Follow by email

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

DIGITAL URCHINS

I’ve had my new E-Reader (Elonix) for a few weeks now and have had time to get to grips with the new technology. The thing came loaded with a 100 free books, all of them public domain classics that are available from Gutenberg. I’m not sure how useful having the complete works of Shakespeare preloaded into memory is – it’s hardly light reading to pass away a few hours. But the inclusion of books that I know from reputation but have never actually read is welcome – Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, the complete Sherlock Holmes. Okay I’ve read quite a bit of the later but not the entire canon. I probably will now.

Now fiddling about with the machine, trying to read something on it, initiallu felt kind of artificial, akin to playing a video game rather than reading a book but gradually I started to get used to it and flicking through the library I stopped on Tom Sawyer and started to read. Within a page I was hooked and the fact that I was reading this ancient text on the latest technology didn’t matter anymore. I was dragged into the story in the same way I’m used to with proper books – books printed on paper that is. Mark Twain was reaching out through the years and via technology that would have been alien to him, completely immersing my imagination in his story. A good story is a good story no matter when it’s read. Or indeed how it’s read.

Course I knew the Tom Sawyer story – I’d seen TV adaptations over the years, caught the odd movie and probably read a chapter or two of the original book at school. But until now I’d never read the original book – a timeless classic, a book that is as much at home in the digital 21st century as it was in the inky black nineteenth. What really delighted me about the book was the sheer amount of small detail – it really gave the feeling of what it must have been like to be a young boy during the period. Tom gets up to it all, searching for treasure, conning his friends into whitewashing his fence and even charging them for the privilege while he sits idle, swapping marbles, brass knobs and dead cats. And at one point he even attends his own funeral. It’s a book about childhood and what it’s like to be a child and as Twain says in the introduction he hopes adults will read it in order to once again relive the sensation of youth. He certainly got his wish there.

I doubt if I would ever have read this charming book were it not bundled with the E-reader – there’s so many other things to read that I’m hardly going to look at the classics which I knew, or rather thought I knew, inside out. Still I’m going to tackle Huckleberry Finn next which, I’m assured, is an even better book.

3 comments:

Chris said...

Huck Finn is simultaneously very deep and very entertaining. I'm thinking about re-reading it myself now!

Mister Roy said...

Not read 'em since school, but I guess they're classics for a reason.
Reminds me of my favourite pun in a George G. Gilman Edge book, actually quite an erudite one in Blood on Silver. Edge is talking to a guy who is raving about a journalist called Sam Clemens, and asks Edge if he's come across him. Edge says something like (from memory) 'No, I believe actions are more important than words. Never the twain shall meet.'

Richard Prosch said...

Recently visited Hannibal and was entertained with the real life side of some of the Tom Sawyer anecdotes. For example, sometime after TS was published, the role model for Injun Joe had a real bone to pick with Clemins.