April 22nd, 2012

Narratives in a Digital Age

“My Life in Books”

This week, LJ Digital features essays from writers and readers, discussing stories about books that impacted their lives.

OCD and British Accents

By Dora Saltzman

My dad has terrible obsessive-compulsive disorder. He doesn’t count how many times he turns door handles or wash his hands hundreds of times a day. He’s more of a neat freak. And because I have the pleasure of inheriting his DNA, both good and bad, I’m a bit of an anti-hoarder too. We both like to keep things as clutter-free as possible, and although I have no idea what my mom is hiding in her garage, she probably doesn’t either. As a result of all this, I have no history or recollection of what my first book was or what bedtime story I liked to be read (I suppose I could ask, but that will definitely result in a twenty-minute long story about something else from my childhood).

Because my dad is my best friend, it is not uncommon for me to associate most of my childhood memories with him. But this is no exception. When I think back to an early experience with a book, I think of the times that my dad would let me read to him out loud. It didn’t matter the book, although we had our favorites (or favorite, but I’ll get to that). We would sit for hours: he would listen and ask questions, and I would read. Eventually, I decided I would start to do voices for each character, always making sure the voice matched their personality and background: a Southern accent for someone from Nashville, a British accent for someone from England, etc.

When I was in 4th grade, the infamous Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling came out. I had been reading to my dad for a couple of years now, and when my teacher decided to read the book to our class, I was skeptical. I was never a fan of fantasy books, but I ended up falling in love with it. The only problem was that the teacher did the voices terribly! So later that week my dad and I bought the book, I gradually learned to differentiate my British accents (not easy unless you’re from England), and we finished the book before my teacher did. We loved having each other to keep up with the story lines, not to mention another activity to do with one another.

(Image from blog.carriebastyr.com)

We made it through the first five books; the last ones were published while I was in college and between the distance, my homework load, and loss of interest, it hasn’t happened yet (I’ll admit that I started reading the sixth one on my own but it just wasn’t the same). But we do own the books, so who knows?

(Image from bis-ny.org)

As we discuss the closure of bookstores, I’m extra thankful that my dad decided to make sure I owned the series, even after I lost interest in reading them. If e-books become the dominant means of reading, will buying a hard copy of Harry Potter even be possible? If so, how much would that even cost? I can’t imagine how ridiculous it would be to see kids walking around with iPads.. which I’m sure they’re already doing I’m just removed from that age group. I can’t even imagine what reading an e-book would have been like when I was a kid: my teacher would have called us around a circle and read us Harry Potter from an e-Reader? My dad and I would have sat on a sofa with our iPad? Maybe this could pass for some books and for older readers, but for a kid, for books that are supposed to transform you to a different place, getting rid of those pieces of paper just aren’t an option.



A blog created by the Literary Journalism Department @ the University of California, Irvine, dedicated to discussions about non-fiction narratives in this ever-evolving era of E-books, E-readers, Blogs, Instapaper, The Atavist, Byliner, Amazon's Kindle Singles and all other new media outlets open to promoting great journalism. LJ Digital is managed by Asst. Prof. Erika Hayasaki and Cleo Tobbi, intern and UCI literary journalism student.