VOICES FROM THE FIRE: Stephen Whitter

Old Man, New Books

The Old Man I visited in a ‘care’ home loved to read, but not he said, new books.
He didn’t speak too well and I don’t hear too great so, i got a grip of the wrong end of the stick.
Perhaps it was the new style, or un familiar authors that he objected to, but no it was purely the newness, the hot off the press-ness that with his Arthritis he could not deal.
The springy nature of an unbroken spine, the curved pages his misshapen fingers could not render supine.
“Why can’t books be made on a spiral like a horizontal reporter’s note pad ?”
I said I didn’t know but guessed it would be down to money and people are precious about their books .
“Well they make em’ in large print for folk that can’t see”
I had to agree yes, yes they did.
And so I ended up reading books of which I had no intention,
at first I thought my allocated Old Man wanted me to read the
the books to him but no, he wanted to read, he just wanted me to
turn each page of each new purchase, to relieve the springy nature of the book.
After a moments’ surprise that suited me fine as I realised I was
getting new books to read, well if I were to turn each page?
Some were a revelation, how brilliant they were and some exactly the opposite, the fact I read them the Old Man soon realized and agreed it was ‘fair’.
But i couldn’t get the Old Man’s opinions out of him, he spent a fortune on these volumes but did not want to discuss them, not with me at least.
I even went to the length of checking with one of the staff, perhaps he had a literary friend with whom he shared his thoughts but no, i was his only visitor
So, we never discussed the thriller with, I thought no plot, or the ‘beat’ book that was anything but.
I even smuggled onto the ‘to be read’ pile some work from my own pen, an act i almost instantly regretted.
As usual though no comment was made, well, at least I fared no worse than Hardy had or Joyce or some new ‘young gun’.
On my visit today a victory, I noticed my effort was not on the towering ‘Charity Shop’ pile, where many a bestseller had landed.
Agony that day hiding my prideful smile, that fact my book was
‘a keeper’, to be re’read though not a word was said it was, ‘one of the few’. To me, from that old man.
As significant as a Times Literary Supplement rave review.

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