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by Wolf Pascoe on August 13, 2012

It takes more than genius to keep me reading a book. — E.B. White on Ulysses

I don’t read. (Who has time?) What I do, I listen. Specifically, I listen to audiobooks. I listen in the car. I listen in bed late at night.

I taught Nick to listen. He listens to Nora and me when we read to him at bedtime. He listens to recorded books on his own during the day.

Is there any pleasure greater than being read to? No. Well, maybe a very few things—a juicy, ripe peach for example, the scent of an Abraham Darby rose. One or two other things I can’t think of now, probably.

But in my heaven, every day is Sunday and I’m living in a house in the country, sitting on a porch overlooking a lake, listening to a good book. I listen all afternoon, every afternoon, as I watch the clouds shape themselves into dragons.

The books come to me–through the air–whenever I want them. A few clicks and they arrive on my iPod. O brave new world!

You can’t tell me the Internet is all bad.




So it happened that I decided to listen to George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. I’m not a sword and sorcery guy, but I wanted to see what the fuss was about.

I got the first book.

I liked it. I more than liked it. I won’t tell you it’s great literature—I won’t tell you it’s Melville or even Jonathan Franzen—but I’ll lay you odds that people will more likely be listening to R. R. Martin than Franzen a hundred years from now.

I’m about two thousand pages in at this point and the guy can tell a story. He turns conventions upside down, he throws me curves I don’t see coming, his characters live and breathe.

Tyrion Lannister, a dwarf, rivals Falstaff as a creation. He’s not a magical, fairy-tale dwarf with a pot of gold. He’s an actual human dwarf, deformed, unfinished, with a big fat wallet: “I’m a monster, as well as a dwarf. You should charge me double.”




So I’m listening in my car and I get to the middle of the third book and there’s a glitch: a couple of chapters are missing. This doesn’t usually happen with audiobooks, but it happened with this one to me.

Hosed by technology. What do do?

Print books! I think. I’ll get a hold of a printed copy.

I pull over and whip out my iPhone.

I log into the library website. They’ve got copies, but a waiting list as long as my arm. It’ll be weeks.

I’m near my friend Eduardo’s house. Eduardo, the father of Nick’s friend Jay, is a real sword and sorcery guy, unlike me. He’s got all the books.

I pull in to Eduardo’s driveway. Unfortunately he’s moving (Portland!) and everything he owns is in boxes. He has no idea where the volume is.

“You could buy it on Amazon,” says Eduardo.

“And wait?” I say. “I’ve got to find out what happens to Tyrion.”

“I could tell you.”

“Don’t you dare.”

“You could go to a bookstore.”

Borders! Yes! But Borders, the Borders that used to be around the corner, is gone.

“Barnes and Noble,” Eduardo says. “There’s one across town.”

There used to be a Barnes and Noble a few blocks from us, but it too closed.

“I don’t have time to drive across town,” I say. “I’ve got to meet Nora.”




On my way home I reflect on the dozen bookstores that used to reside within a few blocks of our house. Now I can’t think of any.

This is your fault, I say to myself. You have killed print. You have killed bookstores. You and your need to be read to. You and your iPod, your Amazon, your digital obsession.

As I pull into our house, I can feel I’m starting to panic. I need Nora to talk me down.

“What about the college store?” says Nora.

We live near a college. A college will still have a bookstore, won’t it?

“Do we have the number?” I say.

“Look on the Internet,” Nora says.




“I’m looking for a book called Storm of Swords. It’s part of the Game of Thrones series.”

“Yes, I’m familiar with it,” says a young female voice. “We have lots of copies.”

Parking will be impossible at the college. This is a job for my bike.

Half an hour later the young lady I spoke to on the phone escorts me to the Fantasy/SciFi section. A whole shelf for Game of Thrones.

I take down a copy of Storm of Swords and notice the price is $17. $17 for the 20 pages I need. I figure I’ve already supported the author. This is extortion.

I sit down on the floor and open the book. The abstract patterns in front of me don’t make sense. Then I can make out letters, words. The words are arranged in sentences.

I begin to read, slowly at first, then gathering momentum. It feels strange, but it comes back to me. I’m reading a novel! My fingers are getting smudged!

I finish in twenty minutes, replace the book on the shelf, and head out.

“Not your cup of tea?” says the young lady.

Do I confess?

I feel the Muse stirring. I have these calling cards for Just Add Father, the sum of my marketing effort. I give her one.

“Check this out next month,” I say.

“You review books?” she says.

“It’s complex.”



So many words, so little time



Art Passions — The Reluctant Dragon (above) by Maxfield Parrish comes from this lovely website, which warehouses and merchandises public domain art from some of my favorite artists. Among them are Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, and the Preraphaelites.

On audiobooks: You can search hassle free for audiobooks in the public domain on Audiobooks For Free. Your public library will have them as well, plus audiobooks not in the public domain. The widest selection is on Audible, a commercial site owned by Amazon, where it’s cheaper if you buy in bulk.


Reading troubles? Tell. Tell.  Just Add Father is listening. (Add your thoughts by clicking a few lines below below, where it says comments or add one. I always respond here.)


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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Susanbeth August 13, 2012 at 11:45 am

This post brings up such an interesting topic. What do we, as sincere book lovers, do about the printed word! I swore (not om my children, grandchildren, husband or anyone I hold dear….thank goodness) that I WOULD NEVER read from an iPad, Kindle, Nook etc. I LOVE the smell of the printed word and the feel of a book in my hands. I love the spine of the book and the act of turning the pages. I LOVE books. I’ve never listened to an audiobook because when I’m in the car I prefer public radio or a cd of my choice. I swore that I would singlehandedly keep the printed word alive!

Then I bought Stephen King’s “11/22/63” because a friend whom I really trust about all things political and literary and is NOT a Stepen King fan, told me I’d love it. (I did, by the way)
I lied down in bed and began to read. The weight of the book pushed into my chest and I thought I was having heart distress until I realized that this book could not be read lying down, and lying down is the only time I have to read!!

Around this time my son and daughter-in-law sent me an iPad 2 for my birthday. I could never understand the allure of this foreign object (I’m over 65.) I downloaded Kindle, ordered “11/22/63” and my conversion process began.

I feel guilty and ashamed, but I must confess that I now own both the iPad2, with Kindle on it, and the Nook Glo-light, for it’s ability to be read outdoors in the sunlight, and without a lamp light in bed.

So now I am a total convert and enjoy reading all of the time wherever I am.
I still love a “real” book, and there is one thing you can do with a real book that you cannot do with all of the aforementioned devices! You can take it out on a kayak, or canoe, or the beach and if water splashes onto it, it still “works!” I’ll never give up my love of the hand held book, but I have gone over to “the other side” and I’m not proud!!


Wolf Pascoe August 13, 2012 at 12:15 pm

When they switched from stone tablets to paper, people had the same guilt! “I miss the weight of a good, stone book,” Gilgamesh said.


Steve Totland August 13, 2012 at 1:02 pm

We have no bookstores near us at all. I miss being near a University bookstore. More specifically, I miss Seminary Co-op at University of Chicago. They had everything. What I miss most is browsing. Finding something I didn’t know I would want to read. Learning something I didn’t think I needed to know. Or, even knew existed. Amazon feeds me what I already want, but doesn’t provoke, or surprise. If they “recommend” it’s always more of the same.


Wolf Pascoe August 13, 2012 at 2:49 pm

“Amazon feeds me what I already want, but doesn’t provoke, or surprise. If they “recommend” it’s always more of the same.”

Another nail in the coffin. Arrgh.


Kyle Bradford August 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm

” The abstract patterns in front of me don’t make sense.” — That was funny.

I still read and actually haven’t gotten into be read to. For some reason I see it as cheating. I do however read almost exclusively digital now. Yes I’m saving countless trees and putting publishers out of business, both of which I am ecstatic about.

However I miss the aroma of a book, the pages mixed with ink and time. The way a library, every library, smells.


Wolf Pascoe August 14, 2012 at 1:34 am

The Queen and you might try reading poetry to one another. It might be cheating but it’s good cheating.


The Exception August 13, 2012 at 5:47 pm

oh I have been here – I was reading/listening to one of the huge hits of the 90’s and the chapters were missing/broken/etc… I have yet to read the rest of the book… and strangely have no desire to do so – meaning I guess it wasn’t that great after all! I loved to read with my eyes – then I fell in love with reading with my ears and have passed both these on to my daughter who refuses to get an e-reader for the love of pages, words, dogearing, and donating to libraries, shelters, friends, her grandmother, libraries, shelters, friends, her grandmother… the wonders of a book are far more than can be expressed digitally.


Wolf Pascoe August 14, 2012 at 1:40 am

I think I like this daughter of yours.


Jim Parkevich August 13, 2012 at 7:45 pm

Hi Wolf,
Yeah…me too.! I finally crossed to the dark side this year. Like Annekin Skywalker, I swore allegiance to the printed book that has sustained my life for fifty years and shown the power of laughter, tears, creative thought and delight in times with my grand daughter..Commitments, family matters caused me raise my light sabre and fight the time constraints..Then the jump to “hyper space” and the freedom to download at a whim..written words from the “cloud” of hyper space.
No more trips to the library or bookstore…sorry..Anyway, I hope that before I depart this earth, I can read enough books to be as ” Master Yoda”.
P.S. about dwarfs…rent the movie : ” The Station Agent” Nora and Nick will love this flick..as I am sure you will also.


Wolf Pascoe August 14, 2012 at 1:37 am

Done. Added it to our Netflix list. I do NOT miss Blockbuster.


Barbara August 21, 2012 at 9:23 pm

This made me laugh (“The abstract patterns in front of me don’t make sense.”) but it’s still a serious matter. I’m a book lover – I haven’t crossed to the dark side of audio or digital books (yet) but I also don’t pay full price for books. I like to find the ones who are orphaned in second hand stores and give them a home where they are loved, which sounds noble, but it has the same effect on the printed word, I’m sure!


Wolf Pascoe August 22, 2012 at 7:59 am

Texas is pretty big, so you probably have lots of space to put the books. It’s when you run out of shelf space that iBooks start singing to you.


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