Books

Ami McKay's book tour diary: There is no frigate like a book

Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria, Vancouver — a whirlwind of cities with wonderful people at every stop. There were interviews and streets to navigate, readings to give, books to sign and readers to meet.

Young woman reading Dostoevsky on the train in Calgary

Winnipeg, Edmonton, Calgary, Victoria, Vancouver — a whirlwind of cities with wonderful people at every stop.

There were interviews and streets to navigate, readings to give, books to sign and readers to meet.

Finding out The Virgin Cure had made bestsellers lists (while I was washing laundry in the sink) was the surreal icing on the cake.

There’s a lot of talk these days about the fate of the printed book. Technological changes have been fast and furious, taking hold of the way we see the world and how we choose to read. People love their screens, both large and small, and I count myself among those who have embraced the Tao of Steve, tapping and touching my way into the 21st century.

But, I still believe, as the wise poet Emily Dickinson once wrote: “There is no frigate like a book. “

While in Winnipeg, I had the good fortune of spying a mother with her daughter in a bookstore. The little girl was six years old at most. She was a thoughtful child, listening intently as her mother described the plots of various books on the shelf. I could see from the mother’s face that several of the titles brought back happy memories for her, and it was with great affection that she took E. B. White’s Charlotte’s Web and showed it to her child.

The girl, ponytail high on her head, took the book and clutched it to her chest. They’d made this trip before, I could see — a special ritual for just the two of them. As they made their way to the counter, it was all the girl could do to let go of the book for those moments when the clerk had to ring it through.

“Mommy,” the girl asked, “can I carry it home?”

Her mother nodded and handed her the bag. The book sat heavy in the bottom, swaying like a pendulum of dreams.

There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of practicing poetry.

This traverse may the poorest take
Without oppress of toll;
How frugal is the chariot
That bears a human soul!

— Emily Dickinson