Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Long Live The Book! by Sandra Parshall

Sandra Parshall's Broken Places, published this month, is her third mystery featuring veterinarian Rachel Goddard. It has received starred reviews from Library Journal, which praised its “sharp prose”, and Publishers Weekly, which said the story “grips readers from the opening page with a suspenseful plot that will leave them breathless.”

Sandra’s debut novel, The Heat of the Moon, won the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. Her second book, Disturbing the Dead, was one of three mystery/suspense finalists for the Benjamin Franklin Award, given by the Independent Book Publishers Association.

She lives in the Washington, DC, suburbs with her husband Jerry, a longtime Washington journalist. When she isn’t writing, she’s either taking pictures or taking orders from her two demanding cats, Gabriel and Emma.

Long Live The Book!
by Sandra Parshall

A book is a wondrous thing, a compact vessel crammed with life and death, love and hate, joy and despair, giving us portraits of the real world or worlds that exist only in our imaginations.

All of this magic created with little marks on paper. Words.

Those little marks, with their angles and curves, can make us cry and laugh and explode with anger. They can instruct us, soothe us, and break our hearts.

The concept of The Book is arguably mankind’s greatest achievement. Humans, alone among animals, are blessed not with one written language but with many. We have used our languages for less than noble purposes – to attack each other, to sell deodorant, to explain how to use a microwave. But we have also recorded the history of our species, explored our diverse cultures, illuminated the world we live in.  And with language and books we have given expression to the uniquely human talent for storytelling.

When I was growing up in a household with few books, I dreamed of having shelves filled with them. I loved the look and feel of books. I thought I knew exactly what a book was: a bound, printed volume I could hold in my hands.

All these years later, I still love books, but I’ve let go of that limited definition. I now own more printed books than I know what to do with. I can’t store them all, much less find time to read every one. I’ve learned to appreciate paperless books. I’ve been checking out unabridged audiobooks from the library for years, and I’m willing to buy new books as audio downloads. I don’t own a Kindle or Sony Reader, but sometimes I wish I did, when I consider how much storage space they liberate.

I still love the words, but I no longer demand that they be printed and bound.  The words themselves, in whatever form, are The Book.

I know a lot of people who cling to the belief that the physical form of a book is as important as the words it contains. Some of my friends declare they will never touch an e-book reader because each purchase of a Kindle or Sony Reader pushes “real books” closer to extinction. They see themselves as sentries, standing guard over their beloved books, protecting them from a quick and terrible death. Someone in an online group I belong to recently predicted that printed books will last only as long as those of us who grew up without electronic devices are still around. When our kind dies out, she believes, the electronics-dependent younger generations will discard printed books as too expensive, too bulky, too inconvenient. The revolution will be complete.

I’ll admit the thought makes me sad (and so does the notion that I’m among the last of the dinosaurs, in a sense). I love the look of a wall lined with full bookshelves. I still love striking covers and beautiful type. Those little marks permanently printed on paper still stir my excitement and anticipation. But I have seen the future, and it is digital. Much of our daily reading has already moved out of printed form. Many people now get most of the news through their computers, and every writer I know, down to the most stubborn Luddite, does research online. I even know people who read novels on their multi-function cell phones.

I hope an appreciative audience will always exist for fiction. I don’t care what form people read it in, and I don’t care if they sometimes listen instead of read. Fostering the love of fiction – that’s what we should focus on, not a doomed effort to stop the move to electronic content.

Long live The Book!

And some pictures of my workspace - - -

 My view - -

My muse - -
DISTURBING THE DEAD--Benjamin Franklin Award Finalist
Agatha Award winner


Janet said...

I love books (especially mysteries) in all forms. We are constantly having to rearrange the traditional books to make more fit. I walk everyday listening to a book on my iPod. I use my Kindle for carrying books around when I'm away from home.

I have all of Sandra's books in traditional format, and I'm rereading the 1st 2 books to savor the anticipation of the new one just a bit longer.

Sandra Parshall said...

Now *that* is an incredible compliment -- rereading my first two books. Thank you!

Hank Phillippi Ryan said...

Sandy--that persmimmon color is gorgeous!! Love your office..

Sandra Parshall said...

I'll admit I tidied it before I took the photos. Now it's a mess again.

Morgan Mandel said...

Oh, no, you have snow too!
I love your muse. Mine is Rascal, my dog, who pokes me whenever I sit at the computer so I can pay attention to her instead.

Morgan Mandel

Marilynne said...

I'm with you on owning books. When I really enjoy a book I can't bear to part with it. My house is overrun with books. Once my 1st grader asked if the bookshelf was a library. Since the one bookshelf (of several) she was asking about held a lot of references that I hoped would intrigue my children. I answered that it was - a family library, not a city library that held even more books.

I am thinking of buying an eReader. My biggest question is whether it could possibly have the same cozy feeling as having my books stacked in my living spaces.

Vicki Lane said...

I agree -- a book is a book whether on CD or Kindle or paper or vellum or parchment. The story's the thing . . .

Patricia Winton said...

How interesting to hear how your love affair with books has progressed. It mirrors my own, somewhat. Love the rubber ducky. My sister and I send rubber ducky themed gifts to each other at Christmas. But I don't have the original!!

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Hi Kaye, how are you doing during this long, cold winter? I've been just as busy as ever, after handing over the Laureate job. Do you know a nice warm quiet cave to which I can flee? One with neatly kept office space like the ones featured in your guest posts? I wouldn't want anyone to see my so-called office!

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Sandy - I LOVE this! You've managed to say what many of us feel. I agree with what Vicki says, "the story's the thing."

Thank you for being here - as always, you're a joy!

and thanks to the rest of you for stopping by!

sorry I've been so late about getting here - not had my best week, but things are fine fine fine now.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Kay - Hey! I just recently shared your River Shawl with a friend of mine. KNEW she'd love it. She's like you - always with a wonderful shawl thrown around her shoulders looking wonderfully elegant with it all. She did love it and she cried when she read it.