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Unusual March 25, 2010

Posted by Fiona in Big things, Bwargh, Law, Literature.
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(So I’m home.  Since Sunday.  It’s great, but I don’t really know what to do with myself without essaying.  I’ve been at work the last few days and clawing at the walls because I want to do something intellectual.  Also I got a bit of a buzz today because my manager told me I had a really lovely telephone manner and it was the nicest thing anyone’s said to me all day.  Close brackets.)

I did something yesterday during my lunchbreak which was unusual, and it was this: I went to the Oxfam bookshop and bought a book.

The book was nothing to do with the law.

It did not have a Penguin black cover, nor will it ever.

It does not question my morality, my sexuality, my politics, my prejudices or my take on the world.

In fact, in no way does reading this book make me a better, or more enlightened person.

It is called ‘Death du Jour’, by Kathy Reichs who is one of my favourite (if a little pulp) crime authors; it cost me £1.99 and it is about a murder-solving forensic pathologist.  I am eighty three pages in and it is fantastic, not least because all my concentration is going on something that is not going to do me any external good now or ever.  Even knitting has some form of usefulness.  This is the written equivalent of spending an evening watching Masterchef (also a fantastic thing to do, incidentally).

The sad thing is, it occurred to me earlier that this is why I used to read: to enjoy the story.  I read a lot of pulp crime fiction of a certain type (tends to have female protagonist with medical background, history of depression and mad skills with firearms), but, y’know, I used to just read anything, for the love of it, at the time.  No analysis.  I read the entirety of ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ without spotting the feminist subtext once.  I read the whole Narnia series about five times over before someone pointed out it was an allegory and I started to see their point.  I used to read, essentially, to find out what happened next.

In some ways, reading cases is a dream for this: you have a cast.  You have a goody and a baddy – or maybe you don’t.  You have a drama, and a difficult question, and an answer, and a reason.  You have a happily ever after, of sorts, even if it is in the phrase, ‘Case dismissed with costs.‘  In some ways, reading cases is terrible.  I always wondered what happened to the battered wives after they won their cases, for example, or whether the children in the adoption cases were happy, or whether people whose freedom of speech was deemed less important than national security and the public good really did run away to sea to make explicit videos about St Theresa.  No story tells you everything.  These are real lives.  You’re not going to get an answer just because you say Oh But Mum enough times.

Sometimes I wonder how many people’s lives and imaginations are ruined by the phrase, ‘Critically analyse‘.  I think I can sheepishly put my hand up at this point.

Anyway, you know all this.  The point is that yesterday, for the first time in ages, I bought a book from a charity shop and now I’m reading it.  And that’s unusual, and really, really refreshing.

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