Release the Bats

I’ve just finished reading the book ‘Release the Bats’ by DBC Pierre, an eccentric writer who won the Man Booker Prize with his first novel in 2003.  The book is part memoir, part writing masterclass - designed to share some of his philosophies on writing with would-be fiction writers.  All in all I found the book very underwhelming.  It felt remarkably self-indulgent and while each personal story was meant to be a vehicle for making a certain point about writing - most of them felt unnecessary.  I think this book represents one of those that writers drift towards in the midst of their procrastination - choosing to learn rather than to write.  (I’ve fallen into this trap way more times than I can count).

Setting aside the book itself, there was one moment which I found worthwhile and that’s what I wanted to share in this post.  I was lying on a couch on a lazy Sunday reading this book in complete stillness and disappointed as I was by the book itself, the last page held a nugget which beautifully sums up my love of reading books.  The piece was a DBC Pierre contribution to a bizarre cookbook called ‘The MEATliquor Chronicles’ and it goes like this:

"The book is an end in itself.  Nobody can like or dislike us because of opening it.  They can tweet it out their ass.  The book never needs upgrading.  It doesn’t self-lock.  You agree no terms to buy it.  You untick no box, open no account, sign no contract, receive no mail, reveal no whereabouts.  Nobody will come in a year’s time to make you pay for it again.  It is a universe which you carry in your hand and open at the speed of your nature, again and again, for ever.  It belongs only to you and is under your control.  It has a smell, a texture, a colour, a style, and three organic dimensions.  It teaches of, and for, and against all the things you choose it to, and is a human right whose loss would be an end to freedom.  Because when every battery is in enemy hands, and all our little screens are dead - it will speak for you a thousand years more, and we are your stains upon it.  Stain this book.”

There’s something to that paragraph that gets at why I value books so much.  There’s something truly special about holding a real physical copy in your hand.  Stain the book.