When I clicked on the link to “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore,” despite the interesting title, I was expecting something very academic. But what I found was something so moving that inspired great emotion in me. I guess that I should have expected something like it because when we talk about “The Role of the Writer” and books in general we are discussing a subject that is so much more than academic. I thought the video just really put a “face” to the underlying idea of all of our conversations: Books matter.
They matter in terms of education and intelligence. They matter in terms of the economy. They matter in terms of history and technology. Books matter in terms of life and of love, in terms of self-discovery and enjoyment, and in terms of legacies and personal stories. They are more than just paper and binding.
But that is a sentiment felt by more than just myself, and it is most certainly not the first time that anyone has expressed in any form the love of books. Blogs all over the web are dedicated to the hundreds of ways in which books touch our lives. Letters with Character posts letters from actual people written to fictional characters. How crazy is that? People actually feel like they know these figments of someone’s imagination and want to talk to them. They connect with the characters’ situations and talk about it on this blog that is a technology so far beyond the print book where those characters live.
52 Stories feeds that eager reader’s mind with a new short story every week, encouraging followers to submit their own stories and leave their own mark on the world. It was started by people with that love and passion for books and the impact that they can have on people. They wanted to put people’s stories out there to inspire and encourage that passion in others.
So this love of books isn’t so original, but that doesn’t mean that it still isn’t a meaningful discussion to have. In class so far we have talked about this love of reading and of the physical book, but a lot of the focus so far has been on book culture and the specifics of “how” it has come to this point. We’ve also focused on the future of book culture and the technology that threatens the print book. We speculate about whether eBooks will replace our favorite worn-out copies, and they very well might do that.
But what I think we are forgetting in this whole conversation is the fact that none of this can truly be taken away from us. You might not be able to find the newest bestseller in a physical bookstore, or you might be receiving the newest Kindle next Christmas instead of a leatherbound, collector’s set of your favorite series of novels. But no one is going to storm through your house, rip apart your bookcase, and destroy the collection of Dr. Seuss stories that is basically falling apart from the millions of times you had your mom or dad read it to you when you were 4. And no one is going to set fire to your very first paperback copy of Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone with which you learned to love words again. And certainly no one is going to enter your mind Inception-style and alter your greatest memories of laying outside on a sunny day and getting lost in the Hunger Games until you forgot that you weren’t fighting to the death on some deserted island.
In my very first exercise for this class, I wrote that, “As a small child, my imagination was always running wild. I used to have a giant notebook that I had colorfully decorated with the words ‘Beth Anne’s Stories.'” A love for writing and telling your own story is also something that can never be taken from me. I may not have the same feelings about writing now, just as books are not confined to print culture, but I will always be able to pick up that old notebook and remember the way it felt to put pen to paper.
This is the reason why “The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore” is such a powerful piece. Interestingly, it uses everything but words to describe the importance and love of words themselves. It reminded me that books are a way to leave a legacy. They breath life into both the writer and the reader in a way that technology can’t, just as the books fill the characters with color in the short. And technology may or may not replace print culture, but it will never take away the connection that we have with words and the way that words inspire us to dream.