Tuesday, May 22, 2012

BC2012: Obsolete by Anna Jane Grossman

My wife was sick for a few days last week, so I read several books to her. This one, another Borders bankruptcy purchase, made us both feel old. Obsolete is "An Encyclopedia of Once-Common Things Passing Us By." Many entries are short and humorous, but some get a deeper examination. Grossman actually did research and interviews unlike some other authors in the "remember when..." sub-genre (not thinking of anyone in particular, but I've seen similar books that seem like the author just farted them out).

What is most amazing is how recently and completely many of these things have disappeared. Airport goodbyes vanished in the wake of 9/11 -- now a quick curbside peck is all we are allowed before security shoos us away. I can't remember the last time I heard anyone refer to shorthand, though it was a commonly taught secretarial skill when I was a kid (heck, even typing has transformed into keyboarding). And what about Rolodexes and boom boxes?

A book like this could be overly nostalgic -- "things were better back in my day" -- but Obsolete includes plenty of entries are not. I'm sure few people yearn for long appendectomy scars or tonsillectomies, no matter how much ice cream the latter merited.

We both enjoyed Obsolete, though it could have been a bit longer. It would make a great birthday gift for someone turning 40, 50, 60, etc. -- everyone would laugh when it was opened, but the recipient would enjoy reading it afterward (much more useful than, say, a walking cane with a horn and mirror).

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