As an affront to all Kindles and tablets I decided to wander into a high street book shop yesterday. Yes, that’s right, an actual book shop made of bricks and wood and other stuff.
For those that might be a little confused, a bookshop is a place of business similar to an Apple store, only it sells books made from paper, and is staffed by people old enough to remember Kylie Minogue as a shitty car mechanic.
Nostalgia was rife as I pondered the rows of hardbacks, and islands of cardboard marketing stands promoting the latest bestseller about whatever. It was enjoyable and charming. I remembered the days of not needing an app for this kind of thing. Being able to touch before you buy, smell the ink of the manuscripts and dry-heave at the body odour wafted from the shop assistant.
Wandering past the current Top 20, I stopped to take a look at what the well-informed masses were buying. Perhaps I should pick up the new “must have” thriller so I can appear smart and relevant on the train ride into work. However, if what I saw was an indication of the reading habits of the educated and urbane, then I was happy to remain the village idiot of the 8.15 to London Waterloo.
Holy fuck! What an amazing display of obnoxious titillation and god-awful triviality. A veritable plague pit of celebrity biographies, celebrity cookbooks and companion pieces for crass TV shows. The selection appeared to be a wickedly insightful manifestation of what Jeremy Kyle’s audience like to read whilst taking a shit!
It’s strange. When flicking through the Kindle store, or surfing iBooks, you somehow miss the sense of awfulness you get when confronted by rows and rows of mediocrity, and unvarying dreck, in physical form. The enormity of just how much of this stuff is out there, and how much money is being paid to the celebrities selling their inner bullshit, is staggering.
Are we really that eager to read the life story of a 22 year-old winner of Big Brother, or stupid enough to hand over £25.00 to learn the backstage secrets of Britain’s Next Top Model? How about feeling inferior and worthless in light of what Jamie Oliver served up during his last narcissistic TV series?
All this shit seems to be fuelled by the celebrity worship that has become a fucking epidemic in recent times. Honestly, how else can mediocre comedians, celebrity shag wits and obnoxious cooks sell so many copies of their fascinating life stories every year? How is that even plausible, much less possible, without a hungry and obedient audience of well-trained consumers?
In fact, the larger question of what is now deemed to be acceptable is nothing short of miraculous.
Consider the legions of 8 year-old girls inspired by the plastic people from The Only Way Is Essex, and encouraged by their parents to be just like them. It’s nothing short of a cultural ass fucking for anyone who can see past the light-hearted approach held towards these “role models”, and the lowering of standards that is being freely embraced by people that should know better!
My own parents affectionately laughed at a 23 year-old man not being able to tell the time during last year’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here! In days gone by this would have been a cautionary tale in order to get more homework done.
‘Practise your times tables, or you’ll end up like Joey Essex!’
However, in these enlightened times of incentivised stupidity, ending up like Joey Essex seems to result in an 8-figure book deal, and a few million quid in your Halifax Junior account!
Based on the breeding ground for the exceptionally average I witnessed in my local Waterstones, I seem to be in a minority with this opinion. My bafflement towards what passes for an entertaining read is destined to continue and grow with each seasonal autobiography, reality TV exposé, and middle-class cookery worship – all lovingly (ghost) written and endorsed by the latest, factory fresh, celebrity dip-shit.
And by the time my own son reaches the age of illumination, I’ll be looking in antique shops for anything written by someone who doesn’t have a series on Channel 4, or their own perfume range in Asda.
In short, that’s the last time I go to a fucking high street book shop!
Paul Millard 2014