Back in late ’84, in my first term as a student, my dad sent me £10. That was quite a sum then (I am sounding like ‘Grandpa Joe’). I wanted to spend it on something: not just add it to general ‘spends’. Actually, as a student I was frugal and probably spent more on tea than booze.
So I thought and thought and then realised that what I really wanted was a copy of ‘Lord of the Rings’. Someone at VIth form used to affectionately call me ‘Gollum’ and I used to like ProgRock: which would be nowhere without mythical beasts, LOTR references and absence of real, human emotions. So, I was curious.
The thing is, I did not just want any old copy, but three books; in a slipcase. This was ‘living’ to me: I could be a proper adult. I have read these three books in their entirety several times since then, the last time only a few weeks ago. Although I care for books (don’t get me started on people who break book spines straight away), after 30 years they are battered. More so, since my 10 year old son in a bid to feed his ‘Lord of the Rings’, ‘Hobbit’ obsession, borrowed one. He does not care for keeping books in pristine condition.
When I got married, it was almost the only ‘serious’ novel I had ever read, apart from those school had compelled me to read. Even now, I open the books from time to time and smell them (this is strange: I am not sure that anyone else does this...) and am still reminded ‘A la recherche du temps perdu’ (possibly the first Proust reference I have used in mixed company) of what that time felt like.
The thing is, I could easily replace them, lulled into a false sense of consumer need by advertising. Maybe I could get a Folio copy or something more pristine with quality, matt white pages? I could display them on a coffee table to display my good taste and innate, understated, quality.
Lent is a time to resist lies like that: display your battered, uncoordinated books and use them for what they are meant for- reading, not aspirational lifestyle accessories.