The power of books

Article published on January 20, 2017.

Long standing nb subscriber, Jackie Gethin, just had to share what a book had done to her.

A few weeks before Christmas I was in Hatchards for the first time. What a terrific space! A simply brilliant  bookshop.

I was determined just to browse and NOT buy myself any books, Christmas was coming up and I should be concentrating on buying gifts for others. HOWEVER, I picked up and started reading A.A Gill’s autobiography Pour Me and simply could not put it down. Of course I ended up buying it and gobbled it up in a matter of hours.

I was so impressed and moved by it that I determined to write to him and say so. Then the terrible news came that he had died and I never told him how much I loved his way with words.

I cannot tell him but I need to tell someone. I used to read his TV criticisms in the Sunday Times and would marvel over his amazing way with language. One expression he used to describe a potty mouthed teenager was as follows: ” Her mouth was effulgent with gob offal.” Isn’t that brilliant? I read that years ago and it has stuck with me.

His autobiography is full of similarly brilliant description and observation. He had a racketty old life and didn’t clean up his act until his early thirties.He was very seriously word blind and dictated everything. He hated the word dyslexic and the whole educational miasma around such a disorder. But his speech to a school of children all suffering from forms of word blindness about the power and beauty of the English language is a powerhouse of emotion and provocation.

I do urge everyone to read it.

Best wishes
January 2017

Pour Me by AA Gill
W&N 9781780226439 pbk Nov 2016

And Jackie’s encouragement has prompted this from our very own BookChap, Reg Seward:

I just read the Pour Me article in the Power of Books. I have not read the book yet, but I will eventually. It is Jackie Gethin’s comments on the use of the English language by the author A.A.Gill [that spur me to write]. I love word usage such as his, not many do unfortunately. However, I felt compelled to let you know of a rather odd discovery I found back in the mid 1970’s that shares an almost similar rarity.
I was then engaged as an engineer furnishing and repairing diesel engines to Felixstowe Dock and Railway Co. On this particular day in question, I had to answer the call of nature, and repaired to a small, brick built edifice on the quayside. Two cubicles awaited my visit, I chose one and became comfortable. I recall reading an old newspaper I had acquired as I cogitated etc. After a bit I became aware of my boredom, so I put down the newspaper and gazed languidly around me. At roughly waist high, a small inscription was written in shaky ballpoint pen upon the wall, amongst lots of, shall we just call it, risque commentary of the 20th century? It stated:

This convenience reads like an anthology of invective and abuse, and I for one find it incalculably trite.

I remember it still, most unusual to find on a dockside toilet wall, a bit like finding a pair of bicycle clips under the lava at Pompeii.

Best Wishes






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