A Well-Read Man

A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster

There is always some good that comes from tragedy although we often don’t see it at the time and sometimes we never do. In my case now that we are deep into a pandemic I have been forced to change my reading habits and that may be a good thing. I was always a great fan of the late John Le Carré, Len Deighton and Ken Follett, spy writers all three. Sometimes I switched to the Archers, Geoffrey and Jeffery, not knowing they were two different people. I just naturally assumed it was the printer’s fault and Geoff/Jeff could care less as long as he/he got the royalties.

You will have noticed by now that my favourite modern authors all wrote fiction which would suggest I live in the dream world of international espionage, and most of the time I do. When Mary and I were in a restaurant in Hamburg, Germany, I kept peeking under everybody`s schnitzel looking for electronic bugs.  We were asked to leave.

I read a pile of historical fiction for a year or so and because of that I may well be the foremost expert on the Knights Templar, the Spanish Inquisition and the sex life of Queen Elizabeth the First. (Don`t believe that B.S. about Sir Francis Drake being at bowls when the Spanish Armada was sighted. I happened to know there was a pin-setters strike that day and Franny was seen crawling out a palace window with his pajamas under his arm.)

But along came COVID-19 last year and we are stuck in the house for days on end. Well there is the odd trip to the Liquor Store but even then only three or four times a week. I was up there so often in January that two or three on staff thought I worked there and expected me to pitch in and fill shelves when the store got busy. (That changed very quickly when they saw me trying to put a case of Glenmorangie 12-year old scotch into the trunk of my car)

I have read and re-read the books in my library so many times that I can skim read over the dull parts and go straight to the action stuff. Not only that, even before I get to the bedroom scenes I can picture the outfit the heroine is wearing even when she is wearing no outfit at all.

I read voraciously, or did after I realized what the word meant. I read, Lord of the Rings in a week, and started in on The Hobbitt until Mary forced me to stop. (I was seeing Smaug, the dragon, in my sleep and one night attacked her housecoat hanging on the back of the bedroom door thinking it was a goblin. (The housecoat was hanging on the door not me; I thought I had better explain that in case you thought I was weird.)

But the other day I had just picked up the Complete Works of William Shakespeare to give it a go when I saw out of the corner of my eye, The Greatest Show on Earth. No, not one about the Ringling Brothers circus, this one was written by the eminent ethologist and biologist, Richard Dawkins and it is about evolution. My friends this is heavy reading. I started into it five years ago and couldn’t get passed the first page. I put it back on the shelf vowing to try it again when I was old and approaching senility.

Last Sunday after both my sons hinted I was old and approaching senility I decided to take another whack at it. That is quite a change for me, reading non-fiction. The only non-fiction I have read recently is The Life Story of Donald Trump, as told to Rudy Giuliani.

I have to admit the sciences were not my strong suits when I was in high school, in fact there are some who say I had no strong suits in school at all – and if I did the ass would have been out of the pants and the jacket would be too tight across the middle. Nevertheless, I dug right in to the story of where we came from. I have to admit I am struggling with it simply because I am not smart enough to follow the technical evidence going back billions of years, yet I am convinced their findings are true.      

It is not my intention to upset the creationists but it has always amazed me that 40% of the folks south of the border believe the world was created in 6 days and God took Sundays off to watch the Super Bowl. But when I realized an even higher percentage of Americans voted for Trump in 2020 (not quite high enough, thank the Lord) I was not so surprised.

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