The Bookmark


He enjoys reading books.  They are selected carefully, yet he remembers that his cousin, the published author, said, “Don’t keep reading a book that you don’t like.  Life is too short.  If it is from the library, take it back.  If you bought it, give it away.”

These days there is no physical book.  Bookshelves were abandoned when the last move to a smaller house took place.  “I’m not keeping all these books just to look at,” he said to his wife.  “If I can get them on-line, then out they go.”

So, they’ve all been ebooks in the past few years.  These can be hunted down no matter where he is, then with a tap on the iPad or iPhone screen, downloaded for reading.  Last month he purchased and downloaded a new book while a passenger in a car.  His parents wouldn’t have believed it.

Notes can be kept, words and sections highlighted for reference, and definitions looked up.  That feature is used a lot.  No bookshelf is needed to hold the book before or after reading.  He has found this convenient, but not perfect.

A loved book can’t be passed on for a family member or a friend to enjoy.  Digital books that may be good for reference somehow aren’t as endearing to him as the paper, stitched and bound version.  He recently bought two new books.  They arrived in the post.  His mother and father would have recognized what they were.

These objects of historic construction can’t be read in the darkened room, don’t have a dictionary to tap for the vocabulary-starved reader, and must have a place to rest.  The jacket must be removed and carefully stored for protection later, when the book is finished.  And, a real object called a bookmark must be used.  Somehow this all still feels natural to him.  Old fashioned maybe, but he is old to match, so that is OK.

The Bookmark2

His bookmark is personal.  It has a history and has been in his family as long as he can remember, used constantly by his mother.  She belonged to a US subscription-based book club in the 1950’s and a new, hard-covered book would arrive every month.  Often its spine would display the little man from the American publisher Simon and Schuster.  The little man who looked like he was trying to run away from something.  Most of those monthly books were of no interest to him, but the crisp pages bound in colourful hardcovers were always nice to hold.  In 1951, Salinger’s ‘The Catcher in the Rye’ was a book-of-the-month, but it never occupied a bookshelf in his parents’ home.

He stopped to look at the soft, leather bookmark as he placed it into the new, hard-covered book in his hands.  Then his mind slipped away from the story in the book to his own story.  He saw the writing on the bookmark stating “I’ll mind the page” and then looked past the crudely painted wild roses to the words “Lake Louise”.  This was his mom’s bookmark and she would have bought it at Lake Louise.  But when, he wondered?  Given his mother had grown up in Calgary, it might have been bought anytime in the 1920’s or in the 1950’s.  He had forgotten about its history, but now remembered it marking the pages in his mother’s book-of-the-month that often lay on her bedside table.  He pictured her soft hands, showing their age, lifting it from where it was minding the page and starting to read the story where she left off the night before.

A couple of chapters were read, but then the comfort of the bed won her over.  The book dropped to her breast and eyes closed as she moved into slumberland.  His dad gently lifted the book from her hands, put the soft leather bookmark in the appropriate page, closed the book and place it on the bedside table, ready for the next evening’s entertainment.

He shook off his poignant thoughts of the past and set the soft leather bookmark on the side-table.  Chapter 1 of his new book awaited his attention.