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Thursday 8 September 2011

A book is... what?

Ask me three score years and ten ago
'What is a book?' I'll tell you this:-
'A small one is a thing we have in school;
sometimes the teacher opens it
and looks inside it as she speaks.
It makes her use a different voice.
Sometimes she's funny and I laugh;
sometimes she's sad; sometimes just daft,
but while she's sat there with the book
she's not Miss Gottlebug at all!'

'A big book, though, that's different now!
We have a big black one at home;
it lives in Gran and Grandad's room,
I've seen it on the smaller dresser - which seems odd,
seeing how very big it is. They've opened it
(a few times only), not far in, to let me see
the picture of our family tree. When they've done that
they've let me touch someone, then told me all they know -
a distant tale of who they were
and what they did. But further on,
there's Adam and there's Eve and Noah,
and best of all, the Tower men built at Babel.
That one shakes me down.'

Ask me, the teenager, I'll tell you how
books became my rabbit hole, bolt hole and mirror,
a magic door through which I'd disappear
to surface in another world.
A worm hole, long before worm holes were known.
Since when, that truth has held, is still in place,
but as a man it needed to be broadened.
Non-fiction elbowed its way in, deserved its place.
Some book are wands (and long have been),
are wands that wisdom waves
to carry necessary knowledge to
a mind that craves it more and more.

Ask me tomorrow as a child again, I'll say:-
'A book's a magic screen on which words fizz,
change their identities and do not
say the same from one look to the next.
They make new sense - or none at all.
But nonsense is not no sense, so they find
their way into my mind the way they always did.
That's where the magic's done, and no one knows -
not even me - what they do there -
or what the truth of that will be.'


Jim Murdoch said...

I liked this but it seems you skipped adulthood. And so, because the mood took me, I thought I’d have a crack at that missing stanza:

Ask me now, as an adult - so called - and I'll admit,
or perhaps confess, to being let down by books
or not so much by books as by men, their authors,
whose words contain so much less than those I loved
as a child or perhaps it is me. As one sight dims -
when did the writing get to be so small? - another
shows me the way and this is not the way it says:
"These are vessels meant for an honourable purpose,
to cure and transform and reveal not simply
amuse and entertain. Time should not be wasted."

I don’t know, just lately I’ve been struck by the number of books that people are writing that aspire to nothing more than to entertain. I’m not saying that is wrong, I just think the ratio is wrong.

jabblog said...

It's interesting to see books from a different perspective. Our responses to books change, as you say. I hope I never lose the excitement of opening a new book - the feel, the smell, the look.

Misterio Vida said...

ah... books are such amazing just like humans themselves.. at different stages of life, a book has different meanings... just like you said... nicely written :) loved it :)

The Weaver of Grass said...

So glad you like books more than one of these fancy Kindle things Dave.

Jinksy said...

Though it's the words from which the magic flows - not the books - and the thought behind the words...like yours!

Anonymous said...

I love this; it's truly magical, chronicling everything that the world of books have meant to you throughout the cycle of your own personal seasons...

Windsmoke. said...

Books are magical and have been a big part of my life since school because they transport the reader to another world :-).

Mary said...

I enjoyed your comments on books at different stages of life,Dave, and I enjoyed Jim Murdoch's additional stanza. (I agree with him that print has gotten smaller too. Sigh) To Books!!

Hannah Stephenson said...

This is totally optimistic! I love your attitude.

And this line: "But nonsense is not no sense."

The Unknowngnome said...

I like the look and fizz of what you write on this page of your book.

Dave King said...

I'm glad the mood took you Jim, I enjoyed this very much. I didn't entirely skip adulthood, though, I sort of bracketed it with youth and relegated it to largely non-fictional reading, which is what happened to a large extent - except for a phase when I couldn't get hold of enough of the Russian classics.

You touch a couple of raw nerves, though: the size of fonts and writing to entertain - or as I would put it, just for fun. Starting with the latter, I take the point that the ratio can get out of hand, and may have done somewhat at times - usually due to a dearth of good ideas for more serious work.
About the font size, which seems to have become an issue for me of late, I'm not sure what to do. I have tried increasing it by all the (HTML) means I know, but Blogger just changes it back again or makes it poster size.

Thanks for an interesting and thought-provokng response. Much obliged.

Thanks. As it happens, there's an interesting report on a study in today's Guardian. It seems to indicate that that the feel of what we are holding (we're talking books and documents here) affects the seriousness with which we imbue them.

Jim Murdoch said...

As regards the font size on your blog perhaps it's time for a new layout? There are plenty out there in the defaults that you could adopt. Maybe it's time for a change. Also my additional stanza was, ironically, just a bit of fun and no serious criticism was intended. I was just trying to get into the spirit of the poem.

Dave King said...

Absolutely agree with you. Thanks for the comment.

Weaver of Grass
No contest! The one advantage I can see for the e-reader is the ability to change the font size - a great boon for the visually handicapped, I would think.

That's true - but yo can't annotate an e-book - yet! So far as I know. Thanks for the kind words.

Appreciate those words, thanks. Very generous.

Exactly so. For me that's their main purpose - ot to provide factual information and sometimes to transport me to myself to understand that a little better!

I have to go along with all of that. Yes, let's raise our glasses to (paper) books!

That's me, the born optimist - I think sometimes other folk find it infuriating. Thanks for the much appreciated remaks.

The Unknowngnome
Good to hear that you like it. Thanks for following.

Dave King said...

Thanks again. No, I didn't take your stanza as a criticism. I did see it as a bit of fun and much enjoyed it as such.

The suggestion of a new layout is interesting. I did look at this some time ago for wholly other reasons, but as far as I could see I was going to lose the blog up to that point. However, It might be worth another look. Thanks.

Jim Murdoch said...

Just remember to backup your blog before you make any permanent changes, Dave. What I did was create a dummy blog changed the format there until I was happy with it and then cut and pasted it. Safest way. I keep the dummy blog to test posts on anyway. I do all the fiddling there which means I can see how my blogs are going to look before they go live. Sometimes the images need a bit of tweaking.

Jackie Jordan said...

First of all, I love this piece. Books are our windows to the world. In college, I'm sad to day, certain books were more challenging to me than others - math, foreign language, and poetry. Being an English major, this was quite disheartening because I enjoyed all three studies. But, it's just so hard to conceptualize their content - that's my weakness.

About your font size - don't you edit and save your documents on MS Word? It's strange that Blogger re-sizes your fonts! Of course, until three months ago the word "blog" was just a strange-sounding computer term to me!