Mortgages do funny things to people. Apart from the direct result of owning a block of land, it caused two strange reactions in me.
Firstly, I started buying scratchies.
There’s nothing like staring down 25 years of debt to suddenly imbue someone with the irrational belief that they’ll get the winning ticket. After laughing at my Father for buying Lotto tickets, I’m one step away from doing it myself (scratchies are a gateway drug, kind of like the marijuana of gambling). Apparently I’m more likely to be struck by lightning or become infected by malaria – but it doesn’t matter. The precious will be mine!
Secondly, I’ve joined the library.
I resisted this. I didn’t think I could do the ‘deadline’ thing. I’m the kind of person who buys a book and either reads it immediately or leaves it on a shelf to wait for a few years. My problem is that I come across so much interesting stuff to read that my attention is always being swept along by a fast tide.* But I’ve decided to harden up on that.
I also emoed out about not being able to stare at all the books I’ve read. I know I’m sad, but it’s true. The idea of giving it back afterwards and not being able to stare at its creased spine triumphantly was daunting. It’s also daunting that when I do eventually buy the books I really enjoyed that they will be pristine on the shelf – the dreaded sign of the book poser!(You know the person I’m talking about. They have all the classics in clear view on their book shelf, but they are mysteriously unspoilt)
But unrelenting self-imposed poverty is…well, unrelenting (25 years for God’s sake!). And I finally cracked. So I joined the Newcastle City Library, which is located on Laman Street (behind the fig trees everyone is arguing about lately).
Libraries are strange places. They are generally majestic on the outside and then slightly dingy once you walk past the entrance. They mainly care for the less fashionable in society – those that don’t have the income to purchase their own books, such as the elderly, the unemployed, poor university students and children. Yet they are one of the most important institutions in any functioning democracy, alongside the free press. Venerable and unassuming, all at once.
It was the first time I had been in the Newcastle City Library, because I went to the Raymond Terrace Library as a child. The cards are jazzed up now – perhaps even rad (No? Yes?). They’ve created an online catalogue where you can browse their selection and ask them to put titles aside for you. It also keeps track of how many books you have out and which ones are waiting for you at the library. This is like crack for me.
So what have I borrowed so far?
- Hopes & Prospects – Noam Chomsky
- Power & Terror – Noam Chomsky
- The Essential Chomsky – edited by Anthony Arnove
- You Are Not A Gadget – Jaron Lanier
- Naked Lunch – William S Burroughs
- Persepolis – Marjane Satrapi
As you can see, I’m currently on a Chomsky binge. He won the Sydney Peace Prize the other day, but I have been meaning to read his work for ages (by the way – he is better than I imagined and I had high expectations). I’ve finished ‘Hopes & Prospects’ and ‘Power & Terror’ already. I’m currently reading ‘You Are Not A Gadget’, as a break between the Chomsky fever.
Unfortunately, they don’t always have what I want (though they do have a pretty good selection). Or, they have the book in the information and research section, which you can’t take home (for instance, the Journal of John Woolman is there). It turns out that my taste in books is so random that I may still have to buy some.
*I will try to explain how it works. I’ll be reading Alan Moore’s ‘From Hell’ and it will inspire me to read ‘London Labour and the Working Poor’ by Henry Mayhew – but I don’t have it at that moment. So I’ll read the next book on my list, which will be let’s say for argument sake, on politics by Chris Hedges. Then I’ll need to read all the political books the author referenced and all of his books. So if ‘London Labour’ doesn’t get in at that precise moment it might miss out for a long time, even if I manage to buy it later.