All entries for Thursday 08 February 2007

February 08, 2007

Tax My Book

More Boar columns you say? Why yes, I did write some more, forcing them from my brain in such a way as to cleanse it of good ideas. This is why there’s been so few good blog entries recently. I’m as distressed as you are I’m sure. This column is a bad one in this context as I’ve already blogged about part of it before. Sorry. Consider yourselves to have been privileged to see the earlier (better and expanded) version.

There’s a rather dubious definition of culture in this country. Not all that surprisingly, it’s a legal one, stemming from the same tax system which caused a court case to decide whether jaffa cakes are cakes or biscuits (legally they are cakes). But in this country you pay VAT on CDs but not books and reading material. The latter is an item of cultural value and thus exempt. By this logic a CD of Beethoven isn’t an item of cultural value, but FHM is, although how that counts as an item of reading material is something which a reader will have to inform me about.

The message is loud and clear – books make you cultural. A book turns you into something above the rest of the plebeian hordes, snuffling around in their CD collections for the latest slice of shite from whoever dredged their corpse successfully through X Factor. A book was written with a pen and a pen is mightier than the sword which is why you should go around chasing members of LARPS with biros. A book makes you clever and intriguing to the opposite sex. Or the same sex if you are reading ‘Brokeback Mountain’/’The Well Of Loneliness’. This is why I am considered to be pure, unadulterated scum. I am not a major book person. Ok, I am, but they’re not the right sort of book.

See, not all books are equal. Reading Jane Austen is considered more classy than reading Bridget Jones even though they are just the same apart from one being a couple of centuries older and the other having more wine shared between only half the number of characters. Reading something which has been made into a major film does not give as many culture points. And at the bottom of the heap are history books, possibly due to a snobbishness stemming from the fact that people assume writing history takes less imagination because you’re not making it up. Combine my historical tendencies with my massive collection of VAT-tastic CDs (the government is running a small NHS trust off what they get from my music habit) and you have the least cultured masters student on campus despite not a single of mine CD having even a trace of an X Factor winner on it (Girls Aloud didn’t win X Factor, ok?!).

I did read one book recently. I read Orlando by Virginia Woolf. There’s a lot of people who should read it. In part this is because it is a good book, albeit one where the main character doesn’t really age and changes gender halfway through for no other reason than Woolf was clearly a bit stuck for plot twists and, having already made the character virtually immortal, it was clear than the only option was to be even more surreal. Woolf was, after all, a good writer and thus this is art and challenging, not a blatant cop out. Anyway, Orlando, when not having to buy a new wardrobe to accommodate unexpected gender swaps, obsesses for most of the novel about writing a poem which will be remembered for all time and bring fame. He/she repeatedly fails until she gives up on eternal fame, at which point she writes a poem which makes her famous and important. Moral being that people should stop trying to get their place in history and just do something honest. It makes sense today. If we all read Orlando we’d have fewer CDs from fame hungry X Factor wannabes to avoid. And Tony Blair would be less obsessed with getting into the history books by invading every country he can find which looks a tiny bit dodgy. Why he wants this is a mystery, didn’t anyone tell him history books don’t get you culture points?


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