The book has been overtaken

When you get to my age, if you are a hoarder, you can become unpopular with the rest of the household, as they think they can see a day when they will be turfing all your rubbish into a skip. In consequence I have started to part with things that I have treasured, but that, to be honest, have really outlived their usefulness, because progress has made them redundant. The list is endless, those beautiful fountain pens that you received at Christmas, at great expense to the giver, that wrote elegant script; Groves concise dictionary of music, and practically all the rest of my books, except the Idiot’s Guides.

On the 29th of September, 2007, under Random Thoughts 40, which is still available, I wrote about the changing demands on the public library, and the way in which reading books has been severely overtaken by the Internet. I have probably about 600 hardback books, most of them non-fiction, which today are virtually worthless, not only because the information is out of date, but because one can find practically anything by a flick of a switch. As a child I read books that were for adults, and have been reading ever since, seeking knowledge, or just enjoying a level of English prose that to me anyway, is like music. When I was at school we had to read a large number of the classics, and miles of poetry, some of which was a total bore, but some, even to a boy, had beauty of thought and description. I write this because I wonder if the children of today, with their computers in school, their high-tech approaches, will ever have time to read what I read, or something of equally high-quality. The 60s changed a lot of the mores that we had lived by, and advances in the entertainment industry, at the same time, introduce a crudeness our parents would never have stood for.

I suppose one could say that I’m a Job’s comforter, a miserable killjoy, not moving with the times, but to my old eyes so much of the standards that we enjoyed have a been denigrated. British policeman rarely whacked the public, even at the times of those huge strikes. Young women in company were not heard to mouth foul language, whereas today it seems that this is the smart thing to do. We are so insular today, so high-tech, that we are divorced from the sort of association we had in the past. We used to buy across the counter, or from a stall, instead of serving ourselves, we went to church, our youngsters joined clubs, with the result that we not only rubbed shoulders with, but communicated with people mostly from every class and every walk of life. This was a university, where we learned communication skills, compassion, and respect for the other person. I hope that I am wrong in believing that the majority are leading not only an insular life, but to some extent a sterile one, bolstered by other people’s choice of what they see and hear, rather than broadening their outlook by their own choice. If this credit crunch has told us anything, it is that when the chips are down, not only our well-being, but our aesthetic is diminished. Cheap and cheerful seems to be the order of the day.

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