Wednesday 6 September 2017

Books for the people

I've given up I'm trying to give up my dependence on electronic media, especially video.  There is, I recognise, an irony here in that I generate about 15kbytes of Blobocopy every day which has to be stored on a server-farm next to a hydro-electric plant in rural Finland. In my restless ongoing quest for More Information, I'll have to read more books! Paradoxically, while reducing my youtube prescription, we are downsizing the [book] library at home and shifting boxes of books back into circulation via a local charity shop. At my advanced age, there aren't that many books which I will have time to re-read, so one may ask why I am holding on to hundreds of once-read volumes.

If we had more traffic up our lane, I'd set up a book exchange outside the gate and hope that the hill-walkers didn't fill it with the lunch-wrappings as they came past off the uplands. The Cheekpoint Book Exchange, on another lane to nowhere in particular, was crushed by a falling tree-branch and hasn't been re-instated. I've just heard about another books-to-outdoorsy-people project called Street Books [R with right-on appropriate technology delivery system] which was set up in Portland Oregon.They don't talk about homelessness in Oregon but there are "people who live outside" as if it is a life-style choice. Whatever you call them, getting to charge the phone is a task and a laptop is a lot to schlep about if you can't leave it somewhere safe. But a book? That's pretty robust to the wet, can fit in a pocket, and can be replaced if lost. Started in 2011 by Laura Moulton as a three-month Art Project, Street Books has acquired legs . . . or rather wheels; because the branch libraries run out from head-office each day on customized tricycles [see R with a big smile]. A bit like Rockfield Ice-Cream created by an entrepreneurial alumnus of The Institute, but more healthy: mens sana beats corpore sumo. I like the idea of Street Books and the customers look like they're delighted.

Another eye-opener about the chronicle of Street Books is that their clients look so normal. "people who live outside" are no longer crusty folk with alcohol or mental problems or refugees: they are citizens like you and me or my daughters who just can't afford to live inside because of the invidious distortions of the housing 'market'. A home isn't primarily an investment and there really should be enough to go round in Portland or in Ireland or wherever it is that you live.

There's another positive aspect to reading - or listening on the wireless - that you have to make your own pictures. With a book you can put it down to savour the moment, integrate it into your own experience to enrich your life. You build your own sunset rather than having it thrust upon you by the cinematographer's vision. That integration enriches and empowers - must be good for morale. So let's get more books Out There - in book exchanges, bicycle libraries or book-bags for the merchant marine. Here's an interesting story about library books being carried into remotest Appalachia on the back of a mule in the 1930s - intrepid.

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