Saturday, 5 November 2016
by Theodore Dalrymple
If I had my time again I’d have less to do with people and even more to do with books than I had the first time around: but I would have to come back in the past rather than the future, because the book as an artefact seems to have ever less importance in our culture.
First published in Standpoint.
Posted on 11/05/2016 4:51 AM by Theodore Dalrymple
5 Nov 2016
7 Nov 2016
The presence of a bookstore in an airport is an intresting indicator of the education level of the local population. On my recent travel from Brussels-Charleroi airport to Italy i was forced by circumstances to pass several hours waiting for my airplane. Almost desperate looking for any type of possibly intellectual activity, I searched the airport stores for something to read. Even considering my language and interest flexibility it was an impossible task, through the reviews to the books. In the heaps of Harry Potter and astrology books there was only one potentially interesting catch: a story of a mother of a teenager turned serial killer and then suicided, if I remember right. But seen the heaviness of the subject and my looking forward to my travel to sunny Italy after rainy years, I didn't want to spoil my good mood.
On the contrary, the return way was much more pleasant: a huge bookstore with literature both in Italian, English and even bilingual books for foreigners interested in learning the language with Italian culture. Fortunately the airport shopping did not count into the baggage weight limit, otherwise my home library would miss some interesting titles today.
My memories of childhood afternoons spent in library would certainly seem strange for today's youngsters. My childish never ending curiosity could not get saturated with enough book browsing. It was also to appreciate that children themselves could take the books directly from the bookshelves and discover this hunger for knowledge. It makes reading much more desirable than choosing from an online catalogue and facilitates many interesting accidental discoveries.
And what about electronic books? It is an interesting complement to the classic library which comes handy in saving space, and in many cases allows to read a favorite book on bus without carrying heavy weight or to share it with a friend on a different continent in an instant.