to.

*He had blinding headaches, which they decided were migraine since they couldn’t find anything wrong. I’m still suspicious since it was right after that that he started making lots more money.

** Part of what attracted me to amazon in the late ‘90’s was the name. Then I take a look at Jeff Bezos (most recently on Jon Stewart). Smart guy, sure. Making a bundle on the Kindle. But an amazon he’s not. This is a question probably answered somewhere long ago—but was he the rare lad who ignored Batman and The Incredible Hulk, reading Wonder Woman comics at night under the covers?



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