Saturday 23 September 2017

Radio: Read all about it: the crazy world of bibliomaniacs

Newstalk's Sean Moncrieff
Newstalk's Sean Moncrieff
Darragh McManus

Darragh McManus

'Loving books can mean to love reading books. But it can also mean loving the physical objects themselves, or it can mean both. It can also mean being anxious about not reading enough books, or the book you're reading now as opposed to the many other books piled around your home. Or the ones in the bookshop you failed to buy."

So Moncrieff (Newstalk, Mon-Fri 2pm) introduced the subject of bibliomania. Writer Lorraine Berry - a self-confessed, lifelong bibliomaniac - described how she is "surrounded by books" in her home.

Lorraine's book-madness began as a small child. During her teenage years, she would skip meals for the money to buy books. As an adult, she went into debt after getting too many books on her credit card.

She admitted to "always thinking about that other book that might be great, and you're missing out on". Seán suggested it was a case of "chasing the literary dragon" - constantly seeking that next, better high, except this comes from reading, not drugs.

"The best feeling in the world," Lorraine went on, "is being halfway through a book you're really enjoying", because you know it's good, it's a pleasure to read, and you still have a fair way to go.

"The worst feeling," she added, "is closing a tremendous book, and wondering, 'Ugh, when am I going to find another one like that?'"

All of this sounded very familiar to me, and I especially agreed when she said that a book has to be really well-written, first and foremost.

Physical books are important, too: not so much that it's a fancy hardback or whatever (brand new or a yellowing old paperback, either one is good), but that it's a print copy at all.

Reading on a screen, Lorraine said, gave her headaches. For me, physical books are also a visible reminder of your reading history; a sort of paper equivalent of Proust's famous madeleine, if I could use a suitably literary analogy.

Lorraine also mentioned what she termed a "sensual experience" with old books during her time in university. These included some of the first books ever printed.

One, from around 1530, had notes scribbled in the margins. "It's like being in conversation with someone from 500 years ago," she said, which is a lovely simile and also encapsulates much of what's wonderful about the act of reading in general.

You probably won't find too much mention of books on Dermot & Dave (Today FM, Mon-Fri 9am), now fairly well bedded-in as Anton Savage's mid-morning replacement.

It's not too bad, and can be very funny at times, although I'm not a huge fan of having two hosts on a silly/wacky programme. There's too much joshing between them, too much laughing at each other's jokes. But a bit of craic, all the same.

In some ways, a show like this is almost impossible to critique, anyway, rather like a kids' cartoon or an album by some Britney-esque performer: they are what they are. You like them or you don't. They'll appeal to your taste or they won't.

Of more interest is how this latest rejig marks the near-total transformation of Today FM from talk-radio to what is essentially a pop-music station. Apart from the daily Last Word and a handful of Sunday programmes, Today FM is now virtually indistinguishable from, say, 2fm.

Nearly 20 years since launching as Radio Ireland, the station is unrecognisable from its origins.

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