I was walking down the street thinking ‘I should do something other than leave a trail of gas emissions as I walk, but more than that, do something great, like what?’ So I think about writing a new book that probably won’t be a book at all but pages online instead. To write a great book! Then again, how many book covers have I read in shops carrying lofty claims to greatness yet they’re not famous books, they’re books loved by a few critics, that’s all! And the author no doubt still works in a full-time job, teaching, I imagine, not even literature, but science, biology, maths, history...perhaps thinking about his next book whilst his pupils are quiet, studying...yes, the next book...the last one didn’t sell very well despite all the reputable witnesses to its greatness, no matter...and so on...
Book titles on the middle shelf in front of me (from left to right):
It’s a Bitter Little World
French New Wave
J. G. Ballard Conversations
J. G. Ballard: Quotes
War And Peace In The Global Village
I Seem To Be A Verb
McLuhan Hot And Cool
The Book Of Bond
The Global Village
Image – Music – Text
The Human Province
Welcome To Mars
Bodies Of Work
This Is Not A Novel
I Walked With A Zombie
The Pocket Muse
Ernest Hemingway On Writing
Music And The Mind
The Hidden Persuaders
The Great Pulp Heroes
A Life In Pieces
The Magic Robot rests in his box. I should ask him some questions...such as: ‘Since I know I will never read all the books I own, shouldn’t I sell some of them? But what would be the criteria for choosing those to get rid of?’ Perhaps not sell, since the amount a bookshop pays is such a paltry sum...give them to the local community shop, which sells all paperbacks for 20p, where someone may one day find ‘The Monkees Annual’ and be over the moon.
Or ‘Does the presence of an unread book still add something to a room simply by being here? Or is that nonsense?’
Or ‘Who should I bequeath my book collection to before I die? Should I list those worth a fair bit of money so that LJ may benefit from them? Would she bother putting them on eBay anyway?’ The Magic Robot is clever, but not that clever.
Books do furnish a room, as I tell LJ often when she complains about the space they take up, and reminds me that I probably won’t read them all. Look at the multi-coloured spines sitting there! Now, as so many book-lovers must have done, I dream of a method (a machine?) by which they can be read as quickly as an album can be heard...
In 1894, Kenneth Grahame, of ‘Wind In The Willows’ fame, wrote:
‘In book-buying you not infrequently condone an extravagance by the reflection that this particular purchase will be a good investment, sordidly considered: that you are not squandering income but sinking capital. But you know all the time that you are lying.’
He could not have foreseen the advent of eBay, and the breed of bookseller who haunts second-hand shops for the very purpose of buying books only to sell them. Another kind of book-buyer, such as myself, deludes himself that because the book he buys is worth considerably more than the sum paid, he may well one day profit from its sale on eBay. This rarely happens in my case, partly because I cannot be bothered with doing what’s required, and in a recession, the chances of anyone spending a great deal on a book are greatly reduced. Perhaps now is a good time for buyers.
A book I once wrote is currently being offered at this price on Amazon. If that is not the definition of optimism on behalf of an online book-seller, I don’t know what is...