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Tyronehster
 
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The Glory of Books

21 October 2012, 19:25

In the Walt Disney classic, ‘The Lion King’, Timon says to Pumba, ‘Books are for mooks.’

This, I’m afraid, is the prevailing sentiment. You get high-profile sportsmen like Herschelle Gibbs boasting that he’s never read a book. In the USA, the functional illiteracy rate amongst High School graduates is in the region of seventy percent. Seventy percent, in the nation that leads the world and sets the pace in almost every field of human endeavour?

This is, unfortunately, the MTV generation, the generation that demands instant gratification. How can a book possibly satisfy the ‘now’ generation? They might read a magazine, but then it’s something like Heat or People, never something like National Geographic or Popular Mechanics.

For me, just the smell of a second hand book shop sets my senses reeling. But then so does the smell of varnish on a brand new book. I haunt book sales: when Exclusive have their annual warehouse sale, we buy by the kilogram, and come away with the delight of every reader - unknown authors!

Whether fiction or non-fiction, it matters not a jot. It’s reading material, and it’s in the form of a book.

When we go to London, we are always underweight in our luggage; we travel light. But there’s more to it than that: Waterstones!

Waterstones may not be the best bookshop in the world, but I can’t think of any better. Six floor of books, books, glorious books! A few weeks ago, we came back with nine kilograms of books in our luggage, plus a book each for the flight.

Kindles and other e-book readers have their place, because the essential words are still getting through, but they don’t have the feel and smell and downright awkwardness of a book. Reading the hardcover edition of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ is a daunting business, just because of the sheer weight of the thing!

And the prose, oh the elegant, masterful prose that seems to elude the writer of magazine articles. Neil Gaiman, in ‘American Gods’, writing of the kind of day we’ve all experienced, where the sun might as well not be out:  ‘…a pewter coin in a leaden sky…’ or ‘…a flock of pigeons taking flight in Brownsian motion…’

Ed McBain, hardly to be classed as literature, opens one of his 87th Precinct novels with this passage:

‘She ran along the rain-soaked streets, her stiletto heels throwing up shards of broken water…’ All the panic of the scene without his ever having to use the word.

One of my personal favourites: it’s my own, but I still like it.

‘There’s a cynical little saying that proliferates on bumper stickers and the like: ‘Life’s a bitch, and then you die.’ And although I understand the sentiment, I disagree. Life is not a bitch, but a tease, and has a wonderful way of crooking a finger, lifting her skirts and showing you the merest glimpses of a delicious derrière, all the while giving coy, sidelong glances that further inflame and excite. She does just enough to titillate and beckons you to follow to untold and undreamed of delights and of course we scurry along after the wench, lust fully aroused, believing every little lying glance, and buying into the idea that life is fair and beautiful and wonderful to behold. And what does she do?

Turns around and kicks you in the goonies. Hard.

But we fall for it, every time. And aside from the cynics, who spend their lives, if they could fairly be called that, being paranoid and miserable and suspicious of everything, good or bad, life does catch us all, and yet we go back for more.

Why?

Because we think life is fair.

And it is anything but.

So no, life is not a bitch, but a tease, and like any good tease, keeps you on the edge of your seat with anticipation, and in spite of everything that’s gone before, keeps you going in the belief that something better and even more spectacular is on the way. I was certainly not immune to her charms, that was for sure.’

Now I’m not saying you can’t get this on a kindle; far from it! Kindles and e-books lack the magical musty quality of a second-had book shop, the stall at a flea market, or the crack of opening a book for the first time.

Maybe it’s age; my parents loved books and bought them frequently, even though we were members of the Public Library in Muizenberg, which was a pretty well-stocked library for such a small town. I took out three books a week and finished them all and, because your favourite author only writes so many books, you discover new authors.

So, when all is said and done; I’m a mook.

And proud to be one.

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