He had always believed that reading was good for you, that the more books you read somehow the better you were, the closer to some ideal of human perfection you came, yet if anything his own experience at the library suggested the exact opposite: that reading didn’t make you a better person, that is just made you short-sighted, and even less likely than your fellow man or woman to be able to hold a conversation about anything that did not centre around you and your ailments and the state of the weather.
Could all that really be true? Did it matter? That the striving after knowledge, the attempt to understand human minds and human nature, and stories, and narrative shapes and patterns, made you no better a person? That the whole thing was an illusion? That books were not a mirror of nature or a mark of civilization but a chimera? That the reading of books was in fact nothing more than a kind of mental knitting, or like the monotonous eating of biscuits, a pleasant way of passing time before you died?
– Ian Sansom, “thinking” as Israel Armstrong, in Mr. Dixon Disappears
Armstrong is Sansom’s mobile librarian-anti-hero in the Mobile Library Series, which includes Mr. Dixon Disappears, A Bad Book Affair (my favourite to date).
Sansom is a “new to me” sorta-mystery writer. Did you know that about me, that my not-so-secret not-so-vice is devouring mysteries? And that I want to be Rex Stout when I grow up? Now you do.
This weekend on Nothing By The Book, we’re playing #whatsyourtotem animal: It’s a game: what’s your totem animal? And what’s mine? Come join us.