What Speed Do You Read At?

I am not a very fast person. Maybe I am not built for speed. I hate fast cars. I don't like fast food. I do, however, sometimes read very fast, and I sometimes get very annoyed when I am reading The Sun over someone's shoulder and they linger too long on one page.

Some written things are made for zooming through or hoovering up, like a thirsty cat lapping up water in these godforsaken parched days. Some books, like Colm Toibin's The Heather's Blazing, get under your skin, and stay glued to your fingers and won't let you give up on them until you're through and still wanting more. Some fictional characters recur in books, and you lap up each story eagerly, and hunt shelves for more. And in this category I would put Patricia Highsmith's exemplary Ripley tales.

Other written things are made for savouring and rationing, like an old buffoon relishing each drop of his vintage claret as he sits on his patio as the evening finally cools. Some books, like Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Love In The Days of Rage, are so perfectly put together, the magic of the artistry so delights, you have to take the richness in as carefully cut up portions, and so rest between sessions to appreciate that much more the magnificence. Some fictional characters recur in books, and you meander through each twist and turn, and anticipate the next work which you know will be there waiting for you. And in this category I would put Simenon's Maigret.

Some written things you have on your shelves because once you thought you should have a copy, but you just cannot bring yourself to read more than a few words ... ever! A perfect example of this is Barney Hoskyns' text on country soul, Say It One Time For The Brokenhearted. Actually anything by Barney Hoskyns could be an example of this, but Say It ... is the only book of his I would allow in the house.

I hate Barney Hoskyns an awful lot. He is the epitome of the serious music journalist that replaced the punk show-offs. And he went to public school. And he is an incredibly dull writer. Or I assume he is because I can't get round to reading his stuff. I could be horribly wrong, but I doubt it.

Anyway, many years ago he wrote a very respected book on country soul which I can't bring myself to read. Coincidentally Casual Records have just released a CD called Country Got Soul. It mentions in its sleevenotes (okay I won't mention apostrophes!) a lot of the people I would expect to be in that book. The CD itself features some tracks that sound so horribly 'authentic' and 'worthy' you want to run screaming for a bit of Abba. The CD also features a selection of white guys from the Deep South (not Devon!) who cook up a soulful stew that leaves you sobbing as the sweat rolls off you.

It's a privilege to hear the glorious ´I Hate Hate' by Razzy, and the gorgeous rumbling of ´Did Somebody Make A Fool Out of You' by the great Tony Joe White. ´Get Involved' by George Soule is something I have long been after, and Delaney & Bonnie's contribution makes me wonder why I didn't take Nik Cohn's word for it when I was stealing all his other words.

And I still refuse to read anything by Barney Hoskyns, no matter how learned and scholarly he may be. You've gotta keep a few principles as you pass through this crazy old world!

© 2003 John Carney


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