Sometimes you read something pithy, an aphorism or a maxim and it sticks in your mind. Other times you come across a piece of wisdom that absolutely nails you and forces you to nod your head in agreement and exhale a resigned breath in admission that you will never ever come up with something so good yourself.
I was editing an article today and one of the quotes from a graduation speech went thus:
“Cultures are remembered for their artists and their warriors, not for their business efficiency. You are the special group – the artists.”
It was attributed to Robert Cohan, the influential modern dance innovator (admittedly not a field that I know much about).
A quick Google failed to find another origin for the quotation, so I assume it’s a straight-up piece of original sagacity, but it really struck home in light of the austere and philistine times in which we live.
It’s a comfort to be reminded though that no one is going to remember the bean-counters, but art will live on despite the efforts of some to base every cultural decision on the bottom line.
Among the laziest of journalistic tropes, is that of insisting – about this time every year – on giving us lists of what to read on holiday. Newspapers and websites are full of these marketing opportunities, thinly disguised as literary suggestions. But does anyone actually walk into a bookshop, or browse an online retailer, with the specific idea of the correct types of books for the beach?
It’s irritating turning to the books or culture section of a paper only to find this vapid nonsense repeated everywhere. If you must have a book for the beach, surely the only considerations are that it should be sand-resistant, have pages with a water-proof coating, a cover that doesn’t fade in the sun, and a little drinks holder attached the the side (which could fold back into a bookmark).
Own anything like that? Thought not.
Take with you whatever the fuck you want and don’t let the marketers tell you what you should be seen to be reading on your sun lounger.
Personally, I’ll be taking with me whatever the top two books on my unread pile happen to be.
It’s hard enough as a parent getting your kids into the habit of reading, but despite my best efforts, I found out the other day that the younger of my sons still hasn’t finished reading my own novel. Apparently he started it – as shown by the bookmark wedged two-thirds of the way through the pages – but it just wasn’t interesting enough for him to make the final sprint to the finish.
I thought I held the greatest reading ace up my sleeve: ‘What, you can’t find anything to read son? Here, Daddy wrote this for you!’ But I was deluding myself. Oh, I’ve made some headway with getting him to read graphic novels (hoping these would up his desired word count to something more substantial), but it’s not worked so far.
He’s fourteen and will be starting to study for his GCSEs next year and I can’t think of a better way for him to prepare than to glut himself on books. Competition is stuff and remorseless though, in the form of Xbox, iPad and football.
But there is one small light on the horizon. He picked up my copy of Lovecraft’s Necronomicon the other day and asked if he could read it. I think it was the faux leather cover and faux gilt mystical symbols that piqued his interest, but I’ll take whatever I can get. If the Elder Gods can succeed where I’ve failed, then so be it. I’ve ordered him his own copy.
Read-along with Cthulhu anyone?