Thursday, 18 December 2014

Books, dentists, Christmas shopping and odd coffee.

I was listening to the radio: the arts programme, Front Row on BBC Radio 4. At one point they were talking about books and one of the presenters suggested that Donna Tart should employ a technique which gives background information about events, environments and characters and thus reduce the length of her books. Why? Because apparently quite a lot of people bought her book, "The Goldfinch", began to read it and gave up, ostensibly because it was too long! 

Now, personally, I loved the book. I read it twice in quick succession, once to satisfy my curiosity about events in the novel and a second time, more slowly, savouring detail and style. I do this quite often with books I really enjoy. I also go back and reread certain books every few years. 

However, the radio discussion provoked another argument in my head. Can a book be too long? If it's well written and the events move along at a reasonable pace, does it matter if it's 200 pages or 600 pages? In fact I often find myself in something of a dilemma: I want to know what happens at the end of a novel but at the same time I don't want to finish it. It's a little like leaving an alternative reality where you have got to know the characters and you feel quite comfortably at home. OK, this might seem a little odd, but I am aware of other people who feel the same way. There's even a young man who works in a bookshop I have been in today who agrees with me! 

This, of course, explains why I frequently dislike the film version of books I have loved. Occasionally I object to the choice of actors to play the protagonists; they just don't match my mental image of that character. What really gets my goat, though, is when important details are omitted and happy endings are created, because someone feels that the cinema audience needs to leave on an upnote!!! Give me strength!!! 

It may be that the modern generation just doesn't have the sticking power to read a full length novel. Short attention spans abound (the young man in the bookshop agrees) and everything must come in bite-sized chunks!! I could seriously go off the modern world! 

This morning I went to see the dentist for my usual check-up. I had to dodge the rain and the spray from passing motorists on the way. Yes the damp continues? 

On the way back I stopped to do odds and ends of shopping. Hence the visit to the bookshop. The local Halford's store, where I was buying puncture repair stuff for Phil's bike, asks what could be better than a bike for Christmas. Hmm? Cycle lanes? Housing the homeless? Feeding the hungry? Finding a cure for horrible diseases? World peace? I feel sure we could come up with a few other ideas. 

However, I may be wrong; what might be the best thing, according to some people, is a gadget called a "selfie stick", an object which allows you to hold your camera-phone away from your body to take a selfie. Peter Bradshaw, talking about it in the Guardian, described it as the latest must-have gadget. Here's a little of what he had to say: 

 "I decided I had to have one. But when I mentioned this glorious innovation to my wife, she replied: “What’s wrong with asking someone else to take your picture?” Oh. Oh yeah. Asking someone to take your picture. It’s sort of a nice, shy way of interacting with your fellow human beings. I’d forgotten about that." Well, yes, there is always that! 

He went on to comment on the latest fashion in coffee drinking: coffee with butter. Milk in coffee, he says is apparently passé. Instead you should drink your coffee with a blob of butter in it. They call it "bulletproof coffee", goodness only knows why. He tried it and was less than impressed. In fact he suggested its name might come from the fact that drinking it felt like being shot. 

Reading about it I was taken back to my time as a student in France (Proustian moment?) when I had a tiny one ring gas-burner on which I could make coffee in my little room. One Sunday, alone in the school as all the pupils had gone home for the weekend, I realised I had no milk for my coffee. Sunday, in a small village in the depths of the French countryside and nowhere open. Instant coffee was just not right served black. All I had to take the edge off the bitterness was margarine. It worked after a fashion. 

Clearly I was ahead of my time!

1 comment:

  1. Instant coffee En France? 'ow?

    Have you tried chilled Amontillado & tomato juice, fifty fifty? Very Andalucian. Or a bullshot to keep out the cold?

    Here is a recipe, but instead of beef consommé I use Bovril, tomato puree & yes, a knob of butter, although consommé is suppose to be completely fat free.

    The beauty of this concoction is that one has to keep experimenting with the consommé to achieve the perfect taste. Make notes, or it becomes nigh impossible to remember the proportions of the ingredients for next time.