Saturday, February 22

On the way over to Hygiene, the truck is so overweighted that the engine keeps refusing to shift. You can feel the distortion of the load stretching itself out through the whole structure of the vehicle. It crosses my mind that if I were smart, I’d be following in my own car instead of riding along in the cab, because there’s a fair chance we’re going to blow a tire.

It turns out books are heavy. Despite this, we reach the farm without incident, and a plan of action is established. Religious volumes, business books, and popular novels in the back of that pickup truck. Middling but not unsaleable items stacked behind this couch. Antiques and things that will sell on the internet on top of this table. So on and so forth.

I’m helping shuffle this raw tonnage of obsolete media on the understanding that I’ll get some books out of the deal (a proposition I haven’t really examined in light of the volumes already stacked around my apartment). And also because I didn’t have the good sense to roll over and go back to sleep when my landlord knocked on the door some time around noon.

It’s always been kind of staggering to confront the experience of books as sheer quantity. Every time I’ve found myself processing one of these caches of printed matter, I’ve been forced into a pretty stark awareness of the nature and fate of most publishing.

In the right now of early 2014, it’s more than the usual thing, though. The weird frozen-in-time nature of books as a broadcast medium and a storage mechanism; the from-nowhere-to-nowhere lifespan of the average book; the stubborn, absurd physical mass of paper: This stuff has always been there, part of the experience, but it looks different in light of how the whole technology of text itself is in total, epoch-shattering upheaval.