Friday, July 27, 2007

The primeval call of booklust

My official birthday today. This is marked by a day off and a visit to the exhibition of news photography at the National Portrait Gallery, lunch at an unbelievably busy Wagamama in Victoria and then a stroll up Marleybone High Street to Daunt, which still glories in its reputation as "the most beautiful book shop in London". It was packed, largely with people even older than me, actually buying books to take on holiday. A few doors down is an Oxfam shop that specialises in books and that was surprisingly busy too with people queueing up at the till. What it is about books that makes us desire them so and why is this no longer the case with records?


  1. Anonymous9:30 am

    I guess it's because books are still pretty much what they always were. You still have a personal relationship and involvement with a good book, there's is still a requirement for you to put some effort into the process of reading, and your imagination is called into play. It's much more of a two way process. Much music is more like (bad) TV, you can just lie back and let it wash over you without it ever really engaging with your brain.

  2. Happy (official) Birthday!

  3. Anonymous6:23 pm

    It's because they're a feast to many senses at the same time; sight and touch of course, but also the wonderful smell of a just-opened hardback and please riffle of the pages. Add in the heft of the weight in your hand (what other art object do you actually cradle in your hands to enjoy it?) and direct path from the page word to your mind and the sensuous delights of books are irresistable. I'm sure there are people who like to tase them as well, and although I don't share their habit I can sympathise with it entirely.

  4. Hope you had a great day!

    I think the value of records has dipped because they're no longer physical items of beauty any more -the death of the big vinyl album, with great artwork and lyrics, plus the odd pop-up spaceship, and its replacement with a download that doesn't have the glamour or excitement. You can still physically handle a book - e-books just don't cut it.

  5. Anonymous6:51 pm

    First - a belated Happy Birthday!

    I'm with Clair - part of listenting to music as a youth was detailed examination of sleeve details. (Sleeve! jeez I'm getting old).

    When I was first exploring music it a) took a week's paper round money to buy an album and b) you bought the full LP with a sense of trepidation hoping to be rewarded after what might be many listenings. Downloads encourage you to pick the "best" songs and you lose that sense of taking a "punt". In a way its become too easy and too accessible.

    Books on the other hand need the whole investment. The concept of buying the "best" chapter doesn't exist and you need to invest serious time reading and thinking through a good book. A book also gives you a truly private space where only you can experience the images and emotions - and they are portable.

    Slightly off topic, this lack of privacy has led to me to detest going to the cinema. So many seem to regard the cinema as a place to chatter with a film on as background filler for when the texting and gossiping dries up.

  6. Anonymous11:16 am

    Hi David,
    Came across your blog recently (I'm a word subscriber) and really enjoy your musings. I visited London last weekend to see Prince at the O2 arena and decided to seek out and visit Daunt. Thanks for the recommendation, it was lovely, as was Marylebone High St. Even my girlfriend and her friend were impressed. We made our purchases and then had a delicious lunch in Le Pain Quotidien.
    Keep up the good work!

    Niall Kavanagh

  7. Furthermore, it's a trivial matter to illegally download an album there days. You still can't successfully download a book: Even if you could find one from among the comparatively small amount out there on the web you're still left with the faff of printing it out and handling an unwieldy sheaf of A4 on the tube