Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Advice to the Lovelorn and Lonely - by Susan Price


          Advice to the lonely or lovelorn often says, ‘Get a dog.’  Reguarly walking the beast means they make daily circuits through the park or across the common, where they meet other people and dogs doing the same thing.
          People who would never otherwise speak to a stranger will stop to pat a dog, while other dog-walkers recognise another dog-lover.  They nod, smile, say hello, ask about your dog – and tell you about theirs.  If the dogs are friendly, you walk on together – and part with a wave and, ‘See you tomorrow!’  A new friendship has begun.
           I would suggest that, as an alternative, which doesn’t need walking in cold, wet weather, or taking to the vet’s, you get a kindle.  It won’t guard your house, or fetch sticks, but, much like dogs, kindles seem to attract admirers wherever they go.
Kindles are loved even by Alsations!
          I am not usually sought out by people eager to talk.  My mother was, and she was not entirely happy about it, often complaining that in bus-stops and queues people would turn to her, and pour out their troubles.  “Why me?” she would ask.  “Do I send out a ‘come and talk to me’ signal?”
          If I send out a signal, it’s, ‘Go away!’  I am seldom troubled by people who just want to talk.  Yet, since I bought my kindle, I increasingly find myself talking to strangers.  The kindle’s allure defeats my naturally forbidding aspect.
           Perhaps the students at the University where I worked don’t count, as they’d come to my office especially to talk to me – but seeing my kindle lying on my desk, they’d exclaim, “Ooh, is that one of those reader things?”  And then they’d ask how much it cost, and was it easy to use?  Could you make notes on it?  (Yes, you can: you can ‘bookmark’ places in a text and quickly jump to them.  And reading footnotes is much easier than in a paper book – you jump to them, and jump back to where you were reading, and never lose your place.)
          But it isn’t just students.  I was waiting for a friend in a café, reading my kindle. A waitress clearing cups from a nearby table, said, “Oh, is that a kindle?  How much is it?  How do you use it?”  So I showed her.  “Oh, that’s clever.  Only, my boys don’t read.  I was thinking, if I got ‘em something like that, they might read, ‘cos they love gadgets.  Can you get children’s books on it?”
          Yes, you can, and more and more will be available in the future.
          I was at the hairdresser’s, reading my kindle while waiting for the stylist.  When he came, instead of saying, “Is it your day o-off?” or, “Going anywhere ni-i-ce?” he said, “Ooh, is that one of them kindle thingies?”  Which made a nice change.  “How do you use it?  Is it easy to download stuff?  Only my nanna, right, she loves reading.  Always got a book on the go.  I’d like to get her one of them.”
          I was reading my kindle in a very posh pub, while waiting for my agent.  Enter an elderly retired colonel type in grey slacks and navy blazer, with his wife.  As they passed me, he said, in a carrying whisper, “That lady has one of those new electronic reading gadgets.”
          The whisper was so loud – so unwhisper-like – that I wondered if I was supposed to ‘overhear’ and say, ‘Oh, do you want to have a look at it?’  I was hesitating about whether to say it when my agent arrived, so the colonel remained unenlightened.
          The kindle has become such an ordinary part of my life, that I’m always taken aback when people greet it with such delight, want to pat it and see it perform its tricks.  But to many it still seems to be well, an unopened book.
          So, if you want to talk to people, get a kindle and read it in public.  Then you can happily demonstrate it to the curious who will flock to your side, and you will learn much about their families’ reading habits.  You can talk about the books you have loaded on it, the books you intend to load on it, and the books you might load on it if a good case is made for them.  The hours will fly past.
          And if you hit a bad patch, and no one comes to talk to you – well you’ll have a bookcase of good books to read in your hand.

          (And since originally scheduling this post, I showed a kindle sceptic I met in a sunny pub garden how mine worked, and watched his eyes light up as I changed the print size and showed him the 87 titles I have on mine, and how it could be read despite the bright sunlight.  I think that's another kindle sold...)

          Susan Price is the award winning writer of the Ghost World trilogy, Ghost Drum, Ghost Song and Ghost Dance.
          She blogs here
          And her website, with much more information about her books, is here.

7 comments:

CallyPhillips said...

As A Kobo owner, I feel compelled to say 'other ereaders are available'but your general point is good! Though you do have to GO OUT AND ABOUT. That level of social interaction strikes terror into my heart. Mine rarely makes it further out than the garden. BUT taking it on holiday to the beach tomorrow and will meet Kindle owner Catherine. We will do a comparative analysis of the functions (while having a picnic on the beach I hope) And yes, while dogs are great for many things, ereaders don't wake you up at 5.30 in the morning demanding to be let out! At least, mine hasn't yet (and mine DID this morning) hence my early and cheery comment on here! But it's great to know that ereaders are gaining attention in THE GENERAL PUBLIC. I almost feel compelled to become social to show people how great Kobo's are! Almost. But, no.. I'll stay at home reading.

Bill Kirton said...

Nice post, Susan, and I know your system works. Like Cally, I'm a reluctant socialiser but, at the end of last week, I was in the dentist's waiting room reading my Kindle and an old guy (even older than I am) came and sat beside me and started waxing lyrical about the Kindle he'd just bought for his wife (who was at that moment having her checkup). At first, my (silent) reaction was the vulgar version of 'Go away, can't you see I'm reading'. But he was so enthusiastic that, in the end, we had a good chat - the substance of which was repeated when his wife came back, saw my Kindle and enthused in her turn.

madwippitt said...

Yes, they do attract attention, don't they? But I have to disagree about them being a dog repl;acement - NEVER! If I had to choose, I think you know which I'd pick!

CallyPhillips said...

Ah, of course no one would choose an ereader over a dog (would they?) And actually, I have to report that even my dogs can use Kobo - they have on more than one occasion turned a page for me with the nudge of a nose. Maybe I need to reappraise how much time I spend with/on each!!!
And it's the one downside of Kobo Touch that I've found - even a fly landing on it can turn a page. And if you have to swipe a dog hair off the screen (as I frequently do, you also end up on a different page) Dogs and paperback books are BEST but ereaders are useful tools for when you need them. But yes, anyone who lavishes as much love on an ereader as a dog probably needs dog therapy!

Lee said...

It used to be that people would show off by reading - or pretending to read - impressive books in public. Now their e-readers are impressive enough in themselves - and no one is any wiser that what they're actually reading is Fifty Shades of Grey!

Susan Price said...

I've been away for a few days - and one conversation I overheard was a young man in a Devon pub telling his girlfriend, "You're outrageous!" - because she was reading a paperback of '50 Shades.' Put it away, he urged her. She said, "I'll get you into it."
"Don't think it would do anything for me," he said.
This, just to rebut the impression that kindle's are only for reading porn! In another part of the pub,dear reader, I was reading, on my kindle, 'Wolf Hsll.' And being wowed by it. (Except when eavesdropping, obviously.)

Adam Price said...

For my part my kindle offered me a sobering reminder of the passage of time, when i was sitting in a pub in birmingham waiting for my brother to finish work and a young, pretty, punkish girl came and sat by me and engaged me in conversation. It quickly became apparent that she was only interested in my kindle and after a quick demonstration she returned to her young, pretty and punkish friends, leaving me remembering the days when a boy could attract a second glance without being wi-fi compatable.
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