Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Role of the Book In Bogota

I am very tempted to start this blog post with "...Is nonexistent", but I feel that might be overly cynical, and after my last post the last thing I need is more cynicism.  That said, the role of the book here in Bogota is minimal.  People don't read very much.  People don't read on the bus and they generally don't read in cafes.  When you ask people what they like to do they often say "watch TV" but they almost never say read.  There was a girl in one of my English classes who loved the Hunger Games.  It simultaneously broke my heart and lifted it to the heavens.  All she wanted to do when she got out of class was read about Katniss Everdeen and tributes and districts and tracker jackers.  It doesn't matter that she was reading the Hunger Games.  She was reading.  It is such a rarity in this city.  She will go far.

I dreamed this morning about opening a bookstore here in Bogota.  A bookstore where you can come in and sit for hours and buy nothing but still just read, leaf through books, take a massive stack of books to a table and lazily look through them.  Get lost in a book by Roberto Bolaño or Pablo Neruda or spend several minutes criticizing Isabela Allende.  But I will never do it.  There is only one bookstore in all of Bogota, a city with 9 million people -- 9 million! -- that is even remotely like that.  And it's only sort of like that.  Most of the books have plastic on them.  You can sit and read, but you kind of get the feeling it's not entirely OK.

The kid who I most see reading sells gum on the corner.  I have no idea what his name is.  There are plenty of people who sell gum and other snacks or cell phone minutes, but he's the only one I've ever seen reading.  And he's always reading.  Every time I pass by he has a tattered book in his hands and he looks thoroughly engrossed.  He should be awarded some kind of prize.  He should be given a free education.  The boy is a scholar, and a fine example.

The role of the book in Bogota is almost nonexistent, but there's no reason that shouldn't change.  Put more words on paper, and transplant those words into our brains.  That's all that needs to be done.  I'd like to end ith a Bolaño quote (well, from a Bolaño book) that has absolutely nothing to do with reading or books or even Bogota, but could probably be interpreted in dozens of ways.

"An oasis of horror in a desert of boredom".  --Beaudelaire

Good day, faithful readers.  Good day.

No comments:

Post a Comment