Saturday 17th March 2012
NINE books on the go, which is more than usual but does include half a dozen for an event with youngsters in Shropshire next month. Also been chatting on the phone to the girls: about Michael Morpugo and Malorie Blackman – a grandchild’s current reading – and the poetry of Alice Oswald and Alexander Pope, being studied by my undergraduate daughter.
Meanwhile, it has been announced that the Encyclopaedia Britannica is no longer going be published in book form, becoming available only digitally. Makes sense, I suppose – tradition is the only obstacle to progress, they say – and yet… oh, I dunno… it doesn’t feel right, somehow.
Venerable. There’s a good word. Maybe that’s it.
Why do museums display old things? Do tourists visit Rome for the Basilica and Colloseum, or to admire the litter bins? We all look at a passing vintage car, but pay no heed to the white van; unless it’s causing an obstruction.
Ah, but that’s also to do with aesthetics and rarity: Niagara Falls are more eye-catching than the puddles on Pontefract Street; if every town centre had a Big Ben, the one in London would be largely ignored.
I’m going to add a photograph to the foot of this page; only done that once before.
It shows only a cross-section of the reference section: you can’t see the books arranged according to the colour of their spines, or the complete set of Encyclopaedia Britannica, inherited from my father. There is a sag in the shelf upon which they slouch. I hardly ever open them, but their presence is comforting, like a dressing-gown hung on a bathroom door.
Are people getting used to curling up with a Kindle? Will later generations describe a gripping novel as ‘a real screen-toucher’? Could libraries become just internet cafés?
Venerable is defined by the Oxford English Dictionary as ‘worthy of deep respect; deserving to be revered on account of noble qualities or associations’.
I know that because I’ve just looked it up. The awful confession I have to make is that I did so online.