This week I went to Westbourne Sports College in Suffolk to talk about Candle Man and monsters. They have an enormous split level library there, which has that wonderful feast for the senses of nostalgia and aspiration, the piles of tempting books and the spider plants trailing their tentacles down the wooden shelves. I swear time stopped still, as they left me alone in the middle of the day to rest between two 100-minute sessions, and I sat on one of the small tables, my legs swinging gently back and forth, the Autumn sunlight slanting through the tall windows; stopping to taste the moment.
The library surprised me. Walking around it was like being in Waterstones, all the books on view were current big sellers – I saw Skullduggery Pleasant grinning out of a poster, Charlie Higson’s shining new tome, also Vampirates, Dr Who cash-ins and the latest mutant variations on the Horrible Histories formula. All new, all now.
‘We have to grasp the nettle’ the librarian said, ‘If we don’t get the latest books the children won’t read.’
In my session with the class I found only one child that could name the author of Lord of the Rings. Everyone liked Wimpy Kid and Captain Underpants. Even a great book from the recent past, Mortal Engines, was unknown.
It was strangely touching to walk among the reference shelves and see the edge of modernity… because as soon as you visited the section devoted to science, facts, discovery – all the books looked old, faded, left behind. Of course, everyone goes to the internet for their facts now. Maybe those books will sit there forever, washed up on the beach of time, their facts fossilised at the high tide-mark for printed information.
Imagine living in a time where only Now is important. We are evolving fast as a species, taking on new ideas and fears at an accelerated rate – never before have our past worries flashed so swiftly into the past – to be replaced by shiny new ones. We update our monsters regularly, renew our heroes almost every other year.
Mankind always used to dig into its past for marvels – but to my son’s generation, nothing is more exciting than what is happening now in the world. He glances into the Apple Store window with the awe and reverence I used to keep for the window of the comic shop and the record store.
Ancient philosophers have often said that the art to life is living in the now. But is this what they meant? Now can be a delightful instant of magical time – a moment of waking up from the sleepwalk of life and actually seeing the dust motes dance in the November light. It can also be an updated website, a bulletin from the machinery of the world bringing our new worries and hopes.
Have we entered the realm of the 2-Speed Now?
Now I’ve got to the point I was trying to make I find I don’t know what the heck I’m talking about…