Christmas is fast approaching and with it comes the inevitable, and very practical, present that is the aunt’s favourite: the gift card. Now, these come in many different flavours and, as well as being excellent for removing ice from windscreens, can often be used to purchase books. I have a lot of these bad boys lying around – mainly because I pretty much entirely fail to use them when I go shopping. I therefore strategically place them around the flat to remind myself to use the flippin’ things when out on a giddying spending spree. This morning, the chest-of-drawers-based card caught by eye as I was slipping on the old shirt and gentleman’s half hose. This is a borders card, which probably shows how old it as as I think they went bankrupt, and on it is a moving inscription to big-up the world of books. It reads: “You can know a man by the books he reads.” Hmmm, I thought, what a load of pappy bollocks from some long-dead chump.

But indeed this is a sentiment shared by many (the books-are-great sentiment, not the pappy-bollards ones). I guess I can understand why. Books used to be pretty much the only medium by which you could learn new stuff off your own bat. Otherwise, you were obliged to learn skills from a master, or listen to tales from a giant cartoon rabbit with a speech impediment. Or whatever. Books allowed human people-folk to take their own intellectual destiny in their own hands and find a form of entertainment that catered to their own disgusting proclivities. Indeed, with this sole source of informatics, perhaps one could in all seriousness tell somethings of the person by whatever was contained in his slim, pocket-sized, vellum-bound, illuminated manuscript.

Yet times have changed. The single medium of type has become a many-headed hydra of media. And the media have allowed for several art-forms (for want of a better word) to stem from each basic building block. So we have feature films, short films, silent films, theatre, dance, youtube, youporn (yay!), facebook, twitter, email, graphic novels, written word, short stories, factual books, happy slapping, weekend supplements, free papers and a whole bunch more I cannot be bothered to research. No longer is it just the book (which, ok, does allow for many art-forms to be expressed) which gives us access to the frothing pleasure and weeping joy of art, but several other blinking and moving and still images with which to titillate. Each very much has its strengths and weaknesses. Harry Potter is incredible as a book, a little shonky as a movie. Something like Full Metal Jacket is a visual and visceral feast for eye and ear which would work less well as a novel. At times graphic novels can capture something that neither the written word or cinema can quite match – treading the tightrope between the two.

And with so many media out there. And so many forms expressed by each medium. Can we really continue to hold the book up as the window into the soul? The benchmark against which we can snootily look down on someone, or (much more rare) be dazzlingly impressed. No. Of course not. Not least because books are themselves flawed and limited. Reading 40 zillion books a day and not owning a TV is not something necessarily to be proud of. In fact, surely the person who absorbs all media and picks the best and worst from each has the richer soul.

I could ramble on all over the place on this and I’ve not thought it all through. Mainly because I watch too much telly and my brain has rotted. But I’d be interested to know what people think. If nothing else, what are your own examples of perfection captured from each medium? There are lots of movie, video game, book, graphic novel and theatre fiends amongst us. Perhaps a good suggestion will inspire us to try something new. In fact, perhaps we could set up a web-page to capture such heart-felt recommendations. Interesting thought. Or maybe I’ll write a book about it.

Stroydont Schama

Published in: on 29/11/2010 at 10:51 pm  Comments (1)  

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One CommentLeave a comment

  1. Suggestions of graphic novels, no problem… 🙂

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