Thursday, March 17, 2022

If this doesn't put you to sleep . . . by Catriona

Reading: Banning books - currently in the news again - is the most extreme way to influence others’ reading habits. On a more positive note: what books do you put in your guest bedroom? Buy as presents? Press into strangers’ hands in bookshops? Leave in little free libraries?

I made a significant deposit in the wee free library in my town a couple of weeks ago, but it wasn't books. I was clearing out DVDs I knew I'd never watch again, either because I had them off by heart or they were on Netflix anyway. I donated Morse, Lewis, Frost and Vera - the Inspectors - plus Poirot and Columbo. I felt a bit trashy, using a book library for telly, but they've all got a literary pedigree (oh yes they do, see pic). Still, the guilt wouldn't leave me so I went back the next day to remove them. They were all gone. I like to think of someone right now bingeing hard on the best of British telly (and Columbo).

Even more recently, I did a combination of wee free library and pressing books into strangers' hands. I stopped to peruse the contents of one during a walk. And found . . . Anna Katherine Green! (not the one in the pic; that's mine). So of course, I picked it out, waved it at Neil and said "Anna Katherine Green!" plus a tight five on her rightful place in the panoply of the genre. Then I put the book back and we carried on with the walk. But right at our heels someone made a beeline for the library and took that one book, on my recommendation clearly.

When it comes to guest rooms (remember guests?) there was this game I used to play, with pals Job and Roy. Actually, they're called Rob and Joy but Joy loves a spoonerism and, after I said it wrong once, she refused to answer to anything else. They were visiting this one time and chose their own bedside reading. I can't remember what Joy selected but Rob took The Proceedings of the Concrete Standards Board, Northern Branch. 1972. Or it might not have been quite that bad but it was an incredibly boring book. 

 After that, the game was afoot. I tried to find a book so boring Rob wouldn't still be reading it over breakfast the next day. Pruning techniques, Edwardian geological reports, Japanese poetry in the orginal Japanese . . . He was infallibly interested in everything. But he was also reliably highbrow: didn't (still doesn't) watch television and never listened to Classic FM because they sometimes didn't play the whole opera but only the arias. When I stopped thinking about books I'd find unbearable and reset for Rob's actual brain . . . Booyah! Here's what broke him:

That is to say, I don't know for sure. I know he said "Tripe" the next morning and didn't ask to borrow it, but I can't guarantee that he didn't secretly devour the first few chapters under the blankets and order a copy of his own. As Neil pointed out at the time, you can't wrench open a bedroom door and leap into the middle of the carpet shouting "Aha!". Not if you ever want your guests to come back again.



Liz Milliron said...

I love this. I was at a book launch for a friend earlier this week, and one of the other attendees said his buddy was moving and needed to offload an entire set of Agatha Christie - in nice (faux) leather covers. Without hesitation I said, "I'll take them." So yeah, I probably would have cleaned out your DVDs, too.

Catriona McPherson said...

Oh, I'd have taken them, Liz. I went to look something up in THE MOVING FINGER recenty, for a workshop, and realised I didn't have one.

Karen in Ohio said...

Hilarious. Although I can't imagine how The Bergdorf Blondes would put anyone to sleep.

Thank you for adding materials to the "wee free library". As a Little Free Librarian myself, I'm always grateful to see what my "patrons" leave for others. Amazingly, DVDs and audiobooks have moved quickly. To each their own, and it's recycling, right?

Ann Mason said...

Just passed our wee free library and didn’t see anything amazing. But I love your idea about dvds. Certainly time for a clean out here

Thank you for an idea. And for making me smile. Xo

Susan C Shea said...

First, I applaud Rob for his dislike of bits of opera. How would you like it if a publisher put out an edition of Pride and Prejudice but only the bits that had Darcy in them? I was shocked - shocked! - to see Joe Ide's IQ in the prudish LFL on my street yesterday, and am headed there in awhile with a couple of equally subversive novels. Wish I'd been lurking near your LFL when you deposited the Vera DVDs!

Catriona McPherson said...

So what I'm reading is that you put IQ in the LFL then stood back and gasped. Right?