So, did you finally find the courage to read it? She smiled as she asked the question, the young cashier at the bookstore. I looked at the copy of Ulysses I just handed over to her and then back at her smile, still unsure if I should be insulted or not. Truth is I had been looking for a decent hard cover edition of Ulysses for a long time.Truth is also that I liked my excuse, because, as we all know (right?) Ulysses is a famously difficult read.Today I finally found a near perfect hard cover, and even that wasn’t enough to stop my hesitation. It took me 15 minutes of deliberation before I finally made it to the cashier. Her eyes were twinkling as she told me that I maybe shouldn’t try to understand everything immediately, that would come with a second, a third or a fourth read. Nice, a girl in her twenties telling a middle aged man how to read one of the cornerstones of modern literature. Now I definitely felt insulted. To top it of, she then proceeded to tell me that her former professor owned an ancient copy of Ulysses, a version that contained all his notes and annotations but was completely falling apart, and that he still refused to accept a fresh copy, even as a gift. Not only in her twenties but also a former student of English literature. Her charm saved her, meaning that I didn’t ask why someone with a University degree ended up working in a bookstore.
How much effort are we willing to exert to reach the point of gratification? The same question posed itself a couple of weeks earlier, at the Down The Rabbit Hole festival. An extremely tall guy was standing next to me just before Thom Yorke’s show. I told him not to stand in front of me. I smiled, expecting the same in return, expecting that he would get the joke of an extremely tall guy standing in front of a reasonable small one like me. He didn’t. Instead, he started a tantrum about how annoying it was to hear comments about his height all the time. His girlfriend, standing practically in between us, prevented worse. Meanwhile another guy, slightly to my left, approximately 1.85m, went completely ballistic after a small girl, approximately 1.55m, asked him (asked!!) if she could stand in front of him. Three songs into the concert my tall guy consumed an enormous spliff and left. Angry guy practically followed him. and halfway the concert a sizeable portion of the audience was gone, leaving me room to breathe and dance freely.
I’m tired of advocating patience, no one reads what I have to say anyway. I’m part of the problem as much as the solution. I happily contribute to the diarrhea of opinions, each with a microsecond half life, only adding to the ecological footprint of worldwide data storage. I will not try to understand our need for instant gratification. Instead, I will invite my generation Z son for a ride in my convertible. The weather is glorious, perfect conditions for a ride through the countryside and a thorough listening of Miles Davis’ Bitches Brew (1970), all 94 minutes and a couple of seconds.