Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Mama's Got an iPad

Maybe you saw the video of Virginia, an avid reader in her hundredth year who suffers from glaucoma and, after receiving an iPad, loved it enough to compose a limerick extolling its virtues. If not, here you go: http://mashable.com/2010/04/23/ipad-99-year-old-woman/

The first person I thought of when I watched it was my mother, Dorothy Brunsman Spencer. She’s only 88, but she also lives to read, despite suffering from severe macular degeneration. Knowing she might find it easier to enjoy novels, not to mention the Nation and New Yorker, if she could increase the font size and the contrast between the text and background, inspired me to join wallets with my brother and father to get her an iPad of her own. (As a small publisher gouged by Amazon there was no effing way I was going to get her a Kindle.)

Then I waited. One never knows with Ma. Sure, she loves reading, but she’s also stubborn about things like paper. She prefers newsprint to shiny pages, for starters, so maybe reading on glass would just feel weird. Still, watching her slowly make her way through T.C. Boyle’s The Women when she visited here last month was heartbreaking. In the old days, when her eyes were stronger, she could have finished five novels in the time it was taking her to get through Part 1 of this one.

She called today, having just downloaded another novel by T. C. Boyle, her new favorite writer. I haven’t heard her sound so happy since the day I told her I was finally going to finish college. “I love it,” she said. “I can see the pages so much better.” She also likes the way it saves her place from one session to the next, how she can curl up on the couch with it and read in dim light. “You may not get a thank-you card from me,” she warned at the end of our conversation. “In fact, I don’t want to see anyone, go anywhere, or do anything else but READ!”

You go, Ma. I can’t wait to hear about your downloads. Maybe you’ll even be willing to show me how to use that thing when I see you next.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

In Memoriam: Quinton Duval

Quinton Duval passed away on May 10. A fine poet, a teacher, and the editor and publisher of Red Wing Press, Quinton was a big-hearted man who will be greatly missed. He is the author of four poetry collections, including Joe’s Rain from Cedar House Books. More recently, Rattlesnake Press published his chapbook Among Summer Pines. I have been reading and rereading “Morning Tea,” that book’s last poem since hearing of his death. Here are the last several lines:

Before I left, I saw you set out

the blue bowl full of speckled eggs

and a plate of June peaches.

After breakfast, find Bobo the fisherman

and his four sons. Tell them to bring rope

and a sheet of plywood. I’ve never had

a ride on plywood. I’ve never loved anywhere

as much as here, with you. I’d do it again

in a minute. You know me.

I’ve never had enough.