Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Preserving life on the shelf

#%$! the whales! Save the books!

You could call me a purist. Maybe a fundamentalist...An individualism fundamentalist. I have a strict and literal adherence to the existence of individuality in all things. I could write a 500 page thesis on this belief going into music, film, human liberties...etc. But I will focus briefly on books.

It is in everyday I breath that I am convinced that I was born into the wrong era. The things that I adore and make me happy are slowly becoming extinct. And it troubles me. In my lifetime, I believe the manufacturing of books in the physical form will be extinct. I strongly oppose this movement. There is nothing like the touch of a hardback book. I've removed the dust cover on every book I own, to run my finger senses across it's skin discovering a sensation of slick, cloth, leather or embossed textures. This is the individual personality of the book. And as the book lives on, it's physical characteristics do too. Abrasions tattoo the surface telling the history of every accident, fall and scrape. Years and hard life can be identified by the fragility of the spine like the eyes of a dope fiend. Pages get brittle and yellow. They start to crack and fall out. Some books have inscriptions from the buyer like a birth certificate as a reminder when and why this individual came into the world. Books are individual lives. The Kindle is not.

The Kindle is a slick hard device that digital clones of books are loaded onto. You are not reading a book on a Kindle anymore than you can touch a hologram. Your defiled reproduction of Chuck Palahniuk feels the same as your reproduction of Charles Baudelaire. This is because their soulless essence is imprisoned in the same body along with any number of other faux books (a concentration camp for literature). A gift from a loved one in the form of digital literature is made up of zeros and ones, the same as every other meaningless and forgotten gift. The only thing that differentiates one from another is the difference of words and their arrangement, as they appear to the reader on the screen.

What does this have to do with individualism? Although greatly flawed, I like who I am. I am the result of 35 years of experience that is not identical to another human out there. Yet, I am no more superior or inferior to anyone else. Nor do I feel like my existence is significant when compared to the size of the cosmos I'm lost in. But it is my god given right to be an individual and it is that liberty that I fight for. Every book I've read (along with all my other experiences) make up who I am.

When there are no more books being printed and the only way to receive literature is through digital mutations of the glorious form, our selection will become chosen. The printed word cannot be controlled, no matter how many mobs instigate burnings. A copy will get out, someone will reprint, and through the power of the black market the book will live again. This will not happen with the Kindle. I can't make a zine and sell it through the underground with a Kindle. The books that will be released for this device will be heavily controlled and censored. Many books will not be cloned and their physical form will be buried among garbage.

Some, if not all, of you are questioning this thought process. We have already given away too many of our rights. With the Patriot Act we've allowed government into our lives. Not only can they crack into our computers, but also into our smart phones and Kindles. There are attempts to control the internet. Alternative news sources are already being shutdown if not framed for lunacy or corruption. Say goodbye to our freedom of speech. If we are that close to the decay of the first amendment, we are closer than we know to controlled censorship. That is why the Kindle is an attack on everyone to exist as an individual.

So when I received an email today from a 14 year-old who loves books and adventures to the library, I smiled a bit knowing that there is hope for the future. He writes:

Dear Gris Grimly,
My name is Daniel ******. I am 14 years old born ******, 19**. I live in ******. I love to go to the ****** city Library. Its very interesting to hear from most of the librarians that they rarely see kids my age being so interested in books. I love books. They're amazing. You have to really seek in a book. Some people think,"hey, this is just a book". But for me a book is a wonderful adventure! When i grow up i want to be a director. I love movies. Your books are great. I love them. I read most of them but I'm trying to read them all. Too bad my library doesn't carry all your books. I wish they did. I especially wish they had pinocchio! I heard there is going to be a movie based on the book pinocchio. Is that true? I love your art work. It is really nice and well done. Are there any new books coming up? You are an amazing illustrator and what you have is truly a gift.
Daniel ******

Unfortunately, I have to keep up with the Joneses. That mean if all of you out there continue to buy Kindles and digital want-to-be books, I will have to produce to meet the demand. I say it again...UNFORTUNATELY.

Buy books. Support individualism.

Be Grim!
Gris Grimly


  1. I love, love, love technology. But there is something about reading a physical book, that I do not want to give up. Your post reminds me about the Book of Eli, if you've seen that movie, how precious the written word becomes. I don't want to see books disappear or controlled.

  2. The problem with technology is that it is controlled by mankind. Mankind has a major flaw which is if he/she can do something he/she will rather than question if he/she SHOULD do something. Technology opens up opportunities for man to venture into uncharted immorality. Mankind will go there.

  3. I love books so much I think sometimes I buy books just because they feel nice in my hands. Of course, I do read them as well. But there's something about a fresh new book whose pages crackle when you open it for the first time. And then there's something extra special about an old book that has been read over and over, and it has that nice musty smell too it. Sometimes when I'm reading a book I'll pause for a moment and close it just to rub my hand over the cover and really admire it. I'm resisting the digital books as well, and sure hope that the cessation of printing books doesn't happen during my lifetime.

  4. A resounding AMEN from this corner (and I'm not even remotely religious. Any more.) I concur with your young fan up there. Your books are beautifully illustrated and are an adventure. As well, they have brought much enjoyment to my reading times with the kids, ages four and six, who are already insatiably curious about things grim and ghoulish. And I like to see them work through their fears, the great Unknown(s). Regarding the Kindle: it's not for me. In fact, I recently sold it because it was collecting dust on a book shelf. I began to loathe its presence, how ugly the "pages" are. It served its purpose for those insomniac nights and in a dimly lit bar on a couple of occasions. Other than that? It's hype. Unnecessary. A marketing ploy. I am from the old school: I need the tactile presence, smell, and the weight of a real work of art.
    I am willing to wager that you are familiar with the writings of Sven Birkerts? I am going through his collection of essays right now, titled “Readings.” It is a remarkably astute reflection of—and for— our times. Though I don’t nod in assent with everything he says, he certainly has me thinking about what it means to be “connected” and what it means to be a lover of words, a lover of reading, while maintaining a wary eye at our technological progress and its ever-pervading prowess. Great stuff. And I, too, love technology: blogging, music, surfing the web, etc.
    Keep up the good work!

  5. I love books as well, I have been an avid reader of the printed page for 40+ years now. I will add though that eBooks have given authors who are now embracing this new technology the freedom and power to not have to be at the whims of editors and all that make the decisions of who and what gets to make it on their lists of books they put out.

    For this I am very grateful since I've been reading some wonderful, bold & censor free fiction that would not have seen the light of day if they were still under the old rules that have dominated what we get to read when we search for new works by new authors.

    Plus, while at appointments which are quite numerous these days while I wait to see if I'm able to have surgery I can now have as many books at my disposal without the weight of carrying a few around with me because I may need to change a book when I'm not able to focus on the current author at that time and place.

    This does not change my purchasing of books such as yours and others who make art and share their wonderful gifts in the printed form which could never be replaced by Kindle and others like it. This is where these eReaders I believe will never be able to compete. Now I will say that this still makes for back breaking boxes full of art books for when I've had to move again and in my situation no longer have the room to have these books on display, so they sit in these boxes in storage till I get the whim to open one where I've listed it's contents and this hurts since I fear this will cause long term damage to these tomes of magical wonder.

  6. Well said. I go on this rant a couple of times a year to all of my students. Every book has a personality-a different crack of the spine, smell, heft.

    By the way the spirit of Artum Secretum is unreal. It connects so perfectly to my idea of sketchbook. I've gotta find a way to get you my little Comic Con "sketchbook offering". Thanks again for the info on that Soho gallery.

  7. While I understand the text of this rant in principle, it needs to be framed in context. When the spoken word of storytellers was written down and people started learning to read, there were many who likely thought "Those accursed books! If people can read for themselves, why would they listen to me? And the story... it never changes! It cannot be embellished in print! There's no emotion or flare on a piece of paper! The very idea is inhuman!" Of course, those storytellers have found other mediums because of change.

    The Kindle (mention specifically) is no exception; while the makers and supporters CAN limit our experience, people who had no chance of ever being known due to the gatekeepers (editors, publishing houses, censors) can now be read in the way MP3s allowed unsigned bands to be heard (and in both cases, possibly successful). If Kindle won't allow people to get what they want in the way they want it, people will move on to something else that can (iPads can load PDFs into iBooks as can many other readers such as the Nook). None of us want anything we love to change from the way we remember loving it (people included), but, unfortunately, everything does. You can ignore it or embrace it but you can't stop it. Just trust that people will do what they must.

  8. What amazes me is how easily we've replaced cds with mp3s, dvds with netflix, books with kindles and yet we can't find alternative energy resources.... I feel we are wasting money and resources by technologically advancing in the wrong direction...