Books, Baldrick and banter
My favourite Blackadder episode is the one where Samuel Johnson tries to get royal patronage for the first English Dictionary. When told that the book has taken Dr Johnson ten years Prince George replies, “Yes, well, I’m a slow reader myself.” Those of you familiar with the rest of the episode will understand why in our family we love Baldrick’s definition of the letter C – “Big blue wobbly thing that mermaids live in”.
Enough of that, but books are on my mind. A Radio 2 DJ (naming no names but she’s young and was on late Saturday afternoon) made me cringe when she was talking about television and said something like, “Oh dear, if there’s nothing on tv I might have to go and read a book!” I know it’s only banter, but it’s sad to think that reading is perceived as the last resort in the pecking order of how to spend time. Given the danger facing libraries due to public spending cuts, I think we should make more fuss about how special books are.
Rather than witter on and preach to the converted, I’ve been on the hunt for ten good quotes about books:
“The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who can’t read them.” (Mark Twain)
“Books can be dangerous. The best ones should be labelled ‘This could change your life’. ” (Groucho Marx)
“A house without books is like a room without windows.” (Heinrich Mann)
“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body.” (Richard Steele)
“You do not have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” (Ghandi)
“Books – the children of the brain.” (Jonathan Swift)
“I’m going to chop off the bottom of your trouser leg and take it to the library. There’s a turn up for the books.” (Tommy Cooper) Sorry about that one, couldn’t resist it!
“Books choose their authors; the act of creation is not entirely a rational and conscious one.” (Salman Rushdie)
“As long as we have books, we are not alone.”
Finally, here’s my favourite –
“Books are lighthouses erected in the sea of time.” (E P Whipple)
If it’s any consolation, I came across an extract of an article by John Ruskin who, over a century ago, bemoaned the fact that more money was spent on horses than on libraries. It’s up to all of us, of course, to support our libraries and bookshops by using them. Unless of course anyone out there has a cunning plan….
I’ll let Michael Rosen have the last word on the importance of books, especially when it comes to developing young minds. His comments to the Guardian on the closure of libraries is summarised here: http://notesfromtheslushpile.blogspot.com/2010/12/bye-bye-libraries-bye-bye-civilization.html. You do rather hope that eventually the powers that be realise that nothing improves literacy like…. um…reading!