Sunday, October 11, 2009


Nicholson Baker may not be the greatest novelist in the world. He’s certainly better than me. I’ve never bothered.

But by God his choice of reading is dreadful.

He wrote a piece recently in the Guardian about eBooks and that.

He didn’t go so far as to say that the complete digitization of all literature would be good or bad, he just described his experience of the new methods of reading novels. Digitally. If one felt so disposed. On a screen. A screen that only Amazon would sell you, and only Amazon would supply content for.

This screen would allow you to download any novel you fancied – so long as Amazon stocked it – anywhere you liked. Anywhere with a broadband connection. Or free wi-fi.

I’m not as widely read as Nicholson Baker (he seems rather fond of ‘thrillers’) but here’s some of my experiences of books:

1) A paperback copy of Life of Pi by Yann Martell. Bought in a charity shop for next to nothing. A fabulous book about belief, stories and faith. And not what you would think upon initial reading. The inside cover was written upon in biro-

‘Rose – get beyond the first hundred pages and it really picks up.’

I’ve no idea who Rose is. Or the (I assume) man was who gave it to her. But it was sensible advice. I don’t know why Rose then gave it away to a charity shop.

But I think of them, whoever they are.

I then lend it to somebody else. Because I like the book and I like the person I lend it to. Like the person who gave it to Rose. Although I’m guessing Rose wasn’t too fond of it.

2) An Encyclopia in my Grandfathers ‘study’. It was really his front room, but even then he didn’t set foot in it. Amazing to a ten-year old boy. All the knowledge in the world, in one massive tome. The pages smelt of wisdom and escape.

3) The works of A.A.Milne. Worn and battered by generations. Red hardback covers hanging off, spines barely clinging. Read to my mother, read by my mother to me, read by me to my younger brother and sister and one day hopefully to my own children. Old books, literally falling apart and smelling of love, however misplaced.

4) Bookshelves. I’ve been massively fortunate growing up for one reason. There were always books. I doubt my mother or indeed any of the illiterates she married ever read any of the books they populated the book-shelves they insisted upon, but at least they were there. And for every three Jackie Collins (deeply alarming to a thirteen-year-old-boy) there was at least one Angela Carter (slightly more alarming but for better reasons). There was some Thomas Hardy, Sylvia Plath and Raymond Chandler. At least they were there.

But now they’ve invented this ‘Thing’. Upon which you can see any book anytime, like the online catch-up service of the BBC or 4 on-demand or whatever it’s called this week.

Sony have a competitor model called the ‘Kill all emotion and meaning let’s just digitize it all MK2’ or something. KAEAMLJDIA#2 is the production name.

They’ll probably win. And the losers will be people like me, who quite like seeing the odd coffee-cup ring on the page of a well-loved book. Who like giving or lending or reading to someone a book that they adore.

And Nicholson Baker will no doubt get by.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

If It Weren’t For the Photographs I Would Deny It Forever.

I am making my way from my office to my bus stop. A female colleague rushes up to me. She has not uttered a word to me in three years. Something I have not lost sleep over.

Female Colleague: Tired! I just wanted to say you were brilliant on Friday night! Really convincing.

Me: You what?

Roughly forty-eight hours earlier.

I am standing in a beer cellar with Uncannily Similar, taking alternate large swigs from a pint of lager and very large vodka and tonic. He is gazing forlornly around us.

Uncannily Similar: This is a nightmare isn’t it?

Me: Mmm.

U.S: I mean. Surrounded by all this drink. And we can’t have any of it.

Me: [Adjusting my skirt] Not really what I thought you meant.

U.S: Oh. This? Yeah. Do you think I need some more lippy?

Me: I don’t ever want to hear you say that again. Be a man. How has this happened by the way?

Two years ago I had resolved to start doing things that were a little out of character as my default behavior hadn’t really worked out as well as it could have. These ‘things’ usually involved daredevil antics such as sitting on a different seat on the bus to work or eating feta cheese. But this is just silly.

U.S: [Glancing at my legs] You’d have looked better in the fishnets.

Me: [Irrationally insulted] You fucking what?

U.S: Well. The black-and-purple stripes aren’t doing you any favours. You look like Beetlejuice.

Me: Fuck off do I.

The door to the cellar opens a crack. We are due to emerge from this and then from behind the bar and behind the audience who will be expecting us to emerge from the stage in front of them. In terms of 'stealth' it would probably be the strangest Splinter Cell add-on pack ever downloaded.

Our Boss: Five minutes girls. You look fabulous.

She vanishes again.

Me: Anyway. Your tits are wonky.

U.S: Don’t tell me that now!

Hearing our ‘theme’ we dash onstage and make complete buffoons of ourselves in front of several hundred of our peers.

Fourty-eight hours later.

Me: What do you mean, convincing?

FC: Oh. Emm. Nothing. Just you were really good.

Me: Fucks sake.

FC: Really. It was just a funny panto. Loved your dance at the end. Did it take long to rehearse?

Me: I have to catch a bus.

Six hours earlier. I walk down a corridor past two gentlemen I do not recognize. Assuming they are past my earshot one of them turns to the other and says:

“You should have seen him on Friday night. FUCKING TERRIFYING.”
Go to newer posts