Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe: What I read on my vacation: Henry James...on Kindle

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Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe

What I read on my vacation: Henry James...on Kindle

Monday, January 3, 2011

I just got back from two warm and sunny weeks at the beach where I did a lot of reading and I have much to share about what I read. Rather than give a long list, I thought I’d do a short separate blog post for each book. First up, “The Ambassadors” by Henry James.

No, it’s not exactly a beach read. I had actually started it before I left on vacation. It was my first book on my new Kindle; I had wanted to select something special to inaugurate the Kindle and this definitely was. So poor James was in odd circumstances in terms of both where and how I was reading him: not surprisingly, he rose to the occasion.

First about the Kindle. I like it a lot but I’m not going to be giving up print books any time soon. It is a different experience, more like the difference between watching the same movie in a theater or at home. It’s still the same work and you can still enjoy it or not as itself, but you do take it in in subtly different ways. And there are some books I want to own in hard copy, have up on my shelf, feel the pages of. Still, I'm glad I have this new option for reading.

What I like:
I love going on vacation knowing I’ll have enough books and yet I’ll still be able to lift my suitcase. I even downloaded an additional book while I was away.

I like the physical ease of holding it, even if the book was a thick one.

I like the font, which can be modified in several ways to individual preference. I actually stuck with the default font, which I found attractive and appropriate for reading on an electronic device.

I liked the dictionary function, although with James that’s hardly all the help I’d like to have.

What I don’t like:
This is a little strange but I often like to read the last page early on just so I can relax and enjoy the book without--does this make sense to anyone else?--racing through it to see what happens. That’s still possible with the Kindle, but takes a little maneuvering.

Likewise, going back to reread something is a little harder to do. I may get more adept with practice, but right now, I sometimes just give up on it.

I miss what happens when people read in public. There’s something lost, I think, when you can’t say to a stranger on the beach or on the T, “Do you like that book?” or “I loved that one.” Of course, right now when it’s still new, there is the opportunity to talk about the Kindle itself. But isn’t it more fun to talk about books?

Now, “The Ambassadors”:
Such a wonderful book. Such fascinating characters. So much to think about. If only I could have understood it all. I blogged recently about an excellent annotated edition of “Pride and Prejudice” by Pat Spacks; I wish there were one for “The Ambassadors.” I’d love to know more about all the nuances of social expectations and behavior James writes about. But even knowing that I missed much, this is such a substantive book that it is a delight to read.

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2 Comments :

Blogger Mim said...

Ellen, Thanks for the balanced view. What do you think of the name "Kindle"?

Warm regards from South Beach

January 6, 2011 at 9:08 AM  
Blogger Ellen Steinbaum said...

I like "Kindle" better than "iPad"! But it is an odd name--conjures up visions of reading by candle-light. What do you think? (Trying-to-stay-warm regards from Cambridge.)

January 6, 2011 at 10:11 AM  

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