Arsing About

I am eyeing up the narrow gap between wardrobe and wall for bookshelf-potential, and feeling sheepish. I have tried to love my Kindle, honestly I have – it’s the future! Printed books are such old-tech! But the novels I’ve downloaded to it have been languishing there for months, and the truth is, I just don’t fancy them in their virtual, space-saving incarnations. So more shelves it is.

BENNO shelf units, if you’re interested

It feels a bit retro, putting in shelves for books. Shelving, the serious, devoting-entire-walls-to-IKEA-Billy-combos kind, is for your DVDs and your X-Box games, these days. Is it that people don’t read any more, or do they just not hang on to their books? I’m pretty sure it’s not that e-readers are winning. But I have to confess to a degree of involuntary intellectual snobbery when I discover that people have plastic boxes, rather than books, on their shelves. I know, how condescending. Those boxes could be filled with art-house film, noir classics and international cinema – but all I can see is a whole lot of arse-time.

Meaning, unproductive arse-time, for of course reading is also entirely arse-based. But reading requires active participation in a way that cinema or gaming do not – a working imagination isn’t a pre-requisite for either, because they do all the work for you – and perhaps that’s how I came to feel, without really thinking about it, that reading [the reader] is superior to watching [the arser].

I realise it’s ridiculous to judge people by what they have on their shelves. Especially now, when the means of mediating the wide world are so multifarious. Novels are my bridge-of-choice, but ultimately it’s entertainment I seek from them, and in that I’m no different from gamer or sofa-slumper. The difference, I suppose, is what one takes away, the degree to which the experience is actively processed, one’s worldview adjusted or expanded. And shelved titles, whether books, games or DVDs, are no guide at all when it comes to gauging that.

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