Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Read All About It

I love the smell of newspapers. The newsprint itself has such a distinct smell, kind of fresh, but muted, not a sharp fresh like air or grass. It's warm but not musty. The ink, too, adds a whole different layer of smell - dark and almost licorice-like, but with a bamboo flavor.

I walked into one of the practice rooms this morning and immediately smelled the newspaper. It was all the way across the room, sitting on the windowsill in the sun. The sun has a curious way of augmenting the smell of newspaper and deepening its warmth. The newspaper itself was similar to the Wall Street Journal, but with more color. But the paper size and font were about the same. It just made me think of home and Sunday mornings when the newspapers get spread out on almost every surface of the house: coffee table, dining table, kitchen chairs, bathroom floor, my parents' bed.

Maybe my parents are fighting a loosing battle, single-handedly trying to save the print newspaper buisness, but then again, these are the same people who brought me up to cherish the smell of old books, not just for their comfort and that nostalgic feeling that comes from old books, but for their possibilities.

So all the newspapers are scattered around the house, and they all have that particular intensified smell from the sun or even just from the morning bustle. There's colors and pictures and words. Glorious words! The beauty of the way the letters are formed with their lines and curves within their orderly phalanx of words and sentences. The history and familiarity they hold, that has just become a part of our knowing. I mean, it is so easy to identify a piece of newsprint even in a tornado of mixed media art. And that scrap of newsprint, by virtue of the fact that it is publishes, tells about the past and hints to us the distant past. The Golden Age of print and newspapers and news: Hollywood, World Wars, Depressions. The days when news was big and bold and black and white, instead of mimicking those days with fonts and layouts shining out from the blue glow of a television or a computer screen.

I realized this morning that I haven't picked up an Irish newspaper in the three months since I've been here. I got a free copy of "The Star" which is much like "US Weekly" only on newsprint. Leafed through that a couple of times. Considered making a collage with it. But other than that, I've had no connection with newspapers in all my time in Ireland. I haven't even gotten chips wrapped in it.

I guess what I'm trying to say, in a way too poetically convoluted manner is, I'm looking forward to going home in a week. I'm looking forward to the comforting smell of newspapers that is my home, my history and, in many ways, my family history and possibly my own future. I'm looking forward to returning to a place that is the past, has already been published. Of course my family and my home will continue to grow and change, but it is the nest of my childhood and will always be tied to my past in that way.
I've loved Ireland, but I'm not ready to settle down here, it's too fast and new to feel comfortably like a home. And therein lies the irony: we all come to Ireland to see a land tied intricately to its past, our past and our ancestors and especially its ancient traditions and lore. But we forget that parts of Ireland are every bit as modernized as any other country, and those that aren't, are getting there. I took a bus tour around the Burren in Western Ireland (Clare County) and although we passed through little villages with corner pubs, the roads were paved and the outlying houses were more like cookie-cutter tract housing than I'd ever have expected. I haven't found the Ireland that Yeats immortalized, poised on the boundary between our world and faerie. I don't know if you can. Maybe someday I'll finally make it up to Donegal, Sligo and Mayo, and we'll find out.

But for now, in the Ireland I know? You won't find men in tweed hats drinking pints of Guinness in the middle of the morning hidden behind an oversized newspaper. The men are there, certainly, and friendly as all get-out, but there are plasma-screen TVs in all the bars.


Greeley's Ghost said...

Here's hoping that print hangs on into a future in which your prose tumbles gracefully into its pages.

MoJito said...

Your dad is singing your praises on Twitter (as well as patting himself on the back, I'd think to say): http://twitter.com/bfuller9

No matter though, fabulous little story.