Wednesday, April 5, 2017
My Bathroom Books Redux
From left to right, we have a little book about astrology which I haven't opened yet, but since discovering that the Golden Dawn astrological correspondences for the tarot were much more comfortable to my mind than the Tree of Life correspondences, I have set my mind to trying to learn a bit about astrology. You will notice the rather ambivalent way I write about this study. Years ago I learned both Latin and Greek, having multiple goes at both. I just took to Latin like a duck to water, but for some bizarre reason Greek never stuck with me, and I have a feeling that while it will illuminate the tarot further, I feel it will be a system which will not stick with me.
Next is the wonderful Discovering Scarfolk by Richard Littler. His Scarfolk blog is one of the things I keep bookmarked on my phone and check often. The irony is, I find the book actually makes me want to go to Scarfolk. You will notive I have separated it from the Little Book of Birmingham, in case anyone makes comparisons between the two places.
Booth's Handbook of Cocktails and Mixed Drinks (by John Doxat) is the book to which I credit ny discovery that gin is called 'dry gin' on the bottle because it started off life as a sweet drink. Normally one of a sweet tooth, I can't begin to imagine what it must have tasted like. I will happily drink cocktails if I'm out in the sort of places which do them - I like a rusty nail but can chomp on negronis all evening - but would never dream of making them at home. Far too much like hard work. But one has to maintain a certain facade of sophistication so at least knowing about cocktails is de rigeur. That book is also fascinating for the way it talks about making and drinking cocktails as pastimes or hobbies. We are of course looking back to a time when smoking cigarettes was obligatory, but it is interesting how it now comes across as a manual for the alcoholic.
While it is obviously a medical textbook, The Oxford Handbook of Psychiatry is more interesting than most. As a weirdo myself, it appeals because it describes some of the wilder frontiers of human experience and behaviour. I have even been accused of having erotomania myself in the past, but of course that is all rumour. I bought the astronomy book by mistake when I wanted a book about astrology, but it is nonetheless fascinating to dip into.
I have only just been able to have it back in the house, but the next book I want to comment on is The Voice of Tobacce by Richard Craze. It is subtitled as his diary of stopping smoking, and unfortunately he died of smoking-related diseases after it was published. If I were to say that in that case he could have carried on smoking, he would understand that I am not merely being cynical, but listening to my own voice of tobacco. I didn't even realise it had one until I read this book and started listening, and I am delighted to announce that my own voice of tobacco is Fenella Fielding, in the scene in Carry on Screaming when she asks the sergeant if he minds if she smokes. This is the book for me which best portrays the smoker's real relationship with his substance. I roared with laughter as I read it, recognising myself and my father so often in the book. I have only just had it back but am ambivalent about reading it again because I got such a strong craving the other day as I walked poast the tobacconists, and this is six years after stopping smoking. Perhaps you never stop being a smoker once you've started, but that's ok, the relationship with tobacco is something with which nothing else compares.
I have been wanting to read Jacklyn Cock's Maids and Madams - about white madams and domestic servants in Apartheid-era South Africa - for ever. All those nine of Pentacles-type women, who have now had the tables turned on them and live in fear of being burgled, murdered, and what have you. Actually, I'm interested to notice another study of power in amongst those few books - Richard Davenport-Hines's An English Affair, about the Profumo Affair. Well. It's about facades, pretence, and privilege really. I really don't want this blog to sound like a conspiracy theorist's dream, but the Establishment seems always to create this web of privilege and corruption, which is always revealed just after the key players have died. Does nobody else notice this?
Finally the last book is one of the I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue spin-off books. See, I am middle class after all.