Monday, January 11, 2010

The woodstove fire of the vanities

The other day I noted that geezers in England are buying up heavy unwanted old books and putting them to their best use in fireplaces because they're cheaper than coal by the pound.

That got me to thinking about the heavy unwanted old books out in the garage. . .

Suffice it to say that Shakespeare can be very warming indeed, as can the Art of the Western World. Dickens is positively a font of warmth, and Carl Sagan can generate thousands of BTUs if not billions and billions.

All told I figure there's about a quarter cord of books out there that will never be wanted for reading again. Books are about half as dense as hardwood, so my guess is those books will save me the tractor fuel to haul in about an eighth of a cord of wood. They will also save me from burning uncured wood at the end of the winter if this unusual cold keeps up. I've been burning up the cured wood much faster than in former years.

Rag paper, I've learned, makes excellent kindling; much better than newsprint. One finds it in what were once good quality books, like the fine print one volume edition of Shakespeare's works. Glossy paper, such as one finds in color illustrated books is not so good as kindling. It leaves too much ash because of the clay they put in it.

On one level burning books feels like sacrilege; but I remind myself that Amazon now sells a substantial percentage of new books as electronic files for reading on Kindles and that Google and others are busy digitizing books by the tens and hundreds of thousands so they will be available on line.

If you find yourself wanting to read anything by Shakespeare or Dickens or a host of other authors in certified accurate form for free you can always go to The Gutenberg Project to do so.

If you're not too concerned about accuracy and you simply want to find a Shakespeare sonnet or something that contains a particular quote you can always google the words you know of the quote. Doing that will take you directly to a dozen websites that have used that quote. Many of them will have the whole sonnet there for you to read free.

You do have to be a bit careful and alert when you simply google part of a famous quote. There are lots of folks like me out there who use famous quotes with a little twist. When I do that there is always at least a clue that all may not be totally normal on the page; but there are others who give no warning that Shakespeare or Dickens or Coleridge's meaning has been a bit modified.

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