Wednesday, September 10, 2008

I Read Therefore I Am

There’s a dying breed out there. Called a “Circulating Library”. For Generation-PSP, that’s a place where you go to pick up a book or two, devour them, go back, take some more, repeat ad nauseam.

Tear yourself from Google and Facebook, awhile (or even this highly entertaining blog!). Ask around, you may find one of these old dusty places in your vicinity.

When the T-Rexes still ruled the earth, we used to haunt these places. St Stanislaus’ Library with the sun shining in, the long benches, the stacked shelves and cupboards, is still one of my Best-Loved Places in the World.

We had a regular lending network across SPC too. Yeah, yeah some of us never returned stuff, and went blue in the face denying we ever took them! Why buy when you can steal?

We find-outed and Noddy-ed with Enid Blyton, idolized the Hardy Boys (we even acted out some of their adventures – whoever was fattest got the role of Chet Morton), followed the Three Investigators (Nancy Drew and the Bobbsey Twins were for the eep! girls!), and went wild over the Westerns – Sudden, L’amour, JT Edson.

Tried the Classics too – Verne, Wells, Dickens, Stevenson, Scott, Dumas… Yeah – the Brontes and Alcott were for the snort! girls!

Remember comics? ‘Course you do! Mandrake the Magician “gestured hypnotically” while Lothar bulged from every pore. DC's Superman, Batman, the JLA, et al, Tarzan, Rip Kirby, Bahadur, Garth and… The Phantom. The Ghost Who Walks, who – in addition to the statutory underwear-over-pants and eyeless mask – could hit baddies only with his right hand which had the Skull Ring! Special mention – a little strip about this little bald, dumb (as in he never spoke) boy – Henry, hilarious stuff on one page!

There were Amar Chitra Kathas, which I used to borrow – and gave back! – great stories that made our Indian heritage so damn interesting. Still around, thank God! Commandos and Westerns came in pocket sizes (Judy and Debbie and Mandy were all for the yuck! girls!). And those Epics – which I still go bonkers over today – Tintin, Asterix, Lucky Luke, Iznogoud, Richie Rich, Sad Sack, Baby Huey, Dot, the Madhouse set, Hot Stuff, Casper & Wendy, Hagar, Wizard of Id, Beetle Bailey…

Now, how could I forget that Icon of All Time? (Coz your bloody old, bugger!)

Step up, Archie. With the Gang. We loved him in every avatar – the dumbass loverboy, the super-hero, the Li’l version, at school, at Pop Tate’s, torn between two lovers, whew! Special mention must be made of Big Moose – whose classic phrase has entered the vocab of kids everywhere today: “D-uh?” Special mention: Josie & the Pussycats, Sabrina, Katy Keene too!

We even assigned Archie characters among ourselves. This was all to help the Great Cause of Pataoing the Colony Girls, so matches could be made legally. Most bombed – so sad, men. No clue why, but I was Jughead. Wha?! Coz I was as thin as an Ethiopian’s cow – my capacity for tucking away more than three burgers at a time was a skill I ‘acquired’ much, much later. Now, who the hell was Ethel?

Drumroll for MAD Magazine. The Mecca of Moronness, the Apex of Assininity, the Gods of Goof. 2 bucks got you one from the Bazaar Road raddiwala, and you read them cover to cover, squinting to decipher Aragones’ marginal masterpieces. That’s where a lot of us got our cynical, crude sense of humour from… learnt a whole new vocab (e.g. barf, furshlugginer, potrzebie and Don Martin’s sound effects). Today’s version is just a pale shadow.

So what does Old Man Mozz say to you today? Simple – spare some time for the printed word. It’s not as painful as it looks, turning pages in a book. You can carry them around, you don’t have to wait while they boot up or suddenly hang.

With books, your imagination is let loose, you picture the events as they happen – the way you want them to. And they stock up the attic in your brain with things you can always pick out when you need them most. Ideas, inspiration, even insults, whatever.

Feel it. Smell it. A book appeals to all six senses (come on! All kids chew paper, even if it makes you stammer! But I digress). Ain’t nothing to compare, not even a trayful of Andora mutton burgers.

1 comment:

Lisette said...

Ralph your Jughead persona shines through in this piece... Whats with all the snort girls and all?

Phantom deserves a post on his own... I decided long ago that he was the perfect guy - tree house, skull cave, all those chronicles when you want to read, devil and hero, the island with the dolphins neffertiti and of course hzzz had hrrzz, the treasure rooms... What more could a girl want?!

Wow! You remembered Katy Keene... she was waaay cooler than Barbie.

So you have some books of mine you've "borrowed"? hahahaha