Turns offs? The sight of myself in the mirror.
Turns offs? The sight of myself in the mirror.
A few weeks ago I realised that I haven’t read a new books for months - months too long - and since then I can’t stop thinking about it. It’s just so bizarre and sad; books used to be such a huge part of my life because they offered me adventures and acquaintances that were far more exciting than what I had thusfar (and still now) experienced. I remember when I started secondary school I’d spend hours, long after all the other students had gone, in the library, soaking up the wonderful wisdom and wit.
Recently though, I’ve been beleaguered by a perpetual sense of guilt at having so carelessly cast aside what was once such a significant and enjoyable part of my childhood. In between the standard thoughts perceived to be too offensive or depressing to be said aloud, random memories of being curled up in a corner too absorbed to notice my aloneness, of books that I wanted to read, of words that I ought to use more often - ebullience, vestige, atrophy, apodyopsis, heliophilous, abibliophibia - have surfaced. I wonder if in the past few months I’ve been so pensive because my head has been filled with my own thoughts instead of those of others, those of authors who are better rehearsed at conveying, well, everything. It is their job after all.
Anyway, it’s such a shame because despite the respite that books have always offered, more and more people are now escaping elsewhere. In an increasingly electronic age where internet connected devices can deliver the same as books but with greater speed, efficiency, mobile flexibility and connectivity that those impatient and pushed for time desire, the page turners are cutting their fingers in an attempt to keep up.
But what even is the point in chasing and competing? Of course, in theory the above reasons would hand victory to the e-readers, but in practice many - myself included - are more successfully courted by the physicality of a book. Sure, it’s a few pieces of carefully bound paper with words printed onto it that tells the same story as could be done in many other forms (Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea in SONAR and any Discworld book with clacks?) but books give a quite unique pleasure in the delivery of their purpose.
When you pick one up and flick through the pages you see the potential in the short phrases that catch your eye, the journey that’s waiting to be gone on, and when you start reading, your fingers clutch at the corner of the page as you race to the bottom of it. Then, as you near the end of it all, you pause in amazement at how you’re holding in your hand a million words that have inspired emotions that you can’t yourself express, emotions that must’ve been felt by many before if Milton and Theroux’s belief that books are vehicles of consciousness is to be believed. I suppose that in a way that’s both consoling and saddening, to know that you’re not alone but not unique, and that you may never meet those like you… I think that that sense of history and familiarity is furthered in a more personal fashion by that slight stain from where you cried - or in my case, spilt tea, idiot - by the feather softness of the sides from the pages being worn by the frequency with which they were touched, and of course, by the notorious old book smell.
E-readers, for all their convenience, don’t really offer that comfort, which is why I’m disinclined to use them, and yet I’m not sure how much they should even be compared to my first choice. They’re quite different for what they do, even if the Apple Ebook readers insist upon imitating books in how their ‘pages’ are turned (drag the bottom right corner and it will curl upwards) and sound being done so. (This I take as an approbation of the satisfaction in that action.) As I’ve listed (albeit in a blatantly biased manner) above, the two have their respective merits but let’s be honest, it comes across as far more romantic and intellectual to have a Penguin Classic rather than a Kindle tucked into your blazer pocket. Although, if we’re going to be even more honest, to my disappointment people that do that tend only to exist in novels (often ones by Stephen Fry or Cassandra Clare) themselves. I’ve never met a Will Herondale equivalent in my life, sadly.
Having said, if you read at all then you’re probably better than the 98749 people on Facebook who’ve liked the page ‘I don’t read books’/ shame those who do by calling them ‘losers’ or ‘nerds’, as if being well read and well informed is a bad thing.
And newcomers wonder why tumblrians despise facebookers so strongly at times.
—Summertime Sadnesss (Hannes Fischer remix)
Summertime Sadness (Hannes Fischer Radio Edit) - Lana Del Ray
(if it’s not sunny where you are, close your eyes and pretend it is)
Look at the intricately painted faces of a picture
But don’t see the expressions.
Pass your eyes over the carefully considered words in a book
But don’t read the story.
Listen to the waking birds’ shrill singing.
But don’t hear the songs.
Play with the sparking and flickering - until fading - fire
But don’t feel the heat.
Think long and hard about any other matter you can keep on your mind
But don’t solve it.
Because it’s not honestly, happily possible to.
Oh, for you may chase the sun
But don’t expect to catch it
When you have shadows stepping on your shoe.
Francis Crick’s letter to his 12-year-old son Michael announcing the discovery of DNA’s double-helix structure 60 years ago this week. More at The New York Times.
Jim Watson and I have probably made a most important discovery. We have built a model for the structure of de-oxy-ribose-nucleic-acid (read it carefully) called D.N.A. You may remember that the genes of the chromosomes – which carry the hereditary factors – are made up of protein and D.N.A. Our structure is very beautiful…
Now we believe that the D.N.A. is a code. That is, the order of the bases (the letters) makes one gene different from another gene (just as one page of print is different from another)…
In other words we think we have found the basic copying mechanism by which life comes from life. You can understand that we are very excited. Read this carefully so that you understand it. When you come home we will show you the model.
Lots of love, Daddy.”
*Listen to this whilst reading: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E4povfmX144 Kodaline seems to know what I mean, and conveys it better than the terrible baking analogy you’re about to see, so maybe their music will distract you from how poorly expressed this rant is…*
I may be a realist, but I’m not exempt from occupying a dream world in my mind detached from the life I live. It’s an improvement upon reality in that I can succeed in things that I cannot achieve, conduct conversations beyond my intellect, have adventures worth writing about and be loved people who barely even recognise my existence. Reading that back it looks bloody pathetic but we all are in one way or another, it’s just a matter of letting it show.
And that’s one of the detrimental things about trying to make things better; in real life you don’t use comparatives like that so much, even when looking at someone else’s life you know it’s not quite the same because it’s someone else, but when you create something for yourself it feels almost as though it could be yours. Then, when you descend from your castle on a cloud, reality reveals itself to you in all its, well, realness, and you can’t help but feel like it’s so much worse than it was before you’d imagined anything else. Because once you think of something good, you want it, you’ll try (with varying levels of determination) and you’ll hope that you’ll succeed in attaining it. But - clichéd as it seems - is hope not the gate that opens onto the path leading towards disappointment?
I think so. I know that not everyone takes that path and in fact, when it comes to other people I try to remember the phrases ‘Do not deprive a man of hope, it may be the only thing he has’. But for myself, well, at times I think I’d rather not have anything at all. I wonder if it’s just an issue of my own or if other people do it too, but often I cannot separate between hope and expectation. Indeed, perhaps I meant to say that it is expectation that leads to disappointment, but does it really matter?
They’re both true and people say that the truth is inescapable. Even then I wait for the worst but am surprised to finally see it arrive, maybe because I can’t help but think that maybe, just maybe, it won’t. It won’t be so bad after all, maybe it’ll be good, perhaps the best yet. And when I say ‘it’, what I really mean is people, because they’re really what you expect the most from. As a conscious, sentient species you’d expect that we’d all at least try to deliver on promises, agree to mutual understandings and be as we let people expect us to be. But we don’t always. I don’t, my friends don’t, almost everyone I know goes ‘off course’ at times. It’s easier than staying on, as even though many people fear not living up to the expectations of others, that kind of fear is not enough motivation to meet the standards that have been set. Funny though, because everyone knows that any bar off the ground is destined to be knocked down at some point.
And when it does fall, don’t you feel surprised? Empty? And sad? And a bit stupid, because you knew all along that what has happened could happen. Do you berate yourself for being upset and ask, ‘God, what did you expect?’? I do. A friend once asked me what important lesson I’d learnt recently, and I said it was that you can never ask of others what others ask of you, and most certainly not what you ask of yourself.
But, dear reader, before I begin to sound too high-and-mighty, please realise that the title of this very long (sorry) post is self deprecating and, more importantly, I disappoint myself just as much as everyone else does. I’m just less affected by it because as much as it’s often difficult to differentiate between expectation and hoping, I know that whilst I hope that I’ll rise to the occasion, I also expect that I’ll turn out more like a stale-yeast bread.