Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Wot I lurn from boox

"How do you KNOW that?" - "I read widely." - a sample conversation that I have had, ooh, every day for most of my life. I make a great pub quiz team member (not that it's my favourite way to spend an evening, but I'm always willing to help out) , since I know all kinds of stupid and pointless facts like the collective noun for geese (it's different if they're in the air or on the ground), the capital of Mauritania, why shops selling jet jewellery have higher insurance premiums than other jewellers, etc... One of the best things about reading is the vast floating plankton mass of trivia you drift through, like a whale with its mouth open, and accumulate, if you're not bogged down by petty considerations like the plot or the characters. The fantastic John le Carre has taught me how to spot someone following me and how to put them out of action if necessary without actually killing them - I'm unlikely to ever need to use this but there you go, it's all useful information. The problem is that the magpie instinct is self-defeating - you acquire the knowledge for its own sake, because it's SHINY, but the chances of it being put into use are few and far between. If I ever read a novel whose central point involved balancing a cheque book or how to drive a car, my life might well have been easier and more efficiently organised. But if I ever get attacked by a shark or the KGB, I'll know exactly how to react, and that goes for not ordering Bushmills in a pub full of Rangers supporters too.

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