Wednesday, 8 December 2010

The Outside of Books


From Howard's End: "the aspirations, the mental dishonesty, the familiarity with the outside of books". This makes me blush as I try to sort out my books, reflecting on how very few of them I have actually read. For example, I have about five foot of books on Russia, the Soviet Union and Communism. I simply cannot have read more than six inches. Okay, maybe a foot. I have before me a perfect example of a book I would like to have read - the outside of which I am familiar with. It is called 'The Passion of the Western Mind', by Richard Tarnas. It is a history of ideas. It has underlining up to page 12. The spine is singularly smooth and unbroken. Not so Bill Bryson's Short History of Nearly Everything, which I probably have read the whole of while sitting on the lavatory. I am, I'm afraid, a middle brow who aspires to be a high brow. I listen to Springsteen and wish I wanted rather to listen to Poulenc. Ah well. Bruce and Bryson will do just fine. I also prefer 'Destry Rides Again' to 'The Seven Samurai'.

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