preferences

Kindle vs. old paper & ink

the yellow pages

I used to be anti-Kindle but I changed my opinion with experience.

I couldn’t bear the radio or telly on in the background while I’m reading but I have cottoned on to having an audiobook playing. Then when the audiobook sounds more interesting than the book book, I can switch attention to that; then if it becomes less interesting, I go back to the page. That way I feel I’m making the most of my reading time.

I have been thinking how books are a big time commitment for readers. I favour shorts story collections for two reasons:

If you don’t think much of the one you’re reading, it’s no problem; they’ll be another one starting in a moment.

And they demand less of our time, so we can read more widely.

I don’t know if there is such a place but thinking along similar lines to Youtube etc., whereby a selection of excerpts or chapters from books were offered by means of a grid;


Shortly after five o’clock – when the spectators could not have counted certainly less than 30,000, and might in all probability have amounted to double that number – the procession moved off to a note of Mr. Coppin’s bugle, caught up and repeated by other marshals along the line. The procession was headed by the dark blue Pickwickians, for the very good reason that theirs was the oldest amongst the clubs… Boldly they rode and well, these Pickwickians, as indeed did the great majority of the members of those other clubs mounted on their steel steeds.

To experience the fresh air and beauty of the countryside was, in Blatchford’s opinion, to acquire a sense of what a socialist society would feel like.
While we waited for an ex-con to come by and make an attempt on Miranda’s life, we settled into an oddly pleasurable routine. The suspense, partly mitigated by Adam’s reasoning, and thinly spread across the days, then even more sparsely across the weeks, heightened our appreciation of the daily round. Mere ordinariness became a comfort. The dullest of food, a slice of toast, offered in its lingering warmth a promise of everyday life – we would come through. Cleaning up the kitchen, a task we no longer left to Adam alone, affirmed our hold on the future. Reading a newspaper over a cup of coffee was an act of defiance. There was something comic or absurd, to be sprawled in an armchair reading about the riots in nearby Brixton or Mrs Thatcher’s heroic endeavours to structure the European Single Market, then glancing up to wonder if that was a rapist and would-be murderer at the door.
He whistled over and over a tune whose end immediately suggested its beginning.
He felt old, and breathless from the uphill climb, and weary from thankless enterprises.

“My days have passed more swiftly than the web is cut by the weaver, and are consumed without any hope.”

The girl did not recognize a quotation. ‘Have you no hope?’ She looked up at him for a second. Her eyes were extraordinary, he thought: a smoky fawn flecked here and there with yellow, a colour more suitable in a cat than a nun. The question seemed to have struck her. Rather than give an answer, Fludd walked on.
‘I see you’re reading The Grasshopper Lies Heavy,’ he said. ‘I hear it on many lips, but pressure of business prevents my own attention.’ Rising, he went to pick it up, carefully consulting their expressions; they seemed to acknowledge this gesture of sociality, and so he proceeded. ‘A mystery? Excuse my abysmal ignorance.’ He turned the pages.

‘Not a mystery,’ Paul said. ‘On contrary, interesting form of fiction possible within genre of science fiction.’

‘Oh no,’ Betty disagreed. ‘No science in it. Not set in future. Science fiction deals with future, in particular future where science has advanced over now. Book fits neither premise.’
Mason grabbed the other by the arm, but that arm had lost the greater part of its outline, had become a vague patch of light already fading, and when Mason looked at the hand that had done the grabbing, his own hand, he saw with difficulty that it likewise no longer had fingers, or front or back, or skin, or anything at all.

All these excerpts are kept available in the library without defacing any book. Some have notes made by me in the course of reading, again without resort to defacement; any can be further edited or erased. The ease at which they can be retrieved, then copy and pasted above, could hardly be easier.

By the way, the bit above about listening to audiobooks is in jest.

I tried but couldn’t get on with audiobooks. Two things: the voice of the reader interfered with my imagination. And I’m not convinced yet that listening is the same as reading. Especially while doing housework or driving a car, two of the suggestions made to increase my reading time.

I can see the science-fiction future where whole books are transplanted into our brains as false memories; public libraries, if they remain, will look more like out-patient clinics. In this respect, I’m firmly attached to the traditional way of books, or at least something closely resembling it.

What Are You Reading, Then?

Rory, of A Guy Called Bloke blog, has asked a nice request about our reading and writing choices, and whether these have been altered by the pandemic. He asks,

1] How real do you need your reality reading or fiction reading to be?

2] Have you knowingly noticed over the last 9 months and since the arrival of Covid – 19 your writing style has altered?

3] Have you noticed any changes in the way that you personally blog – for instance your overall outlook and positivity reflects upon you differently now?

But I have written my thoughts out rather in the way of a stream of consciousness. It’s not meant to be a rant or a negative point of view, just another point of view.


Oh, I don’t know, I really can’t be doing with all these talking-thinking animals. At 17, my girlfriend at the time put me onto Watership Down. Those bloody awful rabbits! That did it for me. I think we should leave wild animals to be themselves and not inflict them with dreadful anthropomorphic traits.

I blame that Beatrix Potter woman. Though I have to say I haven’t read any of hers.

Wizards and witches and goblins and elves – and hobbits? (Sigh.) Can we not be truthful and admit they’re actually humans thinly disguised? As with the talking animals, no one wrote anything about stumpy pixie-eared trolls that wasn’t a reflection on our grown-up human faults through the veil and comfortable distance of disguised, sometimes mythical, other species. It’s dishonest if you think about it. At the very least, it’s an obscuration and a distraction.

I don’t believe I read for “escapism”. I don’t think I’m escaping from my own existence. I’m comfortable and quite at home with my existence; why would I escape into something potentially worse? I think I read to “experience”. Experiencism. (That’s not a proper word as little red dots have appeared beneath it as I type on. I don’t know how it isn’t a word; it should be.)

I want to try to experience other viewpoints, scenarios, events, cultures, emotions etc – as a human being would.

I’ll read anything that’s well-written and tells me something about the human condition. That’s the purpose of the novel. If I wish to know more about animals – or mythological creatures, or plants, or minerals, or cosmic or abstract things, I’ll go to non-fiction. I enjoy non-fiction. Non-fiction can make my head spin in a way that a novel can’t. There’s no suspension of disbelief. There’s skepticism, but that’s not the same thing. Non-fiction is awesome and scary. I read only yesterday that our sun moves through space at almost half a million miles per hour. If Tolkien wrote that, your instinct would tell you he’d made it up.

Until last year, I hadn’t made up a story since being required to do so for school. Ot surprised me that I found it fun to do. I think my style is influenced by the authors I read and I’m not aware it’s affected by current events, Covid included.

It’s still a new thing for me to write fiction. I couldn’t write anything big. It would be like running a marathon after trying a dozen or so 5ks. It would be like building an ark on the strength of putting up a couple of shelves.

Also it would require plot and I couldn’t bear that. I was pleased to hear Stephen King say he didn’t write for plot but character development. But I haven’t his skill. When writing small flash-fiction sketches, plot is unnecessary and I like that. Plot would bore me to distraction. I think I can recognise a plot driven short story: it has the tang of formula about it; it moves in an obvious and deliberate way, so as to become predictable. It also tends to be superficial; telling and not showing. Characters are infinitely more interesting than plot.

I may do more story writing in the new year. I’ve been reading tips on publishing one short story every day, or once a week, regardless of quality. Apparently, regularity brings improvement with it. You never know.

I think of myself as a resiliently pragmatic and optimistic person; generally, I remain positive. I hope this comes through in my blogging and commenting on others.

Truthful Tuesday

It’s confession time for Thoughts and Theories: Truthful Tuesday:

Is there something that you like or love now that you used to dislike, hate, or at the very least, have no opinion of before? Or perhaps there is something you now dislike, hate, or maybe even loathe that before you liked, loved, adored, or at least had no opinion of? In either case, or both cases if you so choose, what changed your mind?


Music. Both answers!

Growing up, youth culture was very partisan: you either loved pop music or rock music; you didn’t like the other. No one mentioned classical, folk or jazz: these weren’t even on the radar (although I secretly liked the Oscar Peterson Show on the BBC). Then pop music evolved into Disco. That was truly the pits.

Now, I really appreciate listening to some of those disco classics, largely because rock died here somewhere along the way (thanks, Johnny Rotten) and music opened up a lot after that. By that time, I was listening to all sorts and without prejudice.

Yet, some of those rock songs I bought as a kid, I can’t see what I saw in them. Almost all of Led Zeppelin’s songs, for example. What’s the big deal?

Of course, I have a lot more to compare it with now: all that came before it and everything afterwards. Sideways too: different sounds from far off places, unavailable in the day. If only I knew about it when I was a kid.

Thinking about…

Cooking eggs.

How do you like your eggs, fried or boiled?

Apparently, the answer is geo-cultural. According to the Co-op as reported in the London Evening Standard,

A Co-op study of just more than 2,000 people found that Liverpudlians prefer poached eggs, fried tops the list in Cardiff, Edinburgh loves an omelette, Glaswegians like a hardboiled egg while Belfast opts for soft boiled.

Londoners, like me, like theirs scrambled, like I do.

Old Woman Cooking Eggs by Diego Velázquez

My mum, who I’d observe at the cooker in order to learn, would make scrambled eggs by boiling them in a little milk and butter, in a milk pan, stirring all the time. And it did take time, waiting for the mixture to “catch” on the pan and continuously lifting it away. This method was adapted to the microwave oven when they became available though stirring would need to be intermittent.

This is how I made scrambled eggs for a long time until I read a story how a British actor once had scrambled eggs cooked by Jack Nicholson. He cooked beaten eggs in a hot frying pan with a little melted butter. It takes seconds, and they taste better.

Much, much later, I cottoned on that there’s little to gain by beating the eggs beforehand. Simply beat them in the pan while cooking. (I think I got this idea from an Asian cookery source – but I could be wrong.)

Fast food isn’t all bad.

The Co-op on Eggs

More thoughts…

I think maybe sometimes nothing is better for lunch than a soft boiled egg sarnie. Soft yolks but not too runny, between buttered, crusty white bread slices, liberally seasoned with salt and black pepper before closing…

When my Gran was living alone, I would visit her every Tuesday, after college, and she enjoyed feeding me, as I think all Gran’s do. One favourite was egg and chips, with a slice of bread. Simple but Gran had a way to make it taste memorable. I know she only ever had white pepper which gives a different bite to the more fruity black. Her “chips” were round slices of spud shallowed fried in a frying pan. Soft, runny yolks, liberally peppered. Exquisite. I can taste them now…

Poaching is a tricky business but done properly, they look good on a kipper or any poached, smoked fish. Brown bread and butter on the side…

Omelette with homemade baked chips is my go-to quick dinner for one, usually if I’m heading out and it’s too early for the others to eat. It’s automatic but joyful. Two cheeses grated in the omelette, three parts Cheddar and one part Parmesan. I’ll have a generous dash of HP sauce all over this, and the customary slice of bread…

There used to be a transport cafe near where I first worked. A small, round, motherly woman did both the cooking and the serving there; she really looked after you. She did a wonderful cheese omelette and chips, always eaten with brown sauce. And a mug of good tea. Her superb apple pie or crumble served in a pool of custard to follow…