My father experienced the world through language. It was an intellectual relationship to the physical universe. He tried to create language to express and enclose anxieties—to connect the stress of human interaction and survival to nature through art. It was the only method that he believed in. He could write with authenticity about experiences he hadn’t had, could breathe the life into people he hadn’t been. He found a way to live outside of books—but not without some degree of astonishment that the things described in them often actually existed. I was different. I gained comprehension of my environment by throwing myself against it. Digging, cutting, climbing, stacking. What my father built with words, I built with pieces of the earth, stones and wood. He wrote most of loss and failure because he feared mistakes and departures so much. Tragedy was inevitable to him, whereas I believed that the inevitable could be fought. I thought that with enough defiance, mortality could be made at least improbable.
You can read a book now without turning pages, without saving a place on a shelf for it afterwards. Electronic books are available, and bookstores are closing. What is lost is the book as an object. A book is an artifact of both writing and of reading. It is a physical representative of time like the trees it is made from. The writer will die, the reader will die, and the mice will come for the papers they left in boxes. We will all be covered with a blank white sheet. But there will be a shelf somewhere where the book will survive. Someone will walk into the empty room, blow the gathered dust from it, sit, and begin reading in the light of a window. The book will change what they see outside. Then the reader will consider the placement of the book [on the shelf] and the book will remain, again, where it is placed.