Saturday, April 13, 2013

Do you really love those old books you have kept?

Shelves of dusty yellow books of some significance.

Lurking in the hallway are a bunch of old books that have been important to me for one reason or another. And this morning Kim Hill interviewed poet Mary Fuefle, poet, who lavishes white-out on old books to reveal a morsel of poetry on each page. The concept of erasure art appealed to me. I immediately invested in a bottle of liquid paper: not something one would normally use in this digital age.
Papermate liquid paper

Surely among those Harlequin romances, Proust, Japanese novels, books on sumo and and other miscellany were plenty of candidates for erasure art?

I picked up one at random—Time on our Side: Growing in wisdom, not growing old by the distinguished psychologist Dorothy Rowe. And inevitably began reading it.

I remember loving this book in 1994 and nodding over insights that lived up to the title. Yet today I could barely be bothered skimming a few chapters.

One interesting chapter is "Fearing to grow old", describing how our concepts of young, middle-aged and old vary wildly according to our own age. Even this chapter I could barely read, because the benchmark has shifted so radically since the date of publication. Reading about people in their 60s being treated as geriatrics (and regarding themselves that way) was more than I could stomach.

Life expectancy rose dramatically last century. That is truly wondrous, a miracle. But it makes this book, doubtless profound in its time, irrelevant to my impatient mind today.

The irony doesn't escape me: I am applying ageist prejudices to a book published 20 years ago.

Will I use this book for erasure art? Couldn't bear to. 

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