A degree of self-awareness is generally considered a “good thing”. So much so, in fact, that at the temple in Delphi were carved the words “Know thyself, nothing in excess” – or at least a loose translation thereof into Greek (since, let’s face it, few visitors to the oracle would have understood the modern English version I have rendered here). Phrase-making which has stood the test of time and, indeed, translation.
I am currently reading “Mystery Man” which I have borrowed from Sawston library. Whilst a lot of my library-based borrowing relies on the very sizeable collection held at Cambridge Central library, I do feel guilty about using my local library as little more than a glorified book drop. As a result, I feel some obligation to find something to borrow from its rather limited shelves every so often: the whole library is not a lot larger than my drawing room and only contains marginally more books! Luckily, whilst it has very limited stock, there is a degree of rotation and new books appear de temps en temps (or at least they are new to Sawston). Despite this rotation, I have to be rather more adventurous with my book selections when choosing locally – which in many ways is no bad thing. Sometimes excessive choice is not our friend as there is a tendency to choose stuff too cognate with existing taste; the same issue arises when automated filtering attempts to show us only those things which it thinks will meet with our approval (or at least it would be if the filtering processes were even remotely effective). I have read some quite splendid books which I might otherwise never have encountered as a result of my strange moral crusade to use my local library, perhaps the cream of these was “The City and the City” by China Miéville. The other big advantage of regular visits to Sawston library is that they sell off old stock at the very recession-friendly price of 10p per book (not something I’ve seen at the ‘Central’) – and I’ve picked up some excellent bargains over the years.
Anyway, some might consider that I have digressed a little and may be wondering when almonds will make an appearance, so I shall return to Mystery Man forthwith (never let it be said that this blog fails to respond to constructive criticism – it may be true, but there’s no need to say it). Many years ago, I read a few books (which might be as few as two) by Colin Bateman which were fine – but they didn’t set my imagination afire and so I hadn’t rushed to read more (and move from ‘a few’ to the dizzy heights of ‘several’). In the intervening years, Mr Bateman seems to have discarded his forename(s) and to have joined the ranks of those who use but a single name in their professional life – not a grouping which I would wish to join myself (frankly, I struggle to think of any current members with whom I would want to be associated), but each to their own (and I suppose it would make form-filling slightly easier and provide a marginal reduction in printing costs). Still, my library-guilt needed assuaging and options were limited, so I took a chance on “Mystery Man” by, the now somewhat nominally reduced, Bateman.
Over the period of our estrangement, it would seem that Bateman’s writing and my taste have had somewhat of rapprochement – though I wouldn’t like to say which made the first move and whether the loss of forenames is anything more than a coincidence. I am loving the book and its extremely flawed and (thus far) anonymous hero and narrator (though I may be leaving myself something of a hostage to fortune as I’m only halfway through the book and he could yet turn out to be a serial killer, or worse). Our (for now) hero has some splendidly trenchant views and while he appears to suffer from a wide range of mental and physical issues (can’t imagine why I like him), he does not lack self-awareness. It is he who makes clear that there is no sugar on his almonds – a metaphor for self-awareness so fine that I have constructed this entire post around it. Yes, we have a whole new strand (queue virtual fanfare): GofaDM now offers a metaphor sharing service to its subscribers (and these are not any metaphors, they are specially selected, GofaDM approved metaphors).