Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Technological Gains vs. Tactile Loss

Weeks ago, I dug out my mother’s old copy of Théâtre de Beaumarchais in order to finally read Le Barbier de Séville and Le Mariage de Figaro in preparation for seeing Le Nozze di Figaro at the San Francisco Opera. It’s one of the few books of hers that I have, and the only work of fiction. I finally opened it this past weekend. This is what I found:

Once I got over the shock that my mother wrote in books (!), I was thrilled to turn the pages and discover what she had written almost 60 years ago: thoughts and connections from years before I was born. Reading them now, more than 20 years after she died, was both fascinating and comforting. Just seeing her handwriting (so very French, so very her), brought back a flood of memories—like I could feel her fingerprints.

I’m lucky to have plenty of fond memories of both my parents, but it made me realize how lucky I am to have these tangible memories as well: letters, photos, postcards. With digital cameras, emails, and texts, are kids today even familiar with their parents’ handwriting? Are these technological gains worth the tactile loss? Are they gathering different physical memories?

As much as I personally loathe the Kindle, I never thought that one of my arguments against it would be that you couldn’t write in it. But I guess I’m particularly glad that it didn’t exist in the 50s, or I might never have known that, apparently, Mom wasn’t a fan of trilogies either—there’s not one mark in La Mère coupable.

1 comment:

Sarah said...

What a wonderful thing to have in your possession. I have recipes that my grandmother wrote in her very distictive style in my possession. I wonder, like you, if kids today are gathering memories the same way. I have the Nook but if it's one of those great writers or novels I will still buy the hard copy. It's the convenience that I like but I am still a lover of feeling the pages as I read them.