Bookblog 23rd September, 2010.
This matter has been puzzling me for a while and however I try to phrase it in Google, I can’t seem to get any satisfactory answers to my queries about which nations read the most books and which other nations are not really bookish peoples. I have recently read Alan Bennett’s splendid short novel, The Uncommon Reader, about the Queen becoming a bookworm and in one part, when she’s about to go off to Canada for a Royal tour, one of the characters in the book has expressed the belief that Canadians are not a bookish people. Personally, I think the author has done the Canadians a disservice there. I have several very good Canadian friends on Facebook who are avid bookworms and I had the joy of visiting some very large bookshops when I was in Canada myself last October! There is an especially massive one in Toronto.
Britain is definitely a bookworm nation, as is Iceland. But sometimes, when I’ve been on my travels, I have had the impression that some countries are not really into reading books. I’ve never really noticed many bookshops when I’ve been in Spain. Where are your bookshops, Spain? Where do you hide them?! I was thinking it was something to do with the weather and that people in hot countries have less need of books than those of us whose weather can be on the cold side, but Italy has good weather and I still found a nice bookshop in Cattolica two years ago! Anyway, surely the good weather gives bookworms a chance to sit outside and read in more clement climates than the UK and Iceland?! I read outside on the odd occasion that we have the weather for it, and frequently read while reclining on a sun lounger by the pool when I’m on my holidays!
Can’t Read? Won’t Read?
I find it very hard to understand people who don’t read books. Why don’t they read books, these people that don’t read them? Sometimes I pity them, feel they’re missing something in their lives. But I certainly don’t “get” them if they don’t read. I can excuse those who would read but whose jobs and hectic lives don’t give them much chance, especially if I know very well that they were a hardcore bookworm before circumstances dictated that they didn’t have time to curl up with a good book anymore. However, I really can’t understand people who don’t read. I recall being on a course once at work, in my previous job, and I was in my late 20s back then. I’d got a drink during a break but having returned to the conference room before the meeting resumed, I got out a book that I was reading at the time, and got on with enjoying it, but I got the sense that one of my colleagues, a young lad in his early 20s seemed to think it odd that I could just sit there and take great pleasure from just reading a book. To me, it was just the most natural thing to do and has been since I first learned to read, so I found him rather odd and must admit that from that moment on, he went down in my estimation, further than he’d already gone for being a lazy so-and-so and not pulling his weight in the office!
I think I also feel a kind of anger and disgust towards people who can read but don’t bother doing so. It’s a bit like getting annoyed at people who waste food because there’s starving people in Ethiopia (or wherever it is these days, but it was there when I was a kid). There are people in this world of ours who would jump at the chance of an education and the opportunity to learn to read and thus be able to enjoy a good book or two themselves. There are plenty of people out there who would be bookworms if life had dealt them a better hand than the poor and illiterate hand it gave them! Therefore, it is appalling to me to deal with the Can Read But Won’t Reads! Similarly, I also despise those who arse about at school and disrupt lessons for everybody else. I have often felt I would love to pack them off to some third-world country in a permanent swap deal, in exchange for some children of similar age who would appreciate receiving an education and would make the most of it and take pleasure in learning!
All In The Worst Possible Taste?
Plus, books are far better than the alternatives out there. Alright, the internet’s not bad and can be informative if you look on the right websites, so you can learn a lot from that. Television though, especially these days, is mostly full of rubbish. I’m lucky. I had my childhood in the 1980s when we had far fewer channels but much better programmes on them! (I absolutely loved reading All In The Best Possible Taste by Tom Bromley recently!) And we didn’t have all this reality tv drivel inflicted on us. Ok, there were the occasional talent shows on tv when I was younger, but not to saturation point at the exclusion of nearly all other types of programming, as they seem to be now! People who wanted to sing or act went to auditions, as they do now, but only people in those circles knew anything about these shows until someone had won one and was appearing in the latest Lloyd Webber musical or whatever! Those whom the judges felt didn’t have what was required were told the bad news without having to suffer the humiliation of the entire country knowing about it! And those of us who weren’t even interested in the said auditions or talent contests could get on with our lives without having to hear about news we’re not interested in via tweets and “news”papers which are more bothered about gossip than about genuine news!
Infamy! Infamy! (They’ve all got it infamy!)
As far as I’m concerned, you shouldn’t want fame. Certainly not at the cost of your self-respect and dignity like those idiots who go on X Factor or, worse still, Big Brother. I am so happy that they finally pulled the plug on that appalling freakshow which did nothing but make minor celebs out of complete idiots who merely attained a state of infamy by making a complete tit of themselves on national television. Call me old-fashioned (I am and I don’t care who knows it), but proper celebrities are people who are famous for doing something worthwhile, for having some talent worthy of attention. Being good at something, such as music, writing books, acting or being a successful sportsperson. They are not people who became infamous for proving to the nation, via Big Brother, that they’re some ignorant, illiterate, obnoxious racist chav!
When it comes to fame and fortune, I wouldn’t say no to the fortune as I could do with the extra money, as many of us could! However, I’d happily pass on the fame. I would only accept being famous if it’s for a positive reason and, even then, I know I’d still find it rather hard to deal with! I think this may be one of the reasons that I’ve never understood existentialism. Existentialists, correct me if I’m wrong here, have this notion that they have to perform some act in order to prove they exist. And this act is usually something pretty negative. Killing someone, for instance. At least, that’s the idea I got when I had to study a Jean-Paul Sartre play (Les Mains Sales) for my hellish A Level French course at college! It wasn’t just the language that was the issue here. In fact the language was irrelevant really. It was the concept I couldn’t understand, and I still don’t see why anyone would want to be like that. I guess Existentialists will just have to go down on my list of The Kinds Of People I Will Probably Never Understand, along with people who vote for right-wing parties, people who don’t read books, people who believe everything they read in tabloid “news”papers and people who are dumb enough to admire the likes of Jade Goody!
Books mentioned in this blog:
The Uncommon Reader – Alan Bennett
All In The Best Possible Taste – Tom Bromley
Les Mains Sales – Jean-Paul Sartre