Sunday, 30 April 2017

Degenerate Reading

Degenerate reading can be achieved in a number of situations.

In her last years my mother said she would take any book that was to hand at 4 a.m. or so and read the page she opened at, then try to go to sleep again. Could be Walter Scott. Could be The Paston Letters. Reading because she knew how to, because she had a book to hand and she was awake.

I used to keep Boswell's Life of Johnson in the car to read at traffic lights. It was comfortable, warm, remote, and, inevitably, sporadic. I wasn't reading my way through it, it was just to catch the tone and then the lights would go green. If that volume went to the great carpark in the sky with the aged Morris, so be it.

Recently I have read a few lines at a time, usually in the early evening, from a tiny copy of Eugène Sue's Mysteries of Paris, which is sensational in the 19th century manner, stiffly translated, serial in the way Dickens was; unreadable.
                        CHAPTER XXV1 
               THE ISLE OF RAVAGEURS 
The individuals now introduced to the reader's notice were a bloodthirsty and cruel race, with one exception, the eldest son. The head of the family had suffered on the scaffold, as his father had done. Their residence was well situated for the perpetration of any crime......

I have also dipped about in the catalogue at the back of the book. A portrait of reading in the mid-late 19th century. Series include THE NEW, NOVELIST'S LIBRARY, POETICAL SERIES, MISCELLANEOUS, PENNY GUIDES TO GAMES, and THE JUVENILE SERIES, in a variety of sizes and finishes, with or without vignette.

I had a phase of reading bad novels, after A levels and again after university. Victorian and Edwardian novels. I don't know now what I was trying to find out but degeneracy may have come into it.

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