For your Labor Day weekend reading pleasure, from August 29-31, Americashire: A Field Guide to a Marriage, is available as a FREE Kindle download. To download it from the US Amazon store click here. To download it from the UK Amazon store click here. Happy reading!
My Kindle conversion is incomplete. I’m still trudging through The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (my choice of verb reflects the writing more than the digital experience), but I only made it through two Saturdays of downloading the Weekend FT before returning to the pink printed page. Dividing up the sections with husband for consumption over lunch at the farm shop only works in analog form. And I proved to myself today that the allure of paper still extends to books when I wondered into a second hand book shop in Cheltenham to kill time while husband shopped for Blu-Rays.
I was drawn in by the well curated shelf facing the sidewalk, tempting me with Ian McEwan and Jonathan Safran Foer and Patrick Gale. In the end I sprang for the 1949 Gloucestershire edition of The Little Guides. How could I not? I was taken in by the back cover which informed me that The Little Guides were banned from publication in 1940 for reasons of national security. And that was before I noticed that the tattered cover features a print of our Cotswold town, captured from the vantage point of the hill behind our house looking down over our curved lane and the clock tower side of the church. I know the vista well—there’s a bench at the top of the hill today that makes it a good spot to sit and gaze. Apart from the missing primary school, little has changed in the last sixty years. Even the text still applies. The description of our town starts with, “…a good place with good stone buildings dating from medieval times to early 19th cent. The later buildings are not so happy,” as if prescient of the 1980s developments that would eventually bookend the town.
Attached to the back cover is a fold out map in perfect condition save for one tear at the seam. Here one major change to the Cotswolds is marked out by black squares, indicating railway stations in nearby Cirencester and Chedworth and Withington that are long gone. One day books may go the way of the railroads courtesy of Amazon and Google and Apple, but for now I’m still capable of being smitten with the printed page.
This Christmas like—I’d be willing to wager—thousands of other thirty- and forty-something women I received my first bonafide toy in years: a Kindle. But before I’d even charged the battery on it I was up to Benita’s Frites in another gift, a paperback edition of Jonathan Gold’s alphabetical guide to Los Angeles restaurants, Counter Intelligence. I first read about Jonathan Gold earlier this year in a profile of him in The New Yorker. He wrote restaurant reviews in the LA Weekly for many years, but somehow in my intermittent reading of that periodical during my decade in Los Angeles—largely while waiting at the car wash on Pico and 26th and the front counter of Peet’s on Main Street—I never came across him. Given that I’ve lived in England for going on five years now, one might think my sister’s timing of this gift a bit off. To the contrary, I find it perhaps even more compelling now than I would have if I still lived in L.A. I’m not sure what’s at work here, but it must be the same logic that explains why I flip straight to Table for Two, the mini restaurant review in the opening pages of The New Yorker, despite the fact that I, like much of the New Yorker subscribing population, have visited New York City a grand total of two times in the last decade.
Back to the Kindle. I finally got around to charging the thing up and, at the risk of sounding like a consumer electronics blog, my first impressions are all good. For starters, they’ve emulated Apple and kept the printed instructions to a minimum. This caused me brief concern as I couldn’t find any reference to why the thing came with an American plug (I used the USB instead of hunting around for my adapter) or if I had to do to something special to register it for use outside the U.S. Eventually I threw caution to the wind and just followed the prompts to buy a book. Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, my current book club read, downloaded in mere minutes from the front bedroom of the cottage which means Amazon has performed a minor miracle with their Whispernet service in the UK. (Mobile phone reception in our cottage is limited to practically leaning out the back window of our kitchen and, in our town, precise longitudinal coordinates in the market square. Start venturing down West End to the Wheatsheaf and you’re quickly in no bar territory, no pun intended.)
I started reading on it yesterday while enduring the lengthy process of getting highlights. I highly recommend this over mind numbing banter with your hair colorist unless of course your hair colorist is my talented friend Debi at the Jim Wayne salon in Beverly Hills who can entertain you with stories about her porn star clients. But my hair colorist was the twenty-something Mia of a Covent Garden salon, and once I had told her I was going out for dinner on New Year’s Eve and she told me she was going to Brighton with my hair stylist, Summer, and another girl from the salon, we had largely exhausted our conversational repertoire. She left me to my Kindle and I tipped her handsomely for it. In general it was a pleasant reading experience, although the page transitions are ever so slightly clunky and I already long for a color version. But now I am sounding like some kind of geek. I might as well seal my reputation and admit I am truly pathetically looking forward to showing it off at my first book club meeting of 2010.