I had a thorough clean out in my apartment after christmas to make room for all the newly acquired shit that I have to accommodate. Amongst the boxes I took to my local Salvation Army was a box of books, mostly cookery, some kids and a few novels. I was told by the surly volunteer at the door that "we don't take books". "Why not?" I ventured bravely (she was very surly and I ran the risk of having my face smashed in). "Because they don't sell". I told her plainly that this was the SADDEST thing I had ever heard. Ever.
What the hell is happening here? Virgin Megastore in Times Square has closed down. Nobody buys CDs anymore. Everything is downloaded, its all a bloody MP3 now. That's sad. No more albums. No more album art. No more checking lyrics in the sleeve. Is he saying Oranges are the finest fruit? Oh, aren't you just fine without me. See! How can you check that stuff without an album sleeve? It's not the death of music, its the death of CDs.
I cannot fathom the demise of books, but I can almost feel it in my water. Amazon Kindle is making a push and when I tried to get Cider with Rosie from the New York Public Library I was told that I could download it! What? I don't want to download it. I want to feel a book in my hand, I want to smell the pages, I want to turn the pages. I want to READ A BOOK!
Reading is vital for all of us. This is not a socio-economic thing I'm talking about. It isn't just rich people who should read. It's everybody. Even people who buy second hand books at the Salvation Army. In fact, I'm pissed at the Salvation Army. Given our current economic climate, its unsurprising that book sales in this country are down a whopping 20% according the the American Association of Publishers. We need second hand books. We need the library. We need as many sources as possible so that people can KEEP READING. A country spiralling out of fiscal control is no excuse.
C.S. Lewis so rightly said "We read to know we are not alone". Will we, as a race, just implode as we become more and more isolated from one another? I feel like reading has become this nice little hobby that only certain types of people can do. When Sarah Palin was asked what she read she couldn't answer. And for a lot of people this was ok. "Hey, we're not looking for a bookworm, we just want to make sure that nobody can ever have an abortion". It's totally shocking and unacceptable to me. I dislike Sarah Palin for so many reasons, but mostly because she represents this growing faction that bemoans "intellectual left wingers" like they're the enemy. For the last eight years we've had a president who is such a dimwit he's had to make words up to fill in the blanks where an actual word might go, had he known which one was available to him. I wonder, what was the last book he read? As Christopher Hitchens pointed out, we should be very suspicious of anybody who is so utterly and openly contemptuous of the educated and the cultured, and whose only visit to the library each year is to weed out books that are deemed "against God"or that propagate "ungodly" behavior.
Obviously I'm upset that books aren't selling at my local charity shop, or anywhere else for that matter. So I want to impart that books are the most wonderful things and that many of them have changed me and my life always for the better. As my daughter starts her new book club, a new circle of book lovers is born. Keep reading. "You don't put your life into books. You find it there."*
* Alan Bennet: The Uncommon Reader