I keep trying to read through a big book. It’s a mighty big book, one of a series of three heavy books about American history. The problem reading a big book is that I don’t feel inclined to take in on the train with me. I don’t have the other two volumes so this exercise will simply be limited to one heavy book. People ask me why do this, I could be watching television. Yesterday I was called by some consumer center and coerced into listening to a hard voiced woman who wanted to schedule a 40 minute appointment in my agenda so someone could come to my house and talk to me about the current issues such as those seen on television or in the newspapers.
I don’t read the newspapers in depth.
I don’t have a television.
Reading my big book, I notice that back during those historical days, news was deliberately not printed. I don’t think much has changed, after all we decide on the spot what is news and what isn’t news. I could have said that I would never agree to let some stranger into my house to talk to me about current affairs chosen by well placed editors for 40 minutes. There was probably a big sell or robbery behind the whole scenario anyway. But I told her straight off the bat I was very uncurrent.
“You can go if you have some vacation time over, and volunteer. Try to give a little happiness.” Said the yoga teacher on Monday, who had just returned from Crete, standing on the beach welcoming Syrian refugees out of the boats. Her eyes wept. “A woman told of losing her child in the forest while they were escaping.”
Refugees vandalize….I read the title of an article posted on FB…..mainly young men said the article. Bad people are lifting along with the refugees, it’s murmured. Desperate people all around.
I got my big book on the Civil Rights Movement as part of a package of books a second hand store was giving away. I had made a deal to collect the English books before they were chucked in the trash. I’d donate a bit of money every odd week or two for the books. I have gathered small selections of intellectual volumes on topics such as the Civil Rights, or Native Americans, or mental intelligence or Russian literature translated into cheap paperback editions, all part of someone else’s bookshelves. I keep wading my way through the stacks at home with the utmost perseverance.
Thus I read Martin Luther King Jr.’s book “Stride Towards Freedom” about the Montgomery bus boycott. “Too bad,” said the man at the second hand English bookstore looking over my 1950’s hard cover copy that I wanted to exchange, “It doesn’t have a cover jacket on it anymore.” Before that I had never read MLK Jr’s writing, and in fact the slender little work wasn’t all his writing. The book was ghost written by a white writer because the NY publisher wanted to make sure it would appeal to a “mass” audience. Nonetheless the essence of nonviolence is still there so I appreciated it. My big book is explaining the rest. “Humanitarian hope is illusion.” Stated King Jr. at one point in his life. And he didn’t even realize that the FBI had written him off as a Communist, an enemy of the people.
Which brings me to this point this week while in Utrecht on my way to a rehearsal: To my right I saw a sign saying 50% off. I peered into the store, it was a bookstore. It was the kind of bookstore that very much appeals to me, a second hand bookstore with old nibbled on paperbacks, the backs falling off the binding, or heavy mildewy volumes with flash gold letters to enhance a dry subject, the coffee stained dust ridden forgotten authors that no bus driver thinks has enough change on them and in this instance two choices arise, ignore the sub fare doled in pennies or simply fail to brake for the bus shelter. Charity cases. I stepped into the place and surmised that the ramshackle shop had a kind of socialist - Marxist vibe. Holding out a copy of EM Forester’s “The Hill of Devi” which I had unearthed at the back sandwiched between two Mary McCarthy paperbacks on a rough wooden plank made of old crates, I jauntily asked how much this item would set my capital back to the cashier. He had shoulder length grey hair, and I knew he was armed to the teeth with useless information in grave terms. He cast his eye over the colonialist retro memoire, marked for three euros and calculated: “Seventy-five cents.” He punched in the numbers to the cash register which then displayed “6.05” in green neon and informed me that I should ignore that bit of information. “Certainly,” I thought, “The pleasure is mine, comrade.”