Saturday, September 5, 2015

So Many Books, So Little Time

“So many books, so little time.” Those words come to mind a lot these days. The other day I Googled the phrase, and I discovered that the Internet attributes it to Frank Zappa. This bothers me a little. I have nothing against Frank Zappa. I’m sure he deserves credit for a lot of things. It's just that I’m not sure he deserves credit for this particular phrase. I'm pretty sure other people said those words long before Frank Zappa did—lots of other people.

Does Frank Zappa really deserve credit for this phrase? Also, why
is there only an empty chair in this picture? Where are the books?

For instance, I could swear Burgess Meredith said those very words—or words very much like them—in one of my favorite episodes of The Twilight Zone. You remember. It’s the one where Buzz plays a bookish bank teller who is constantly complaining that there is not enough time to read all of the books he wants to read. One day, he slips into the bank vault to hide and finish his book. While he is in there, a nuclear attack destroys the city and people around him. With no job and no people to disturb him, he suddenly finds himself with “Time Enough at Last” to read all the books he wants.

Then he breaks his glasses.

Buzz has “Time Enough at Last”—until he breaks his glasses.

The irony!

As a book lover, I understand just how devastated Buzz is when he breaks his glasses, and I feel sorry for him. However, I do not feel too sorry for him, because I know that if I were in his position, I would find a way to read. I would find a pair of glasses or a magnifying glass somewhere; if necessary, I would make one. Or maybe I would teach myself Braille.

Because “so many books, so little time.” And the older I get, the littler the time gets. Consider that I am now nine years older than Burgess Meredith was when he played that meek, bookish bank teller. And consider how many more books have been written since 1959, when "Time Enough at Last" first aired.

So many books, so little time!

In one respect, I am much better off than Buzz. I have a Kindle. I take it with me everywhere, so that I will always have something to read: when I’m standing in a line, when I’m waiting in the doctor’s or dentist’s office, during breaks at work. The nice thing about a Kindle is, if you break your glasses, you can enlarge the size of the words until you can read them. Of course, if there's a nuclear holocaust you're screwed, because electronic devices will be toast. But then, if you don't have access to a bank vault, you will probably be toast too.

I will never be without a book, until they pry my Kindle from my cold, dead hands. Or maybe they could just bury me with it, because—who knows?

Now if you will excuse me, I have some serious reading to do before summer is over.

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