581 Readings | 2 Ratings


I imagined you would be a vessel for me to read,
a paint-by-numbers Idiot’s Guide to Becoming Erudite.

Through E Ink I wouldn’t rest as I zipped through
unabridged versions of Les Misérables
War and Peace, and even Infinite Jest.

The first week I ordered the usuals
from the NYT Bestsellers so when friends asked
if I read this or that I could respond tit for tat.

But believing how-to’s and chicklit would be my
foray to classical works has as much literary credit
as Cliff Notes and cheat sheets of those sorts.

I’ve downloaded Dickens, Hawthorne, Kafka,
Faulkner, Kipling, Hemingway and Defoe;
though with a 3,500 book storage and wifi downloads,
I’ve still got 97 percent of reading to go.

I can only imagine the pleasure and displeasure
from reading any of these works but now spend more time
pondering why pushing a button is harder than breaking open a book. 

Perhaps it’s because the entire digital reading history
before the invention of copyright is available to me.

And therefore, I am wracked with the same type
of fear that a man may have when presented
with a library of dears.  Will he pick the right one?
In the right order? Will he maximize pleasure from it?
Will he choose classical over fun?

For now, I’m reading books I’ve already read: on the subway,
in the waiting room, or in the evenings before bed.

I confess I already own both hardcovers and paperbacks
and have even re-read them through intra-library loans,
but this time  I’m certain it will be different because I will read
them by tablet, PC, and iPhone, and each one of those readings
will be different as I notice new things I hadn’t noticed
the prior times as the words appear to me on the screen.
Posted 02/28/12
This poem was originally published in the the The South Carolina Review, Volume 44, Number 2, Spring 2012.
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