Where does all this paper come from? Like Clive, I’ve being doing a spot of housekeeping – collecting together the vast piles of paper that have accumulated since I moved into my flat just over a year ago. From under the bed comes reams of catalogues, special offers and charitable calls to action that have fallen out of magazines and newspapers. Appallingly, I found a few New Statesman issues still mint in their polyethene wrapper, along with October’s National Geographic. They deliver their publications in a coarse brown packet, as if the journal has been despatched from some far flung part of the orient, rather than Surrey.
I’ve consolidated. No longer do magazines litter each corner of each room. Now, the copies of the New Statesman, a few random Prosepects, and a stray Spectator sit together in just one corner of one room, in one big and unmanageable tower. I still have several cuttings from The Times, and a couple of special reports from the Independent to file.
The packaging and loose adverts have been recycled, but I feel I should keep a hold of the magazines themselves. I do this not because I harbour some preposterous notion that I will, one day, actually go back and read what I have missed, but rather because I feel as if I am creating for myself a form of reference library. One of these days, I do not doubt that Ziaduinn Sardar’s analysis of progressive Islam will be useful to me in some way…. if I can remember in which magazine it was published.
This hoarding betrays an egotistical desire to be ‘well read’. The gentleman scholar. Of course, in the 21st century this appetite can never be satisfied, as the sheer volume of data exceeds an individual’s capacity to take it all in, even if the RSS bookmarks are all in order. Yet still I worry if I have spent a day without reading a newspaper, and the idea of cancelling a subscription to something is a heresy.
At the moment I am reading The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. He tells the story of a conspiracy in a medieval monastary, the clues to the mystery held within the pages of ancient texts, buried in the depths of a labyrinthal library. In his later book, Focault’s Pendulum, the characters take the connection of ideas to an extreme, constructing wild conspiracy theories from the most disparate sources. Both books a riddled with quotation and historical allusion, a style that John Updike once described as a permenant ‘orgy of citation and paraphrase’. It’s not clear whether Updike considers this a compliment, but I enjoy Eco’s work for this very reason. Thinking laterally and connecting ideas is part of the fun of reading and writing. The more you read, the more connections you can make, the more ideas you can have.