April 16, 2010
Confession time: The arrival of my tax return and the debut of a new Apple gadget created a perfect storm that I could not resist chasing. My new iPad, the mother of all impulse buys, will arrive next week — one gen before I usually even think about buying.
Other than watching MLB At Bat and surfing the baseball blogosphere, I don't have any firm plans for my new toy. I do know that it's going to take some convincing to read an entire book on its fancy screen. I'm still in the camp that can't imagine a world in which we don't consume and enjoy physical books.
That's probably a short-sighted view considering that it was just four or five years ago that I thought newspapers would never go away, but I was reminded of the pleasure a book can bring when a review copy of "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu" arrived in my mail.
Set for an April 29 release, "Hub Fans" is nothing more than a bound collector's version of John Updike's classic New Yorker essay on Ted Williams, coupled with the Williams obituary that Updike wrote for the Boston Globe in 2002. The edition checks in at a slight 47 pages and commemorates the 50th anniversary of Updike chronicling a weary Ted Williams ending his career with a homerun at Fenway Park.
Updike famously describes Boston's ballpark as a "lyric little bandbox" at the start of "Hub Fans" and "lyric little" would be a great way to describe this reissue. If you're a fan of Updike, the Red Sox, baseball, Ted Williams or all of them, it's worth the $15 to have this on your bookshelf for the sad fall day that you choose to mark the end of the baseball season.
It also seems like a good Father's Day gift if your dad mourns the same way.
For example, I'd estimate that I've read Updike's famous piece about 15 times in my life.
I can also easily find it online or inside the pages my well-worn copy of The Best American Sportswriting of the Century.
Pointing out that history and those economical shortcuts misses the point of this issue, though. It might just be my attention-challenged mind, but with Updike's words in isolation, I'm able to linger over my favorite lines and phrases a little longer — "the hard blue glow of high purpose" leaves me speechless me every time — while also appreciating the genius that helped earn Updike his stature. When I read this single volume, there are no other apps or emails to move onto, no other essays competing for my attention.
It's just pages and words, combining for a celebrated simplicity Apple or Amazon will never be able to match.