Thursday, October 29, 2020

About book curation

Facebook has once again demonstrated the abject wrongness of its advertising algorithms by suggesting that I might like to avail myself of the services of a book curator, someone who I am expected to pay to acquire and arrange reading material on my behalf. (Unless of course the placing of the ad on my feed was purchased by someone who just wanted to irritate me, in which case, nice work, Facebook, job done.)

This outrage did however prompt me into a half-arsed renovation of my shelves, rearranging a few into some semblance of logic and even filling a couple of boxes for the charity shop run. Inevitably this process was derailed by a desire to read every other book that passed through my hands, but that’s perfectly OK because it gives me something to blog about. Ha, take that, Marie bloody Kondo.

First, yet another cracking one-liner that would have fitted nicely into my dissertation: this time it’s EM Forster, from a speech he made at Harvard in 1947, about people whose aesthetic preferences remain just that, unassailed by critical faculties:

‘Oh I do like Bach,’ cries one appreciator, and the other cries, ‘Do you? I don’t. I like Chopin.’ Exit in opposing directions chanting Bach and Chopin respectively, and hearing less the composers than their own voices.

And then an old favourite, Roald Dahl’s The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar. One image that’s stuck with me since I first read it at the age of 10 or so is the redeemed Sugar hurling all his casino winnings from his Mayfair balcony to the people on the pavement below; and I wake up to the news that a man in Chongqing has done the same thing (although he was off his face on methamphetamine at the time).

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