On My Mind

Page Turner
The New Yorker has come alive again. Not on the printed page, although at times there is a really fine short story or literary commentary, but on the Web in the form of a new blog called Page-Turner. It first appeared on May 15th, after the magazine’s former book blog, the Book Bench, had been languishing in the doldrums for months.

In introducing Page-Turner Sasha Weiss writes: “Walking the halls of The New Yorker, one hears conversations about books trailing out of office doors…Page-Turner is an elaboration of this ongoing conversation.”

Recently Salman Rushdie wrote on censorship, Giles Harvey on the Death of a Salesman, Richard Brody on Susan Sontag’s writings about cinema, the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy, interviews with the writers, Lorie Moore and Maile Maloy about their short stories, along with the daily list of Book News and the weekly posting by some of the staff on what they are currently reading.

Page-Turner has also inaugurated a series where writers are asked what book they have revisited most often. What a good question. Maile Melody who wrote the first response, said it is Salinger’s Nine Stories. What is yours?

A Better Person
At the gym I was listening to my first audiobook. It was read and written by Ann Patchett. And it is about her marriages and views on marriage, in general. Naturally, I was not aware she had quite so many lovers and more than one marriage.

She described a situation where she was talking to a friend about her disastrous first marriage and another person she loved deeply. She was pondering his frequent marriage proposals; they had been together for eleven years, no less.

Her friend asked her a a question you don’t often hear, a really good question, I thought. So did Ann Patchett. Her friend asked her does your new love make you a better person.

I stopped the tape there. I had to remember that question. It is a good one to think about it. I realized the question not only applies to your husband or your wife but to any person you know, any friend. Does the person make you a better one? And vice versa?

The other day I was reading the New Yorker on my iPad when I came across an advertisement for a book. I was informed that if I clicked on a link at the bottom of the ad, I could read an excerpt. I thought, how clever, perhaps the first time I had seen a hyperlink in an advertisement, at least in the digital version of the magazine.

I clicked on the link, skimmed a page praising the book, read several pages from the first chapter, and found the material not uninteresting. I was then informed I could click on another link to see a video of the author talking about the book. Fancy that, I thought.

Yet another link took me to a group of online bookstores where I could buy the printed version of the book. Finally, one more link took me to a comparable group of bookstores where I could purchase the e-book version. That was it. No more links. No more clicking. Back to the magazine, I went.

How remarkable all this was. Then I wondered if all of this could be done with a paper version of a book or magazine for that matter. Yes, I think I read about it somewhere. Then I wondered if any of this mattered. Did I learn a little about the book? Yes. Did I buy the book? No.

Besides, I don’t much care for hyperlinks in any text, paper or electronic. They do little else but distract me. My preference is clearly on the side of a footnote or set of references at the end, where I can be distracted when I want.