The first picture in my memory palace is from the baby book my sister and I found in our mother’s storage room. It’s a close-up of her, taken shortly after she gave birth to me in 1959. Her face is soft and demure in the cropped photograph, and a little startled. If you could see the entire picture, you would notice me on my mother’s lap looking up at her, smiling. What you can’t tell from the photo is that not long after it was taken, my mother tried to fly out of a second-story window.


I owe a debt of gratitude to Jonathan Franzen.

It was because of him that I met Mira Bartók, whose book The Memory Palacementioned in an essay about Franzen’s misguided attack on eBooks. In one of those twists of meta-synchronicity that makes me suspect I’m in an episode of Star Trek, Bartók read my essay, “tweeted” it, and I—having only joined Twitter a couple weeks earlier—saw it.


Jonathan Franzen, author and vaunted protector of the written word, has taken the side of paper in the paper-LCD wars. Fearing that no book will remain pristine when an author (or, god forbid, some authoritarian entity) can go back to edit it, and admiring traditional text-on-paper technology, he fears the e-future and the fading of traditional books.