I have this recurring professional nightmare: on a 20-minute deadline, and with no research allowed, the Editor orders me to produce an overview of, let’s say, quantum physics or some such topic I’ve meticulously avoided thinking about for most of my life. I fancy the Times of India feels much the same way when it writes a story on books. I noted with alarm this morning that there was an article titled "Book, Line and Sinker" in the TOI’s city supplement, wherein the paper seems finally to have convinced itself that people do, in fact, read books and that this bizarre trend is on the upswing.
The first paragraph of this story is a masterful example of how an experience as commonplace (for some of us anyhow) as reading/book browsing can be prettily exoticised. Here goes:
"One would have thought that with TV, the Internet and other modes of entertainment hitting drawing rooms, reading books was a lost culture. Be surprised! For, most of Delhi’s well-known people, and the not-so-famous ones, have one thing in common: a passion for reading. Or to be more precise, the passion of just browsing through shelves after shelves of book at bookstores."
The above para is so rich in comic detail, it deserves multiple readings (which is apt I suppose for a story on the reading culture), just so you don’t miss anything out. (My personal favourite turn of phrase: "browsing through shelves after shelves of book...")
And later: "The classy among the rich and famous are fond of reading from various bookstores..."
This is probably what Alfred E Neuman meant about "rising to new depths", but I suppose one should at least allot points for intention. Me, I’m scribbling out that quantum physics piece now...