As more and more of humanity becomes incarcerated during the great Covid-19 lock-down, so people are devising more and more ingenious ways of combatting boredom whilst living in small, enclosed spaces.
Strategies so far have included: doing zany things on apartment balconies, like singing opera and running marathons; making fancy displays in your house windows with teddy bears (partly in honour of Michael Rosen, author of the 1989 children’s book We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, who alas is seriously ill at the moment); and sticking lots of whacky photographs and film-clips on social media, for example, of your worst culinary disasters, of your attempts to work out using household objects as gym equipment, of you and your family members re-enacting famous works of art, and of how you looked at the start of the lock-down compared with how you’ll look at the end of it.
Additionally, if you’re a wealthy Hollywood celebrity who’s totally insulated from reality, you can amuse yourself by posting on social media footage of you and a procession of your equally famous and wealthy friends delivering a tone-deaf – in all senses of the term – rendition of John Lennon’s Imagine. This exercise in sanctimonious pukery was the brainchild of actress Gal Gadot and among the rogue’s gallery taking turns to sing lines of Lennon’s song were Amy Adams, Will Ferrell, James Marsden, Natalie Portman and Sarah Silverman (whom I thought would have known better). No doubt the lines “Imagine no possessions / I wonder if you can…” warmed the hearts of millions of workers, laid-off because of the pandemic, who are wondering if anytime in the near future they’d have a job, a wage or, indeed, possessions to look forward to.
Anyway, I’ve noticed another recent trend whereby locked-in people who like reading have taken pictures of their bookshelves and put them on Facebook and Twitter for other readers’ perusal. The more disorganised and overflowing the bookshelves, it seems, the more appreciative the feedback they get. So as a bibliophile, and to give myself something to do for a couple of minutes – in the face of the vast existentialist desert of empty time that stretches into infinity ahead of me – I’ve taken a few photos of my bookshelves.
(I should add that the books shown probably don’t constitute one percent of the books I own. However, the vast majority of my collection is currently stored in boxes in an attic in Scotland and these are just the books I have with me in my current abode in Sri Lanka.)
Unfortunately, my bookcase is stuffed with so many other things – notebooks, files, papers, broken electrical equipment – that there are actually more proper books stacked beside it than residing on the shelves inside it. Here’s a close up of the stacks. If you look carefully, you’ll see that Daphne du Maurier is currently top of the pile for me, physically as well as metaphorically.
Meanwhile, on the bottom shelf, there lurks a strange combination of Irvine Welsh, Kingsley Amis, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Iain Banks, Robert Louis Stevenson, Thomas Harris and Theodore Sturgeon. That last writer was the man who formulated Sturgeon’s Law, which stated that “90 percent of everything is crap.” (Unless it’s a social-media singalong by Hollywood celebrities attempting John Lennon’s Imagine, in which case 100 percent of it is crap.) The book lying on top with the camera-flash-obscured spine is a non-fiction one about The Avengers. Because I’m elderly, I’m referring to the sublime 1961-69 TV series, not to the superhero movie franchise.
And above, on the top shelf, some Donna Tartt, John McGahern, Bill Hicks, a couple of Patrick O’Brian books about Captain Jack Aubrey and the complete Sherlock Holmes stories… The horizontal book with the unreadable spine here is The Irish Witch (1973) by that pot-boiling author of yesteryear, Dennis Wheatley. (Unkind critics would quip that it wasn’t just the spines of Wheatley’s novels that were unreadable.) Also, there are three books in view that are about James Bond, although none of them were authored by Ian Fleming. Can you spot them?
Finally, here’s the top of the bookcase, a perfect spot for positioning your effigies of Zen frogs and the Hindu goddess Kali, ornamental Burmese and Sri Lankan lions, Mexican Day of the Dead miniature skulls and posters for old Sean Connery and Timothy Dalton Bond movies.
Actually, looking at the books in these pictures, I realise that I’ve read most, but not all of them. There are still a few tomes I need to get through. Which means that the vast existentialist desert of empty time stretching into infinity ahead of me shouldn’t be so empty after all.