A while back, I ranted about the digitization of literature. Soon we won’t even keep our electronic files in our homes, anymore. Everything will be stored in “the cloud,” an undefined somewhere else.
Don’t get me wrong—I’m not against e-books. Guilt rides me every time I buy a print book, so these days I try to restrict paper purchases to novels I want to keep forever (and books that aren’t available as e-books or cost more as e-books than print). But even as I transition into a completely digital existence, I have this niggling concern that the great works of modern literature will be lost when civilization crumbles and the cloud evaporates into oblivion.
Therefore I feel it’s imperative to select some favorite novels to be buried with. That way, books found when I am exhumed by future archeologists need not be lost forever.
I figure Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter will be covered by other rabid fans, so I’m focusing on books that might be more likely to be omitted from other people’s coffins. Here’s my list, so far.
I have fond memories of reading Holes to my kids during a family road trip. I didn’t quite finish it during the drive. To my surprise, my husband asked to borrow it so he could read the ending. This was the first fiction he’d read since we were married. He borrowed more novels after that, so I figure Holes elevated him to the rank of “casual reader.” Therefore, I’d like to be buried with Holes somewhere near my heart.
Readers of the future dark ages might relate to this book on another level. Without modern plumbing or backhoes, I imagine they’ll be digging a lot of holes by hand.
This classic science fiction novel is a miracle of tight plotting, a masterpiece of pace and characterization. Written back in 1956, aspects may or may not seem quaint to you, but you would not regret the two or three hours it takes you to read it.
I don’t know what the archaeologists of the future will make of this book, but I guess that won’t be my problem.
I’m not a Stephen King fan. By that, I mean that I don’t love every book he writes. For example, I only got through two chapters of Tommy Knockers before hurling it against the wall. That was back in the days when I had to skip a meal to buy a book, so it’s saying something if I didn’t finish it.
But when King hits the mark, he hits it well and thoroughly. And my favorite is The Stand.
Not only is The Stand a riveting read, it is a workshop on how to bring character and emotion into my scenes. Particularly the darker variety.
It’s possible that readers of the future dark age might relate to it a little too well.
The Complete Calvin and Hobbes
Comics may seem like a frivolous use of coffin space. But how can I let this slice of cynical innocence evaporate into the atmosphere?
True, I do worry that the humor and poignancy of these frames will be lost on the culture of the future. Will they know what kind of creature Hobbes is? Or will they say, “What is that orange and black stripy thing, Mommy? It’s too fuzzy to be a monster.”
Will children understand the concept of sledding if global warming has its way and there is no more snow? Maybe not, but Calvin will seem all the more reckless and daring if kids think he sends his sled barreling down a hillside covered in sand and dirt.
And what of the evil genius of Calvin’s snowmen? I can just picture it—
“What is he making those funny-looking men out of, Mommy?”
“Is it dirt, Mommy? How does he make it stick together like that? And what is that pointy orange thingy sticking out of the dirtman’s face where his nose should go?”
“I said I dunno. Now shuddup and eat your algae loaf.”
This is not my favorite Ray Bradbury book. That would be Something Wicked This Way Comes or Dandelion Wine, depending on season and mood. But it seems oddly appropriate to rescue Fahrenheit 451 from the great book shredding that is the digitization of us all. Maybe the lesson lost on past generations will reach a generation of the future.
As Granger said in the final pages of Fahrenheit 451, “Now, let’s get on upstream….And hold onto one thought: You’re not important. You’re not anything. Someday the load we’re carrying with us may help someone. But even when we had the books on hand, a long time ago, we didn’t use what we got out of them.”