A sign of the times:
Earlier this month, two things happened the same day.
First, a friend sold all twelve volumes of my set of The Interpreter’s Bible. This was an old favorite, a set I bought in 1980 for about $350. Sent off for it, waited a few weeks, and it came in a big mail sack all its own.
I actually studied some of it too (would you believe Revelation, the whole thing?), while hauling the dozen hefty volumes (forty-some pounds worth) among six different residences across three states. After lingering on Amazon for several weeks, the set brought a bit over $100, not bad.
One of the twelve big volumes of TIB
The Interpreter’s Bible was a monument to devoted scholarship: Open it up and each two-page spread offered two parallel translations of a given text, King James and the Revised Standard; under that was a running exegetical analysis of the text, as teased from the Greek, Hebrew, or Aramaic by the best western scholars of the mid-century. Under that, same pages, was a running commentary called Exposition, which I figure several generations of mainline preachers mined for Sunday sermons. User-friendly before user-friendly was cool. Each biblical book had a detailed introductory essay , putting it in historical and theological context. It was great.
But after thirty years, I’m facing the need to downsize drastically from my eight-plus bookcases full of books to the next round, when I figure I’ll need to have no more than one. Bookshelf, that is.
So these big guys had to go. I hope their new owner finds them as useful and reassuring as I did.
Now, of course, there’s a new edition, the NEW Interpreter’s Bible, which sells for about $500. I’d love to have one, though I figure I’ll have to wait for the thumb-drive version.
But anyway, about ten o-clock that same night I read a short review in the New Yorker of a novel by the Irish writer, Roddy Doyle, called The Dead Century. It’s about an old IRA warrior, looking back over his life and the history of his tormented country.
I’m interested in Doyle, not only because I’m interested in Ireland, but also because one of his earlier books was The Commitments, about a young Dublin lad who starts an unlikely but tuneful soul cover band there, which (the book and band) turned into a terrific movie of the same name.
So I see this review and decide I’d like to give Doyle’s new one a whirl.
It’s late; and our local Barnes & Noble, if it’s still open, might not have it in stock.
But not to worry. I sit down at the computer, punch up Amazon, and within five minutes, for about ten bucks, the book appears on my Kindle.
Track this: It’s less than half an hour from knowing nothing of the book, to taking a fancy, to buying it, and starting to read it, without ever leaving the house. Oh — and the damned thing is weightless too.
This post isn’t a commercial for the Kindle; it’s about the book. Books have been at the center of my life. So I just wanted to take note of how much change, not only in books themselves, but in how we deal with them, was manifest in this one turn of the planet.
Younger folk may shrug. But my mind can still be boggled, and as I settled down with Doyle’s new tale, remembering my Interpreter’s Bible, that was one more time.