Enter the Kendalls

 

Let us speak the truth or be forever damned:
There are those among us who will never be able to read entire novels from a glowing screen.
If you own a Sony Reader or a Kindle, and you are able to use this amazing device to read hundreds of pages while its soft blue glow exhales into your eyes, well, big ups. I’m very glad for you. In all honesty I can only imagine the convenience of being able to go on vacation without having to shlep along a half-dozen mass market paperbacks (or worse, hardcovers the size of James Ellroy’s Blood’s a Rover or Stephen King’s forthcoming Under the Dome) weighing down your luggage. Particularly now, when airline penalize us for every additional ounce, having a slender and personable slab of technology that can potentially conjure up the spirits of millions of titles is a wonderful thing.
I, however, cannot fully enjoy prose that way.
Rest assured, my problems are not the ethereal, abstract musings of the pseudo Luddite. I can rhapsodize as much as the next fellow about the physical pleasures of the book, the smell of the paper, etc, but I would happily trade these sensory motifs for the convenience of portability. At least when I’m traveling.
The sad fact is, that I spend so much time looking at a screen while I’m filling it with words, that the act of reading and fully savoring other people’s prose from that same screen feels strangely unsanitary.
So, especially for the purposes of travel, I propose this alternative.
Not the Kindle, but the Kendalls.
In brief, the Kendalls would be a large and motley assortment of diversely talented individuals, much like the itinerant families from the golden age of vaudeville. Handsome men and beautiful women, talented kids, even a poodle or two, complete with steamer trunks of costumes, props and makeup.
For a nominal fee they would travel with you, always discreetly in the background, acting out the book of your choice. No matter what else you were doing–attending a business conference, going on a book tour, spending a week at Disneyworld–you would always have the peripheral option of looking up and catching the latest chapter of Black Wings Has My Angel or As I Lay Dying, re-enacted for your pleasure. And like the actual Kindle, you would always have the option of commanding a pause in the action, scrolling it back, or jettisoning the thing entirely for some totally new narrative.
Of course, in this age of miracles, there will always be naysayers who will speak up against the practicality of such an idea. To them, I say this: Dream bigger. The world is full of unemployed actors in search of quality material. And like the military, a tour of duty with the Kendalls offers the possibility of exciting travel and new experiences.
As an additional show of good faith, I have already contacted my Publishers to authorize several of my earlier, less successful novels up for re-interpretation by the Kendalls, including Hector and the Bird-Head Man, Ghost Mules and my celebrated spiritual memoir Drink Puke Sleep.
For those who find themselves guiltily reading over the shoulder of the passenger next to him, the Kendall provides the perfect, guilt-free diversion. Imagine sipping a cup of complimentary coffee in the Wichita Radisson while a man with a knife in his back staggers across the lobby. As you stand back enjoying the free entertainment, you’ll wonder, is that fellow actually bleeding to death, or is he acting out some lucky bastard’s version of Charlie Houston’s Six Bad Things?
The possibilities, as they say, are endless.
Of course, if you wish to keep getting your entertainment off a little glowing screen, that will always be your choice. The future of entertainment belongs to the bold. For every intrepid pioneer, there will always be those who never leave the farm.
I, however, look to the horizon, where my hearty comrades await.
Can you see them?
I can.
They are Kendalls.