Loaves of paper leaves
So how many books have you actually read?
Well, in length, I’ve probably read about twenty-four feet of books I think. Because when I read a book, I put it on a particular set of shelves, and as I grow older I like to be able to look and think I’ve read that length of books. I’m not interested in reading long books like, say, Ulysses, or.. War and Peace…
But they’re thick books, they’re thick books not long books..
They’re thick, yeah. I try and read as many short books as possible. Because then I can go ‘I’ve read a thousand books’, whereas if I’d read a lot of long books it would be less books. Really, it’s about you want someone to walk in through the flat and go ‘oh have you read all those books?’ and you go ‘yeah, I have.’ I mean, ideally, you’d have a really short, fat, but long book. You’d put one sentence on a page and the books would be *that* long.
It took me twenty-two years to enjoy reading. I had always liked the idea of reading, much akin to how a lot of people fall in love more with the idea of being in love than actually being in love per se. But that’s another topic entirely, an endless coffin of worms. Loaves of paper leaves had always more intrigued rather than innately drawn me. For example, I don’t think I had ever picked up a book and genuinely thought ‘well, I’d much rather fondle this fancy inked-up tree pulp than find those last few heart containers in Ocarina of Time or pick up a Harrier Jump-Jet and dogfight over the expansive terrains of San Andreas‘. It just always seemed there were better things to do. And to this day I honestly still don’t find the concept of reading a book that exciting. It’s not something I’m always particularly eager to do.
I have to encourage myself to read and, to be honest, I don’t even make time for it, rather it just kind of fits into the seams of my day-to-day idling: twenty minutes on a bench before work having turned up too early, half an hour on the bus or during my lunch with drum and bass in-ear and a beef-salad sandwich in-hand, anywhere between ten and forty minutes waiting for aforementioned bus; it just fits where it can. I envy those who can sit down and read a book cover to cover. I think the quickest I’ve ever read a book was Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go in two separate sittings over two days. Normally three to even six weeks is my standard. The shit you could learn just by having the ability to sit and read consistently is pretty incredible if you think about it.
Even with the sporadic nature with which I get through books, reading has taught me more than I could ever possibly locate or acknowledge. Whilst I listen to a lot of audio lectures to keep the rust away and have listened to audio books before, the simple fact (albeit blatant) that you are missing interaction with the written word is ‘in itself’ the core of what it lacks and can never achieve. Reading teaches you not only content but structure, form, syntax, spelling, grammar and all the other shitty little bits that you couldn’t even explain (unless you specifically learnt grammar, although I’m willing to bet the subject has been absent from any comprehensive-school curriculum in the past twenty years) but just happens when you come to articulate yourself and when you actually have, or choose, to sit down and write something.
Further to this, reading teaches style. This is where I will make my point of departure from what I consider ‘shit’ books and ‘decent’ books. Why is Harry Potter shit? Because it has no writing style. Why are Dan Brown’s novel’s shit? Because he’s a literature celebrity, and he has no writing style. Now I will be the first to admit that I don’t read or write enough to go around slating people who are accomplished authors, but I sure as hell know the difference between when a writer subtly plays upon my understandings of ‘truth’, desires, ideas and emotions by the journey of their words alone, and then someone attempting to dazzle me with tin-foil and an over-endorsed pulp of popular culture hype. Seriously who the fuck waits outside of a shop for pallets of books to be delivered??
“Get yer books! Pile up the books! Get a multi-pack of books! Why not take an extra home and put it in the freezer!”
Reading is not meant to be that cool. I think decent literature should be the antithesis of popular culture. It should not be popular. It should not fit in. And this is for the simple fact (and after writing aimlessly for the past half hour I think I have actually thought of a simple, yet prominent, point) the simple fact which is that literature should challenge you. And I don’t mean challenging in that it should be ‘hard’ to read with lofty and inaccessible passages and intellectual jargon, but that it should, at the very least, challenge your ideas, beliefs and morals or teach you something about yourself, the world in which you live and your relationship to it and others around you. If you finish reading a book and you haven’t learnt something reflexively subjective or analytically objective, then I genuinely believe you have wasted your time and you might as well have read the Metro or the back of a cereal packet. You might as well have masturbated, cut the bullshit and gone to straight to the base of human carnal pleasure.
The whole idea of popular culture is that it does not challenge you – is not supposed to challenge you – and by this very definition it becomes accessible and generic. Essentially, the easiest option. It’s not as if you even have to try and look for popular culture – you’re swimming in the shit whether you like it or not. This applies to all elements of popular culture including its fashion, music, food, political interests, love, hate, discrimination, tolerance, ideals, ethics, morality – the list is as long as all the significant elements which culminate our social selves, that self we choose to present to the world and our peers on the social stage. These are the ideas which we reflect, refract and ultimately re-produce. These elements can be dangerous. These elements are our responsibility.
I’m going to finish this now because it was supposed to be a quick three or four hundred word post and now I’ve just killed the 1000 mark, which basically means that no one is reading this right now. I wouldn’t be reading this right now. It seems no one ever needs to read this far any more. And this is the problem with blogging – just a heap of underdeveloped ideas. If no one wants to read past 200 words, then the internet is no place for literature. And if you think I’m being a pretentious fuck for talking about literature as if I know what it’s about, just know that I am the first to admit I am nowhere near educated enough to make any profound statement on literature and yet I’m still confident enough to make the statement anyway. It doesn’t take much to develop a valid opinion. How about next time when you get home from work leave the laptop and telly off and pick up a few loaves of paper leaves.