Book use

As a reader, and sometime owner of books, I’ve been curious about what use they can be put to. I myself once justified a large collection of them, to a sceptical Canadian, by declaring their insulation value through the winter months. To a more searching questioner, I mentioned literature, as a way to kill time. In ages past, I supposed they could also be used to kill people, or at least the small ones, and the more modestly-sized inhuman predators. This was when books were mostly produced in the gigantic folio format, with thick wood covers, by the printers of five centuries ago. But Aldus Minutius invented the portable, pocket-sized version in the cusp of modernity (about 1500). This, I speculate, encouraged reading, at the expense of hunting.

For physical fitness, it was a dead loss, and I used to see modern students tote little libraries about without great difficulty. Now the texts have been reduced so that all the world’s writing can be fit into a cellphone, or similar ┬ádevice, and the trend to not reading (except government health directions) advances quickly. For, if everything can be squeezed inside one of these small machines, it must be the devil to read, and I can understand not being tempted.

A woman I know had charge of several male children, and was determined to “get them educated” in the old-fashioned way (which involves reading). For years they were out of her company in the daytime, attending something called a “school.” Now that they have decided to be “woke,” and to condemn everything this lady stood for and believed in (including, presumably, sending them to school), she has joined the ranks of the sceptics. She says that she profoundly regrets allowing her eldest to attend a university.

However, she continues to honour books, in which she takes great delight. (She can often be seen reading: in English or German.) Her point is about the effect they have on her juniors.

Her sons show no effect at all. In their schools, they were presumably taught to read (and were shown how at home if the school skipped that discipline). But she had assumed that the school would inculcate the habit of consulting these works of “literature,” on which unwoke Western civilization had been based. They would help to make the young minds thoughtful, as well as conveying content to them that is not easy to find on a computer. They would educate the young reader in the use of leisure.

This lady, Gertrude I shall call her, now is something of a widow, having been abandoned by everyone she formerly knew who was younger. (Those who were older are, increasingly, dead, including her husband.) She will have no company for her old age, but should not fear the loss — for she would have nothing to talk to them about, anyway.

Nevertheless. she is in possession of a theory. It is that the most important thing that has been lost by the collapse of our primary, secondary, and tertiary education systems, is this habit of reading, and associated habits of assimilating music and art. The consequences of losing it, and of the tedious vacuum that has filled the space, was not considered by the liberals in their projects of “reform.”

Or perhaps it was considered, and not as a “bug,” but as a feature of the revolutionary, woke truncation. All surviving human thought to be ruthlessly compressed, into 150 characters of Twitter, and fewer where alpha-numeric symbols may be substituted. Much of it, of course, banned outright.