Sunday, January 06, 2013

Ode to Anticipation

Vivien Leigh, Robert Taylor
Waterloo Bridge

When I was a kid, Sunday was one of the highlights of my week because it included the Sunday NY Times Arts and Leisure section, with its robust and exciting theatre section. On particularly good weeks, my parents would be in the mood to drive the two miles to the store that had the Sunday Times on Saturday night. That was a real treat.

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.


sheri said...

I sure do remember the anticipation of waiting for the Sunday Times Arts & Leisure section and TV Guide (I was looking for anything about the Beatles and old movies with Cary Grant or Katharine Hepburn or reruns of "The World of Henry Orient"). I'm glad to see I'm not the only one that feels the loss of the printed NYT, while appreciating the benefits of accessing it online. And while I've learned to use the Kindle and the Nook when that is the best route to a book (I recently downloaded a book to my Nook that isn't even available in print any more), nothing will ever replace the joy of opening a newly purchased book or even a used copy with an interesting inscription to a previous owner. And, certainly, some books simply must be placed in full view on a shelf among other favorite books that I will never part with. Seeing one's favorite books, from childhood on, sitting comfortably and reliably on one's own shelf can create the kind of exciting anticipation of the next reading that the blank, empty cover of an e-book never will.

Wendy Caster said...

Sheri--Thanks for your comment. I also love The World of Henry Orient. It was one of my favorite films as a kid and continues to have a special place in my heart. And, as for Grant and Hepburn, all I've got to say is, "And if he wants to sell peanuts, oh, how I will believe in those peanuts."

sheri said...

Wendy - I'm "Like" buttoning your quote from "Holiday"!

Wendy Caster said...