Looking For Happiness With A Hard Cover

In an attempt to break my Netflix series binge addiction I have been trying to find solace in the comfort of a good read. I was at the mall a week ago and there was only one book that could possibly get me to smell the biblichor in a heartbeat.

That book is Arundathi Roy’s new gem “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness“. Given that her first novel “The God of Small Things” came out 20 years ago when I was still a fledgling dreaming of a life that was yet unknown; I can confidently say that I have been waiting a lifetime for the follow up to her Man Booker winner of 1997.

“The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” by Arundathi Roy

QUICK FACTS ABOUT ARUNDHATI ROY

  • Full name: Suzanna Arundhati Roy
  • Birthdate: 24 November 1961
  • “The God of Small Things” became the biggest-selling book by a non expatriate Indian author.
  • Mrs Roy is also a political activist involved in human rights and environmental causes
  • “The Ministry of Utmost Happiness” is on the 2017 Man Booker shortlist.

But, I walked out without book in hand because the store didn’t have it in hardcover. I have a problem with the unavailability of hard bound fine literature. In my world, the finest reads should be dressed accordingly. Click To Tweet I will even forego the gilt-edging on the captivating pages, worn down leather cladding, the thin silk bookmark carefully stitched in place, and the beautifully commissioned illustrations that accompany the story just as melody and words go hand-in-hand in songs. Surely hard covers and dust jackets are the absolute bare minimum that bibliophiles should expect? Bookstores should put in more effort to serve their patrons accordingly.

Anyway, I went online with the intention to search for my prize – and got distracted, with more books. Allow me to introduce you to my finest distraction in a long time; a sample of signed, first edition, first print, hardcovers that are currently on the market.

While I was giddy with delight scrolling up and down the online catalogues I felt compelled to search for the earliest by published date. I was not disappointed.

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I last read the “Lord of the Flies” while a scholar – that was a long time ago… but, I have never forgotten how the story made me feel, and think differently. Discomfort was understandable; as a teenager reading about other degenerating teens who, firstly find themselves on an island deserted after a nuclear fallout, then proceed to fail dismally at governing themselves was always going to be unsettling. All the tensions; self versus the group, morality versus immorality, survival versus loyalty.  What a novel!

DID YOU KNOW?

Beelzebub as mentioned in The Bible literally means “Lord of the Flies”.

$20,000 at today’s exchange rate places the cost of the Mark Twain/Samuel Clemens signed “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” at over a quarter of a million South African Rand. ‘To each his own’ right? I actually got lost in thought thinking of ways to justify that spend if I had the money to spare. There is not a family member nor friend that would hesitate to have me institutionalised if I dared ask for this on my Christmas wish list. And that works vice versa too.

Can you remember runaways Huck and Jim’s journey down the mighty Mississippi River? The contrasts of age, Race, attitude and upbringing. Imagine how the book was received over 100 years ago as it blatantly confronted the themes of racism and slavery; we can’t even do this honestly and openly in modern times. Sheer brilliance.

FOUND ON THE INTERWEBS

In 1905, the Brooklyn Public Library removed Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer from the shelves because, as librarian wrote Twain, Huck is “a deceitful boy who said ‘sweat’ when he should have said ‘perspiration.'” Here’s Twain’s reply: 

DEAR SIR:

I am greatly troubled by what you say. I wrote Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn for adults exclusively, and it always distresses me when I find that boys and girls have been allowed access to them. The mind that becomes soiled in youth can never again be washed clean; I know this by my own experience, and to this day I cherish an unappeasable bitterness against the unfaithful guardians of my young life, who not only permitted but compelled me to read an unexpurgated Bible through before I was 15 years old. None can do that and ever draw a clean sweet breath again this side of the grave. Ask that young lady—she will tell you so.

Most honestly do I wish I could say a softening word or two in defence of Huck’s character, since you wish it, but really in my opinion it is no better than those of Solomon, David, Satan, and the rest of the sacred brotherhood.

If there is an unexpurgated Bible in the Children’s Department, won’t you please help that young woman remove Huck and Tom from that questionable companionship?

Sincerely yours,

S. L. Clemens

Back to my wish list; “Life of Pi” seems a far more reasonable request. I was gifted a mighty fine illustrated hardcover of this book when it came out but the ensuing love affair I had with Mr Martel’s writing means that his signature on my bookshelf would never go unappreciated.

Day dreaming time is now over. I need to prepare myself for my mission to procure the Happiness that I seek.


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