This morning I saw something amazing, and I need to tell you about it.
The bus dropped me off at the train station, as it does on most mornings (when I get out of bed in time). As I stepped off the bus, I crossed paths – just for a few seconds – with a teenager who was waiting to get on. He couldn’t have been more than fifteen years old. Backpack on, idiotic woolly hat, “ironic” glasses. All as expected thus far.
In his hand was a book, with his finger wedged about midway through, keeping his place. He had obviously been reading it whilst waiting for the bus, and would continue after he sat down.
That book was The Silmarillion.
Let us break this down, and discuss it in its proper context.
That area of town is not known for its voracious readers. Without meaning to sound like I’m tarring an entire suburb with the same brush – I can’t imagine even the Beano would sell well there. So that’s unusual.
He was a teenager, so he should have been checking Facebook on his phone. Teenagers have evolved the ability to dedicate almost their entire concentration to Facebook whilst doing other, less important tasks (such as dressing, walking, eating, doing an exam, or having a conversation with an adult who is stood right in front of them). They tend not to look where they’re going, preferring instead to trust oncoming pedestrians and heavy goods vehicles to move out of the way instead. So that’s unusual.
The world of “teenage fiction” is awash with trash to appeal to teenage angst. It’s difficult to move for stories about a lonely but devastatingly attractive teenager who befriends a shy but still attractive girl, just before he discovers that he’s actually an alien who has been hidden on earth for the last seventeen years and has been tracked down by a group of attractive-but-sinister contract killers from his home planet giving him no choice but for the two of them to go on the run and fight attractive aliens with Kung-Fu moves, and save our planet from being a battleground of warring-but-attractive alien races. There’s often vampires in there, too. (Regular readers may remember that I’ve blogged about this before.)
He wasn’t reading one of those books. He was reading Tolkien! So that’s unusual, too.
Thanks to the movies, printed copies the Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings have sold rather well over the last decade. They’ve been a staple choice in the “what to buy for the Dad who never wants anything for Christmas, and he can’t possibly need another bloody jumper” dilemma.
In today’s terms, they are BIG books. There’s a lot of reading there, and I suspect most people just do not have the stamina, concentration, or sufficient free time to read them in their entirety. Judging by the number of those books I see at carboot sales (in their distinctly as-new condition) I suspect a lot of people bought them with the best of intentions but never finished them. Or even started them.
Lord of The Rings and The Hobbit are the popular Tolkien choice, but still only read by comparatively few people. The Silmarillion, on the other hand, is considered hardcore even for the true fantasy-fanatic!
Considered all together: we have a person who would not normally concern himself with books, from an area not normally associated with literature, reading an unlikely and relatively unknown novel by a 100-year old author … and apparently enjoying it.
To put another way: I have just witnessed a unicorn, riding a flying-carpet, on his way to collect Elvis for a party at the top of Mount Olympus.
I have seen something special: a geek in the making. A new fantasy nerd has been added to our ranks. And it makes me genuinely happy.