Saturday, 9 October 2010

High Culture/Low Culture Part One: The Book Worm

The subject for my next post sprung into my mind from several conversations we’ve had at work recently about how I don’t have a TV in my flat. Yes, that’s right. But what does all my furniture point at? (I don’t have room for furniture.) But, doesn’t you flat look empty?! (Never. I have too much crap for it to look empty regardless of a lack of TV.) But…but…What do you do all day?! (When I’m not at work? I watch endless box sets on my computer. And I read books.)

Back to my lack of TV later, this is an ongoing post. What I want to talk about first is books, a fading hobby in my generation. It reminds me of a line out of Sex and the City (a staple programme in my box set viewing, it’s lame I know) when someone questions at Carrie’s book launch; ‘Does anybody read books anymore?’

I know so many people my age or in their twenties that haven’t read a single book since school, and even back then they didn’t read a whole one. Truth be told I was never such a book advocate until second year of Uni, even though I had picked to do English back in sixth form. I liked the idea of books I think, but was thoroughly lazy and felt like it took up too much time when you could just watch a film in two hours.

But that’s the thing surely, people just feel like they don’t have the time. People who say they don’t have time to read are idiots. You don’t have time to read but you have time to watch TV for hours on end in the evenings? Even someone who works 24/7 can afford to slip in a chapter every morning on the train or on a lunch break. I think our modern culture’s conception of time and how vital it is can often ruin something like just simply kicking back and reading a book; enjoying something over an extended period of time instead of getting it over and done with as soon as possible.

Of course one could argue you could relax by watching the tele. For me, reading just seems like a much more private activity, something that is going on in my head, with my imagination. I’m putting my picture of the scenario into place and making my own reflections upon it. Perhaps that stems from my enjoyment of being hermit sometimes and revelling in my own company, but so what? That’s the joy of reading I say.

Some people call me a ponse for thinking this kind of thing. I don’t think that I’m better than other people because I read more, and believe me, I still enjoy switching my mind off to watch things I’ve seen a million times before just because it’s easy. I just think it’s a shame that an activity enjoyed by almost the entire world over for thousands of years seems to be dwindling and if supporting reading makes me a ponse to try and encourage it, then so be it.

But in a way, perhaps reading isn’t fading as much as you would first think. It’s still something fundamental that we are taught at school. Simply reading something off a bit of paper or a blackboard is how we learn from primary school age after all. I also don’t know many kids who don’t enjoy having stories read to them at bedtime. It just scares me that with more and more media and technology being provided and introduced into schools, the idea that you’d learn from a book could die out one day. If it’s something you’re not brought up with at school, why would you then go on to read in your adult life?

One of the greatest things I like about reading is the idea that you can carry a book anywhere with you. I don’t know what I would do on trains if I didn’t have a book, and perhaps my iPod.  Once you’ve finished, you can then turn to someone else and say ‘I’ve just read this amazing book, you have to read it’, and give them the exact copy you yourself have enjoyed. Yeah you can do that with a DVD but it’s not quite the same as knowing that you’ve turned each and every page like the person before you. I also love the way that you can have completely different perceptions of what the characters or settings look like even though you have read exactly the same words.

People, keep reading or start reading. Even if it just means I can continue to enjoy, for a very long time, the new books smell I get whenever I walk into Waterstones. 

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