[Editors note: Michael has already admitted to being in the midst of a Little-House-On-the-Prairie type nightmare and we believe that he’s lashing out because his children won’t allow him to use electricity or air-conditioning. If he can’t have nice things, no one can. But we hope you are enjoying reading this on your tablet.]
So there you are, you and your tablet, your kindle, your kindle-fire, and your laptop surrounding you in a cocoon of techno-modernity. You are happily copy-and-pasting block quotes from Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter for your American Lit term paper, gleefully swiping your finger across the screen and hearing the lovely, artificial, and oh so satisfying pre-recorded electronic sound of a page being enthusiastically turned. The dopamine floods your nervous system to hear it, like when Mario grabs that fireball mushroom or Link obtains a piece of the Triforce. It is so faithful, so rewarding, and you want to hear more. The room is bright with overhead lighting, but thanks to new LED technology your screen is brighter yet with a comforting blue glow, fully guaranteed to ruin your sleep cycle for an entire week. This sounds like a complaint, but us folk who are “educated good” and stuff know that this delicious cocktail of sleeplessness and stress is how the best sort of term papers are cranked out. The only place you can’t read your tablet is outside, near a window, or anywhere natural light might be present in even the smallest amount. No way you can see the screen in those kinds of conditions, but who needs “outside” and “sunlight” anyways?
As Abraham Lincoln is about to stake an undead Stephen A. Douglas, you notice a movement out of the corner of your eye. You look up from your tablet. It is your wife. She sees you with your electronic companion and the wine glass drops from her hand. It shatters on the floor, wine coursing out like so many rivulets of blood. She grabs her heart as though a sword has pierced her side and her face is frozen in horror. She never imagined you would do this to her, never thought you would bring that thing into her house, her place of safety, her refuge from all the screens out there: the screen mounted to the gas station pump begging her to come inside and enjoy a slice of delicious breakfast pizza, the screen at the bank just over the teller’s head mocking her with low interest rates in a vicious game of bait and switch, the screen at the mobile phone store with her name on it that never moves any closer to the front of the list for customer service. You have brought a screen into her sanctuary. This, you sense, is a problem.
You have tried so hard. You keep the television in a side room and only watch it occasionally. You refuse to download Facebook onto your phone because you don’t want to stare at it all the time. You make a point of looking around and being super bored while waiting in line at the grocery store instead of randomly texting old college friends the word “yo” to see if anyone responds. You thought a tablet would be safe, though. After all, it only displays words from books. Reading is good, right? There’s no way to get hooked on Netflix reruns of Friends like the last time you tried to have an electronic device. It will be so convenient, you think, to have a whole library in one place! But the crestfallen look on the love of your life, the disappointment in her face, quickly unmasks your delusions and casuistry. You have eaten fruit from a forbidden tree, and as Honest Abe decapitates yet another confederate zombie with the dull edge of a railroad spike, you realize that you have sinned deeply. Somewhere, a used book store owner weeps quietly.
No sin is unforgiveable. You can fix this. In the spirit of Christian charity, I’m here to help, which is why I have put together this survival guide.
[Editor’s note: In case you are wondering, no, Michael does not at all understand irony. He really ought to have scrawled this on the back of an old newspaper and trusted his comrades to pass on his samizdat to all the local communes via horseback]
- Disengage. Put the tablet down slowly. For the love of God, don’t leave it anywhere the children might find it. This is one of those rules of good parenting, akin to: don’t abandon your offspring in the ball pit at Chuck E Cheese, don’t let them drink merlot when chardonnay is available, don’t let grandma dress them in jean shorts, and NO LETTING THEM READ PRIDE AND PREJUDICE ON A TABLET.
- Clear your head. Pour a glass of chartreuse and think of the monks who distilled it in total silence. Smoke a pipe. Ask yourself what Walker Percy would do. Take a visit to the art museum and loudly scoff at the quality of the paintings in the modern wing. Laboriously make a cup of coffee by hand-grinding the beans in a burr grinder you found at the antique shop around the corner. Reading on an electronic device really messes a dude up, so it is important to fully decompress and pull yourself together. When you’re ready, I advise picking up a book that can serve as a sort of palette cleanser, something like Right Ho, Jeeves or Carry On, Jeeves. This way you’ll be in peak form when your friend convinces you to read In Search of Lost Time with him. You’re going to need to bring your A-game to this endeavor and you’re going to need to read it in physical, paper form. Rumor has it that the tablet version has a programming error that creates an infinite loop that will bring the entire internet to its knees.
- Marriage counseling. By picking up that tablet you have broken a trust. You agreed together at your vows to take care of each other and, at least implicitly, to maintain civilized reading habits. This means especially to NEVER BRING A TABLET INTO HER HOME.
- Sensitivity training. Don’t call it re-programming, think of it more like becoming cognizant of power dynamics, privilege, and learning to be like that guy in the Evelyn Waugh novel who kidnaps people to read books to him until he dies. That guy, now there’s a true lover of books! We only want to educate you on how to create and maintain a safe space that is gentle and respectful of all choices… just so long as you don’t bring a tablet into it. When Abe Lincoln was a little boy in Illinois reading up on krav maga submission moves to destroy Whig vampires, did he do it on a tablet? No he did not. He read good old fashioned books by candlelight.
- Make amends. A bad habit is best disposed of by replacing it with a good habit. In imitation of Cicero, write, “A room without books is like a body without a soul,” 100 times on the blackboard. Memorize and recite The Wasteland from a megaphone out your sitting room window (the blokes rowing crew will jolly well appreciate it). Purchase a copy of Brideshead Revisited and volunteer to read it to the local pre-school children. The sky is the limit, only you know when your penance is complete.
- Survive. Because you have chosen to repent and read physical books, the vampires have retreated to their lairs and our more perfect Union is safe. The e-book is dying. Long live real books.