Friday, 19 December 2008

Cool Bargains

I have eagle eyes when it comes to spotting good books in the most unlikely places. I was walking past a stationary shop yesterday and I spied a mound of forlorn looking books hidden in a corner. At first glance they were simply a bunch of romance novels for women who own too many cats but I found the most unlikely of treasures hidden beneath all the mushy stuff, George MacDonald’s At the Back of the North Wind for only three rand! I felt like a pirate who had just discovered the biggest treasure chest in the universe. There was a book by Peter Straub but I was too lazy to buy it (I know it sounds strange but I just wasn’t in the mood) and for some strange reason I bought The Mystery of the Strange Bundle by Enid Blyton, whose books I’ve always been indifferent toward. Maybe it was the title that intrigued me or the power of the magical number three that made some older and wiser primal force inside of me stir (this would explain why the Straub book put me off, it cost ten rand).

My friend, Leigh, also found some awesome bargains a few weeks back and she brought me back an ancient copy of Sir Francis Bacon’s The Essays. The book has some battle scars but they only make it look so much more like a source of great wisdom. Books have that sort of magical ability, whereas all earthly matter seems to run down with use they just keep on getting better. Ask any bookworm which book in their library they love most and they’ll most probably point to an old volume that’s just barely holding on to its molecular integrity. To an extent the same applies to the content of books. At no point do people say let’s stop reading Plato because he is simply no longer relevant, instead as time goes on people find themselves more in need of teachers like Plato and stories like Alice in Wonderland. We read some of Jorge-Luis’ short fiction in literary theory this year and he quotes from Bacon’s Essays in the epigraph of his story, The Immortal:

Solomon saith: There is no new thing upon the earth.
So that as Plato had an imagination, that all knowledge was but remembrance; so Solomon giveth his sentence, that all novelty is but oblivion.

C.S. Lewis always writes about how unoriginal most of his work is. He stands on the shoulders of giants. Literature does not need to be original; it needs only to be true. People never tire of reading the truth because they can never stick to it. We’re like children who never learn when their parents scold them. What’s wrong with you Johnny!? Didn’t you learn anything from the previous World Wars? Go sit in the corner!


Anonymous said...

So this post wins my Favourite Post Ever award. Very well written and enlightening, with a dash of author's quirkiness.


Charles Siboto said...

Fankee sai :) That means a lot coming from you.