|Vivien Leigh, Robert Taylor|
I remember leafing through the Times in the store to make sure that every section was there. Well, maybe not every section--I probably wouldn't have noticed if the business or cars section was missing--but the big three: Arts & Leisure, Book Review, and the Magazine.
I remember learning how to handle the large pages, folding them just so. I remember the smell of the paper. I remember the feeling of the ink on my hands. I remember calling friends because, oh, Debbie Reynolds was going to be in Irene or Colleen Dewhurst was doing a show.
Similarly, I remember the excitement when the TV guide was delivered. If Waterloo Bridge or Kings Row was on at 2 a.m. a week from Wednesday, I'd have all that time to look forward to seeing it. My parents would get me up in the middle of the night--even on a school night--because who knew if we would ever get a chance to see it again?
I wouldn't go back. I love having the world at my fingertips. I love knowing that someone is going to be in a show practically before they do. The ink from the newspaper made me sneeze. I'm glad I don't kill so many trees. I love that I can watch Waterloo Bridge any time I want to.
But I miss anticipation.
Last year I went to Madagascar, and toward the end of the trip I ran out of books to read. I had brought six paperbacks, but I had read them all in various planes and airports and lodges and tents. Where we staying had one book in English: The DaVinci Code. I had read it, and once was more than enough. So, for about 30 hours, I didn't have a book to read. That's a long time for me. The only other time I can think of, I was in the hospital.
I knew that I would be able to get a book or two on the way home, when we had a layover at the Johannesburg airport, which has a lovely bookstore. I can't tell you how much I looked forward to that bookstore. When we finally got to the airport, I practically skipped there. It felt wonderful to leaf through various books with their worlds of possibility. (I wanted to stroke the covers, but I didn't want to get arrested in South Africa.) I bought Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern and The Empty Family by Colm Tóibín. I read the entire The Empty Family on the way home, and loved it.
When I told people this story, many said, "Why didn't you take a Kindle? Then this would never have happened." But that misses the point. Doing without for a whole 30 hours didn't kill me, and when I did get my hands on some books, it was a flat-out joy. Anticipation enhanced the experience.
I'm tempted to do a "things were better in my days" rap now, but that's not the point either. The access to art, information, books, words, the entire world, is wonderful. But I do believe that young people nowadays, in being given so much, have been denied the deep pleasure of anticipation.