A Word In Edgewise: Faster, Furiouser-–Whither?
It was a different world, then. Of course, it always is. If I tell you mine was slower, calmer, a grand or great-grand will insist it was more so in their day, and so on back to when the ancients sat outside thatched cottages beside languid streams, listening to the seasons change.
But today, we’re sticking to me. That particular different world. For my first birthday, we took a DC3 prop plane to visit Mississippi relatives
I boarded my first jet in 1961, alarmed at the flex of those long wings. I thought of the Donners and their lengthy trek. How can I claim slower times after stepping on board in Boston, fed and watered over the Rockies, and within hours set down dry-footed in San Francisco?
I grew up deprived of electronic devices and instant access to books. Then, you went to a library or bookstore and hoped it was there. If it was, you paid $2-3.50 for a hardback, or .25 cents for a paperback, and triumphantly bore it home. A store might special-order, or you could telephone or write a query to a used book-dealer. A written letter with a stamp. Then wait. I searched for years looking to replace my (stolen) copy of Les Enfants du Paradis. You held onto the books you did find.
I searched for books mentioned within books. I devoured science fiction, but Theodore Sturgeon’s A World Well Lost was the first time I encountered, in popular science fiction, the topic that dared not speak its name. The word “homosexual” (not “gay”) was never uttered aloud. I won’t detail the plot here–you can read it for free with clicks.
A long-time team of space jockeys, Captain Rootes, a “colorful little rooster of a man,” and silent Grunty, “a dun bull of a man” whose mind is filled with rivers of words and his cache of books. They are bringing a pair of captive, criminal “loverbirds” back to their home planet, Dirbanu..
As the ship flight-shifts, all on board black out; Rootes for several hours, huge Grunty for far less. This is his time to read, and to contemplate his sleeping Captain… One day, Rootes tosses Grunty’s books, looking in vain for something racy; “Buncha crap! Garden of the Plynck, Wind in the Willows … Kid stuff!”
[Grunty realizes the “loverbirds” are telepathic receivers. They know his secret. They must die. Not part of this Edge.]
I wanted to visit The Garden of the Plynck; the only copy I could find was buried in the depths of Widener Library’s stacks. I checked it out and photostatted a black-and-white copy of Karle Wilson Baker’s gem. I heard later it was the only children’s book printed by the Yale University Press (1920), that most copies had been destroyed.
Today I Googled and discovered several versions available–shipped free from UK, buy online here, have it plopped onto my Kindle.
Fast or slow, what’s better? A godsend for booklovers, but are we now travelling above our human load-bearing capacity? Will we ever answer Grunty’s “Why must we love where the lightning strikes and not where we choose?”