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Bibliotheca

Submitted by on February 14, 2012 – 8:00 am2 Comments

Hackney Library holds happier memories for me as a kid. Not that I was a boffin or a nerd or a swot which is probably the word I would have used in 1968. The common usage of the words boffin and nerd exhibit American cultural imperialism which itself as been replaced by word globalisation, yet another Americanism.

Swotiness was not my fortay at 10, I now wish it was. Leaving High School, no comprehensive school at 15, I had a reading age of 9, which is not as bad as it sounds because when I first went to secondary school my reading age was about -46. Academia was not something I was good at, playing football, cycling and climbing on to the roof of our flats, now that I was good at. It would be natural to assume that at child that completely lacked the ability to read would not show any interest in a Library but strangely I did.

My mate Ivor, Ivor Middleburg, who was clever, he read books and went to grammar school and everything. He took me to the library and so I took books home because he did so I thought I’d better do the same. I did love the books even though I couldn’t read them, I would look through them looking at the illustrations and enjoying the feeling of having a book in my hands.

At 12 we were allowed to go into the adult section of the Library. I’m not saying that Hackney Library had a porn section, Hackney in the 60s and 70s was fairly radical and open-minded but not that open-minded. But it did have a science-fiction collection of books.

Science-fiction captured my imagination, I’d began to read and I read every science-fiction book they had over the coming years, H.G. Wells, Arthur C. Clarke and the mighty Issac Asimov. Asimov’s epic endeavour to explore the struggle between the individual and the collective and the individual within the collective triggered an internal compulsion to learn as much as I could about everything. Asimov, to his credit, eventually came down on the side of the collective over the individual.

When I left school the Library continued to have a major influence on me. Foolishly believing that work would be some kind of liberation from the drudgery and authoritarianism of school, I found myself in a vortex of desolation and needed to find an alternative to the prison cell of compulsory work.

I scoured the shelves and read any book that seemed to have an antiestablishment title. ‘Sex role stereotyping’ was one of my first reads followed by Karl Marx – The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Napoleon. I had absolutely know idea what it was about, I tried desperately to understand the book but couldn’t. But I knew the rich hated Marx, so he was my friend. I did go on to read The Communist Manifesto and Political Writings which had the effect of turning me into a raving revolutionary, a condition that still effects me to this day.

I still love libraries and I often borrow books form central library. One of the things I love to do is go into the library and choose a few books at random and take them home to read. This way I get to read books that I would have never thought of reading. I have read some brilliant books and some real shite. It doesn’t cost anything to read the book and if I don’t like it what does it matter, I just put it back on the shelve.

2 Comments »

  • e.northey@gmail.com says:

    Hi Navajo,
    Absolutely. The mark of a true civilisation resides in its libraries, their content and the way governments treat access to them.Words belong to us, not them, in all circumstances.”Mes den hap tavas a-gollas y dyr (Cornish) ‘the tongueless man gets his land took,’ in Tony Harrison’s wonderful translation.
    And the serendipitous nature of the occasional library selection has life-changing consequences. In the Missions to Seamen’s Library in Mina-al-ahmadi,up the Gulf somewhere, circa 1964, I picked out Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. I was never the same after that. Lost my belief in totalitarian solutions to human problems. And just last year, when reaching down for a Sophie Hannah novel in Heaton Moor library, I accidentally picked up Tinkers by Paul Harding instead. I haven’t been the same since.
    The fight for language is perhaps our first fight.
    Eric

  • ivor1704 says:

    Hello
    This is Ivor Middleburg here
    Who are you?

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