A swear in the fucking title

Image3So just after New Year I finished reading a book, an awful, dreadful thing stuffed with prostitutes and shotguns, and the kind of dialogue you’d expect from Engrish dubbing. The central character approached the narrative in an ingenious fashion, routinely getting knocked unconscious for the boring parts before coming around just in time for any action.

I should set up some sort of mental filter that engages when I’m out hunting for second hand books, one that stops me from picking up anything from the crime genre, with all its frustratingly two-dimensional bent cops, hard rains on dirty streets, casual acceptances of pederasty, and meticulous descriptions of gun and car types.

Even that filter would’ve struggled when I saw the cover of MAIN BITCH in Oxfam. That such a book had found its way into a store filled with cardigans and the smell of old people (boiled sweets and sawdust) was fantastic in itself, but the bold red lettering emblazoned on the tawdry black and white sketch of a sulky prostitute just screamed of deviancy, brown paper bags and the independent press.

There was nothing specifically wrong or singular about such a purchase, but I still felt strangely empowered and aberrant swapping those paperback pages for cold hard cash. I was like a teenager buying condoms for the first time.

Then… well then I decided to take the book on the train, and suddenly found myself quite uncomfortable with the looks of concern from tweed old women and the young families traveling to the city for the day, especially when their faces turned from the pleasure and interest of seeing someone read… to the understanding and interpretation of the words and images on the cover. I told myself I should probably be more careful, and more conservative with how I displayed my reading material.

That is, until I had a few more hours to kill and decided to kill them along with a few brain cells in the standing area of a Covent Garden Wetherspoons. Suddenly I was holding the book high and pointing the cover directly at a group of slightly alternative-looking twentysomethings, or anyone who dressed and moved liked they’d been to university, waiting for their slow nods of approval to commence.

Yes, that’s right, I’m reading. I’m reading a book in public, rather than kicking a ball or punching someone. I am an academic and we have so much in common, person slowly wondering why that man with the book is nodding at them.

An unofficial office party wound their way to bar, by which I mean a large group of men in suits started baying for booze. I held the book with even more resolution and defiance, often getting in their way as they shouted various slang words for breast and used the entirety of their lungs and spines to laugh at nothing.

Yes, that’s right. I’m reading a book in public without shame, in a place you’d never read a book. I know something you don’t know, and have access to an understanding that you can’t quite grasp. The book itself speaks of a world you don’t know, a world you’ve joked about, a world you wish you knew more about. It intrigues you. Me and my book intrigue you, you men who wish  I’d take my buzz kill and go find a place to stand that didn’t take up so much space.

In a matter of hours and a pint and a half, I went from a timid travelling academic to a pretentious and showy prick, and all it took was a novella with a mild swear word in the title.

If only it had actually been worth reading.

Nick
xx

Oh! And it says something for Main Bitch that the best review they could find is essentially “I read it from start to finish, turning each page to see what happened next” …. that isn’t a review, that’s a description of what happens when you read…