Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Do anglers have small rods?

I've been a supporter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) ever since I gave up meat 17 years ago. They do great work and I love them. Sometimes, though, their efforts leave me wondering if they could have directed their resources more effectively.

I received an email this morning asking me to spread the word about their new website, called 'Do Anglers Have Small Rods?'. Its sole purpose is to suggest that anyone who partakes in the cruel and unnecessary pastime of fishing is trying to compensate for having a small penis. I think it's fair to say that there isn't a great deal of science behind these claims, especially as it implies that all anglers are male, but it's quite amusing. The testimonials are the best bit - my favourite is from 'Mike in Newcastle' who says: "I got jealous just handling the maggots!"

But do PETA expect this site to shame anglers into giving up? Will doing so cause their penis to grow overnight? Is it really a good idea to insult people as a persuasive measure or is it just a publicity stunt?

Probably the latter. But, like the good PETA supporter that I am, I just wanted to share it with you.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

When readers don't digest

I'm reading at the moment. I disappoint myself by not reading more often, so it's worth a mention. It's about all I am doing, mind. I perhaps should have mentioned that I'm taking a month 'out' of my usual creative efforts (or pained procrastination thereof) to watch the World Cup. Sitting in front of the TV night after night is usually something I can't abide, but a bi-bi-yearly (quad-yearly?) football tournament feels like a decent enough excuse to do just that. They're horrible markers of time, World Cups. I watched the last one at my mum's place, as I was living there back then, with my right leg on cushions as I nursed a torn calf muscle sustained by unwisely cajoling my body through the ostensibly mild - but clearly too demanding - rigours of a charity cricket match. Was that really four years ago? Was I really still in my twenties back then? Well yes, of course. And the next one will be upon you just as fast.

But anyway, back to my reading. It's nothing taxing, just the gentle 'One Day' by David Nicholls. I bought it partly because I liked 'Starter For Ten' but mostly because I like the cover. Here it is:

The back is almost the same but with some enthusiastic review snippets. Tony Parsons reckons it's 'Totally brilliant' but even that didn't put me off. The artwork is by a guy called Craig Ward who, upon Googling, I found to be a very skilled exponent of typography and design. I don't think there's anything wrong with judging a book by its cover, incidentally. Good work should be packaged well, and if it isn't then somebody isn't doing their job properly. I felt pretty confident that a book with a cover like this would be an entertaining read, and so far it's proving to be just that.

Most people would call me a slow reader. I would call me a proper reader. I read books as though I were recording the audio version. Not out loud, I should add, just at that kind of pace. It has always infuriated me that 99% of people who read books do not do it this way. That's largely because I'm jealous of their ability to devour a great many more titles that I am capable of, but I still can't understand how it's done. When I read a review that says 'It was so good I read it in a single sitting!' I want to hurl something heavy at them. It is impossible, I posit, to read a standard length novel in a single sitting unless a) you have got up very early and prepared yourself for an all day slog, or b) you are skipping huge great important chunks of it and getting little more than an overall impression of the story. I once heard someone say that they read a fairly lengthy novel in its entirety while travelling on the train between Glasgow and Birmingham. NO YOU DIDN'T. IT ISN'T POSSIBLE. I was once taught how to speed read news stories; "Just read the first sentence of each paragraph" my teacher explained. "Subsequent sentences just expand upon the first." I've never done that, but it makes sense as a means of gleaning the important information. It doesn't work with a novel though, does it? I've tried picking up the pace, allowing my eyes to travel at increased speed in the hope of shortening my time expense but invariably I end up having to go back to re-read it all again because I missed a vital piece of exposition. So now I just read at my own pace, smugly assuring myself that I am respecting the author's craft. They have, after all, agonised for hours over their choice of words, sentence structure and cadence of tone and the last thing they need is some buffoon editing it all with their careless desire to reach the climax and move on to some other poor sod's effort.

Of course the danger in criticising something that 99% of people do (even if that figure is nothing more than a wild and dramatic assumption) is that you're unlikely to find much empathy in your audience. I'd best get back to my book, I think.