On Paper Books and Margolottes

by Barbara Westwood Diehl

I took a short break from getting the summer online issue ready for the August 1 launch to dust and sort books. Many have been on the shelf since we moved into the house twenty-some years ago. (We haven’t painted the living room in a very long time.) Some of these books I’ll keep, some will likely go to the Book Thing here in Baltimore, some that are falling apart will have to be recycled. Some of these books are showing their age, but I’ll keep them anyway, like my 1913 edition of L. Frank Baum’s “The Patchwork Girl of Oz.” This is a sturdy, hardback book. The cloth has come away from the spine, but it’s still in pretty good shape for being 100 years old.

And what wonderful words from the Patchwork Girl in Chapter 5: “Horrid?” she replied. “Why I’m thoroughly delightful. I’m an Original, if you please, and therefore incomparable. Of all the comic, absurd, rare and amusing creatures the world contains, I must be the supreme freak. Who but poor Margolotte could have managed to invent such an unreasonable being as I? But I’m glad—I’m awfully glad!—that I’m just what I am, and nothing else.”

Here we are, writers—Margolottes—creating our Originals.

As much as I love technology and online journals, especially how they disseminate great writing throughout the world, I love books more. My son asked me why I go to the trouble of putting together an annual print compilation when all the work is available online. I spouted off a number of reasons, but mostly, I want to give contributors and their readers a book to put on their shelves. Maybe the fat paperback won’t last 100 years like my Patchwork Girl of Oz, but it may last longer than the technology that shelves it now. We’ll see.