Monday, May 11, 2009

Books v. Cigarettes

The new budget has been announced and my local newsagent now charges £3 for a pack of 10 cigarettes.
This seems like an appropriate time to introduce a collection of essays and articles by George Orwell published as part of Penguin's Great Ideas series under the title Books v. cigarettes. In an article written for the Tribune in 1946, Orwell estimates the financial cost of reading and concludes that it "...does not amount to the combined cost of smoking and drinking".
That may all be good and well for 1946, but is it still true of twenty-first century Britain?
"Working on the same calculations used by Orwell in his piece, I estimate that I have spent approximately £7,000 on books over the last 15 years. (I have used an average price of £9.99 - though some of my books cost considerably more than this, a great deal more would have been far less). This works out at about £480 per year and if I include subscriptions to magazines and the amount I have spent on shelving and storage this figure rises to within the region of £550. Comparatively, if I were to smoke a pack of 10 cigarettes a day every day for a year, the cost would be roughly double at £1,095 - and that does not include drink, the thought of which sends my head spinning.
What do these figures actually tell us? Well for one thing, if you are a reader and a smoker, giving up cigarettes would allow you to by a hell of a lot of books, while the converse isn't necessarily true." ICA

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Beauvoir & Sartre: The Riddle of Influence

Reading this at the moment. I loved Beauvoir's metaphysical novels but I loved The Second Sex (1949), her intro:
"For a long time I have hesitated to write a book on women. The subject is irritating, especially to women; and it is not new,"
she wasn't a self righteous feminist, but held a true humanist philosophy. Dorothy Parker:
"I cannot be just to books which treat women as women ... My idea is that all of us, men as well as women, should be regarded as human beings"
De Beauvoir again:
"In truth, to go for a walk with one’s eyes open is enough to demonstrate that humanity is divided into two classes of individuals whose clothes, faces, bodies, smiles, gaits, interests, and occupations are manifestly different".
I love the work of both Parker & de Beauvoir. I am getting off the point. But they're both good points.

(I love this image of the two of them, they were seen as such serious French scholars, it's great this moment was captured)
It is a really succinct study into how Beauvoir & Sartre shared ideas in a literary & philosophical sense, but what is interesting & harks back to my last point about the Second Sex is that SImone professed that "Sartre was the philosopher & I was the follower", personally and professionally. This new book explores that relationship. I'm not far in, not far enough to muse on it here yet.
So here's one of my favourite de Beauvoir quotes from her biography by Deirdre Bair, it's her ending sentence:
''Well I just don't give a damn. It's my life, and I lived it the way I wanted. I'm sorry to disappoint all the feminists, but you can say that it's too bad so many of them live only in theory instead of in real life. It's very messy in the real world."
She was awesome.