Tuesday, December 04, 2012


When I was in graduate school studying theology back in the 1990s, I wrote a number of papers on the spirituality of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. This was back in the day when we actually had to go to these things called “libraries” and borrow items called “books” and research them for useful information. 

I imagine graduate students these days probably tweet theological treatises, download it, and boom, there’s their term paper. 

Anyway, one of the most inspiring books I came across about St. Thérèse was titled, The Hidden Face by Ida Görres. It had been translated from German many years ago and only a small number of copies were published in English. It was beautifully written, told the real story of this saintly nun (not the usual saccharin-laced stuff mostly written about her) but it was still a very inspiring work. 

It had long been out of print when I tried to obtain a copy about ten years ago. There were some copies out there in rare book stores selling for two or three hundred dollars; a sum I didn’t want to shell out, St. Thérèse notwithstanding. 

Finally, I found a copy advertised online selling for about thirty bucks from a tiny book shop  in rural Maine. I called the shop and the owner told me that someone else had called to buy it; however they hadn’t followed through with the cash. Would I give them another 24 hours? If they hadn’t come through, it would be mine.

She called me the next day to give me the good news. I finally got my hands on this rare treasure of a book. 

The thing is, the owner of this book shop, Wendy, and I became friends through this transaction. I had sent her a nice thank-you note, she wrote back, and we became pen-pals. It was all very much like the movie, 84 Charing Cross Road, starring Anne Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins back in 1987. 

That was ten years ago. I still have my lovely book, and Wendy and I have enjoyed our Ann-Bancroft-Anthony-Hopkins relationship for many years. (I sent her a DVD of that movie and we had a really good laugh over that.)

Anyway, I was searching on Amazon last year and noticed that this book had been re-published and was now available in paperback. (You can order it here). I sent a copy to my niece as a gift. 

Here’s the really strange part. While riding the bus to work yesterday, I noticed that this book is now available in a Kindle version. Within a few seconds, I was reading it on my smart phone while riding the bus to work. 

That’s how much technology has advanced in just ten years. 

But at what cost? 

No longer can we thoughtfully buy a book as a gift, wrap it, and ship it to someone special.

And longtime friendships that serendipitously occur between a bookshop owner in Maine and a guy in Chicago will never be caused by Kindle. 

Unable to compete with Amazon, Wendy sold her quaint little bookshop and moved to Boston several years ago.

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