Portrait of a Bookworm


B  is  for : Bookworm,  Books, Bodice Rippers, Blockbuster,  Best Seller, the (Man) Booker Prize,  Blancmange


BOOKS  –  which have, over the centuries, been written or printed on a variety of materials ranging from clay tablets, palm leaves,  papyrus scrolls, pyramid walls, massive heavy copper sheets, vellum, toilet paper, continuous rolls of paper (Jack Kerouac On the Road) and now there’s a completely new suggestion: chameleon paper, for want of a better description.

The Millions (a blog about Books) proposes a marriage between the conventional book and the electronic reading machine, a product which would look like a book, high quality paper, spine etc. but the pages would be blank until activated, whereupon the hidden circuitry would upload whatever book you wanted to read.  What a nifty idea! On completion, you would programme the touchpad (hidden inside one of the covers)  to upload your next reading choice. And as the piece de resistance  as an optional extra one could add the clever application that would  exude the fragrance of old books and libraries …. the best of all possible worlds, maybe?

BODICE RIPPERS  – I just adore this steamy nickname for passionate tales of love denied, love lost, love pursued, virtue protected, virtue stolen …  and finally surrendered amidst the turmoil of heavy breathing, straining thighs, quivering breasts … oh, it’s all too much for my elderly constitution, think I’ll quickly take a cold shower and read a chapter or two of Great Gardens of the World”.  Be still, my beating heart!  (And, P.S. I’ve never met anybody who confesses to reading bodice rippers, although well-worn piles of these novels always turn up on charity book-sales. One of life’s little mysteries, I fear.)

BLOCKBUSTER – What officially qualifies as a blockbuster? Any novel that looks like the Yellow Pages on steroids, and weighs more than 600 grams, I reckon.  They do terrible damage to the bridge of your nose and completely wreck your glasses when they fall on your face when you drift off as you lie reading in bed, late at night. Furthermore, the print seems to be diminishing exponentially with each of my birthdays; another of life’s little mysteries.

BEST SELLER – No doubt there is some magical benchmark figure that qualifies a book as a Best Seller, but the criteria vary widely and wildly depending on hemisphere and culture.  Sadly, in the South African context, any new book that sells over 500 copies is reckoned to be a howling success ..

THE (MAN) BOOKER PRIZEBooks entered for this prestigious prize will definitely never appear in the Bodice Ripper Category, certainly not appear in the Blockbuster category, but might, just might, sneak into the Best Seller Category. A recent winner “Wolf Hall” by Hilary Mantell triumphantly surged into the Best Seller lists (deservedly so) while others like “The Sea” by John Banville did not. Possibly because it was Literature with a capital ‘L’.  I found it obscure, but then my personal taste is not equipped for the elevated heights of Literature, with a capital ‘L’. I can never quite decide whether the Booker is the crème de la crème of popular literature accolades, or the dizzy heights of cultural literary recognition.  Suffice it to say, the nomination lists for the prize have introduced me to authors I might otherwise not have tackled. So: many thanks to the Man Booker Trust.

BLANCMANGE – whatever happened to this treat from my childhood ? It used to arrive in one’s pudding dish quivering delicately – pale pink, sweet, slippery and bland. And – wild excitement – crowned with a spoonful of strawberry jam. I suppose it has been usurped by the much easier (& tastier, let us admit) options of rum ‘n raisin ice-cream, frozen yoghurt in any flavour known to man, and ready- made little pots of chocolate mousse.  A trawl through my recipe books reveals nary a recipe for this childhood treat.  I fear me its R.I.P. Blancmange.



6 responses to “ALPHABET SOUP

  1. Hi Alison, they already have something like your chameleon book… I subscribe to Short Story America( its free) and each week you are sent a good story , in book format. You click the corner of the page and it turns over with a flourish, complete with page turning sound! And the last page is a picture of the author and a bit about him/ her. Ain’t technology a wonderful thing! Ginny


  2. Hi Alison,
    Just love your definitions of book categories. Never thought of it like that before.
    Thank you


  3. I love the description of bodice rippers! You’ve made me so curious, that I now definitely have to read one of those (no, seriously, I haven’t read one yet!).

    My only concern is what the gentle ladies at the Pinelands Library will think of me if I ask in a hushed, conspiratorial whisper where they hide the bodice rippers? Could you advise on any authors’ names, so that I can circumvent the librarians and surreptitiously scuttle off to the correct shelf on my lonesome?

    And although the chameleon book sounds great in theory, there’s really nothing that beats a ‘regte egte boek’! Knowing my voracious appetite for reading, the darn thing will probably have flat batteries all the time… And I’m guessing it’ll be fairly pricy to download electronic versions.


  4. Alison Smith

    Sorry Reggie – can’t help with title suggestions to save embarrassment at the Pinelands Library; however, go to next Charity Booksale & lookout for covers with quasi-historical costumes, lots of decollete, swooning maidens in strong manly arms; or horses – that’s a good one. Keywords like Desire, Passion, Surrender. Let me know how you get on.


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