‘A book which changed my life forever happened to be The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand.
At the time I resided in a small bedsit in Liverpool which had been thrown together by a ‘property developer’ whose idea of a right-angle was somewhat obtuse. If the bed was pushed up against a wall and into a corner, such that it took up the least possible of the scant space available, the further post of the bed head stood proud from the wall.
On the odd and infrequent occasions upon which I could persuade a young lady to share such bed, my youthful enthusiasm, combined with an energetic incompetence, would cause said bedpost to perform a tympanic symphony, to the annoyance of the bloke next door.
The bloke next door was old, well forty anyway, of short temper and little humour. His disapproval of a thumping on the party wall was expressed by reciprocal concussions, shouts and loud music.
This distraction, while usually insufficient to unadolescent me, would often cause the female, doubtless already sobering, to call a halt.
As it would happen, I came upon a copy of The Fountainhead in paperback, on a market stall and, for some reason which I do not recall, having read it, jammed it between post and wall.
My life improved immeasurably.’ (From a recent Guardian comment thread, the better for being an unknown poster.)
It’s one of those questions that keep cropping up. Why do any of us love books? Reading them, finishing them, let’s face it, sometimes even just holding them. Why go on about their weight, or smell, or touch in a form which doesn’t even allow for the changing of the font? And for all that talk of a sensual readership scribbling in the margins or underlining their love on the page; or perhaps that more reverential type whose own signature is in the pristine condition of the spine even after its contents have been digested – how does this love affair fit in to the digital present? After all, compared with the analogue era – also a high water mark for books as cultural artefact – the hyper-accelerated nature of this zeitgeist, with its iPod scroll wheels and constantly refreshed web pages, eBooks and Kindles, has been unkind to the humble book. Our bedsit hero would be hard pressed these days to find ‘The Fountainhead’ or any similarly weighty tome on his local jaunts. Then again, his imaginative use of the original neoliberal high priestess, suggests that the multiform utility of the book is not a recent development. It has always been there. Books to read, books to love, and yes, books to aid sex.