Showdown on Main Street
By ice rivers
Every so often, I'll find a volume in my office library that takes me by surprise. I don't remember acquiring the book so I don't remember the moment that it arrived in the brary nor the duration of its shelving.
Such a volume was Main Street by Sinclair Lewis . The volume is paperback and the publishing date is 1980 so it couldn't have been hiding for more than thirty seven years before it leaped into my hands.
Although I don't remember when or how I got it, I can understand the reason why. Sinclair Lewis was a favorite author of my father who kept in HIS library both Babbit and Arrowsmith. When I first became aware of his library shortly after becoming aware of reading and books, I asked him about the books: Babbit which I hoped was gonna be about baby rabbits and Arrowsmith about Robin Hood. I was probably five years old at the time.
After he told me that they weren't about rabbits nor archers, I asked the inevitable followup question "what's are they about?".
He explained that they were big person's book and I probably wouldn't like them until I got big but when I did, I would.
I opened the book anyways hoping to find some pictures like I had found in his history book and his book by a guy named Collodi named Pinocchio.
No pictures in Babbit or Arrowsmith.
I stashed the disappointment/anticipation away in my memory with the vague concept that someday or other, someway or other I would be big and would read Babbit.
Many years passed and some how someway Donald Trump became president of the United States. In the furious backlash that followed I became aware of a book by Sinclair Lewis called "It Can't Happen Here" which was regaining relevancy at the conclusion of 2016.
I went to the public library to get a copy but they didn't have one.
I ignited a search on Kindle fire and found a copy. I bought it, read it, loved it was amazed how horrorific and hip it was. Sinclair Lewis was in the pipeline.
Fired up another look in the pipeline and there it was; Babbit.
I'm big now. Much older than my father was when he read it. I figured I could read it now. I did. Loved it. Found it totally relevant. Started talking to my reading pals about Sinclair Lewis most of whom thought I meant Upton Sinclair.
"I haven't read him since high school. His book made me sick that's about all I can remember" as they remembered The Jungle by the wrong Sinclair.
So I took a detour and read The Jungle. It was as depressing as I knew it would be but the price was right on Kindle.
I read and appreciated the novel for its historic and reformative value but Upton Sinclair was no Sinclair Lewis.
The next day, I was browsing through my private library and there it was.....Main Street by Sinclair Lewis.
Now comes the showdown.
I had the paperback in one hand, my Kindle in the other.
I searched for Main Street on Kindle.
I hit the button to buy.
Now the two formats of Main Street walked down a dusty Main Street at high noon in my mind.
Kindle drew first. I opened up that format. I went the distance. I never opened the paperback.
Given the choice between new school and old school reading. I chose new school.
The showdown and the result of the showdown shocked the hell out of the dusty little town called my intellect.
Here are some of the reasons why Kindle won.
I can read the Kindle in the dark. I prefer darkness when I read. It reminds me of my childhood when my parents demanded that I turn the lights off at night and I wished I had a little tiny night light that I could read by without turning on the bedroom light and getting busted. Now I have one. I can even read without waking up my wife.
I can change the font size on the Kindle. I have learned that during some sessions I prefer larger print which is of course less a strain on the eyes. Other days I shrink the size so that I can read faster. I find a co-relation between the two.
Kindle comes with the dictionary and wikipedia link up. Prior to Kindle, I never bothered to look up a word that I didn't know. I wasn't gonna go from paperback book to paperback dictionary and slow down my reading time. I read everything in context so it didn't matter at all if I didn't recognize a word. I still got the picture. Now with Kindle, I can get that definition almost instantaneously. My vocabulary is growing which is enlighteneing my past life as well as enriching my present life even as it influences my destiny.
In other words, I'm learning to read all over again.
As I learn how to read, I will learn to take firmer possession of the intellectual property that my reading has gained for me. As you can see from these words that stay, I am becoming more interested in writing ABOUT what I have read which locks down that comprehension and retention in my mind.
When I read, I make mental notes about concepts that come up in the source material that remind of an idea that I am approaching. With the Kindle I am learning how to highlight that particular material and lend my notes permanancy. An infinite set of inspiration points that tend to piggy back one another, when I compose.
Yup, when I got "big" enough, Sinclair Lewis leaped into my hands and changed my life. When the student is ready, the reacher will appear.
Now to wrap this up, let me compare and contrast Sinclair Lewis with Upton Sinclair or vice versa.
Let's look at their awards.
Upton Sinclair won a Pulitzer which makes him a literary All Star.
Sinclair Lewis won a Nobel which makes him a literary Hall of Famer.
In other words, Upton is no Sinclair and Sinclair is no Lewis.