June 5, 2014 by libroshombre
Michel Montaigne, the 16th century originator of the personal essay, is noted for his clear and levelheaded observations on life. In considering “forgetfulness,” he wrote “Nothing fixes a thing so intensely in the memory as the wish to forget it.” That’s how I feel about recalling playing football in Texas in the brutal olden times. Not all those memories are bad; like the joyful bus ride back to Abilene after defeating the Hamlin Pied Pipers.
Decades later I learned that the original Pied Piper liberated the rats and children of Hamelin, Germany, notHamlin. The Germans spell their community Hameln, and the Grimm brothers’ called it that in their version of the fairy tale, but the English preferred Hamelin, and Robert Browning used that in his poetic famous re-telling. The Texas town was named after a railroad executive, and the school mascot was whimsically adopted later.
The tale’s based in history. A stained glass window in the Church of Hamelin dating from 1300 commemorated the piper luring away the children but was destroyed in 1660. However, the Hameln town records from 1384 state “It is 200 years since our children left.” Some believe the children died in a plague and the piper represents death, others suggest they went on crusade. Wikipedia says, “It has also been suggested that one reason the emigration of the children was never documented was that the children were sold to a recruiter from the Baltic region of Eastern Europe, a practice that was not uncommon at the time. In her essay “Pied Piper Revisited,” Sheila Harty states that surnames from the region settled are similar to those from Hamelin.”
“Pie” originates with the black-and-white magpie bird, which was also known as simply “pie.” “Pied” means “two colors,” usually black and white. A black-and-white horse is called “piebald,” but brown-and-white horses are “skewbald.” The folk tune “Old Stewball was a racehorse” is about an English racehorse foaled in 1741 called “Skuball” that won spectacularly.
Traditionally, a pied piper is “someone charming who leads his followers to misfortune,” like the sales tactics used by Amazon, the pied piper of pricing policies for e-books. Amazon’s played hardball with publishers and privately owned bookstores, repeatedly and with gusto. Moreover, most owners of Kindle e-books don’t realize that they can’t bequeath their collection since they don’t actually own copies of books; they only own the right to look at Amazon’s copy.
Don’t get me started on the rampant typos in e-books due to inadequate proofreading. Optical character recognition (OCR) software is used to convert the letters on printed pages into the ones and zeros computers utilize. All too often OCR reads an “i” as “j,” drops spaces between words, or garbles words and sentences. A recent TheGuardian.com article by Alison Flood describes a new “technical problem” wherein OCR software reads printed type incorrectly. In particular, the word “arms” keeps getting translated as “anus,” with the hilarious results you’d expect. For instance, the print version of Georgia Bragg’s children’s book, “Matisse on the Loose,” reads “When she spotted me, she flung her arms high in the air.” The e-book version doesn’t.
Nonetheless, e-readers are great for traveling, and I own two. Why the second one? My first is a Nook, which works like Amazon when it comes to me not actually owning copies of the e-books. I bought a Kobo from Gulliver’s Books after talking to store owners Bryan and Christy Wiskeman. They told me that by registering my Kobo through the Gulliver’s website, their store gets a percentage of every Kobo e-book I buy, so I’m supporting my local independent bookstore. Best of all, though: I actually own the books.
Kobo staff were clear: “When you purchase from Kobo, you receive a copy of the author’s published work. That copy is yours, and it is placed in your library and tied to your account. So in that respect Kobo and Amazon are not the same.” One day my heirs will have the use of my Kobo library. Like Kevin Arnold’s description of memory, it’s “a way of holding on to the things you love, the things you are, the things you never want to lose.”