Books and reading are one of the few simple pleasures we have left. I’m probably a little impartial on that but that’s a fact that we should continue to strive to keep. Yet despite this and the intimacy we’ve all experienced with it, it’s still a remarkably social activity that can break down walls between people. In many ways it’s the ideal social media antidote disguised as it’s friend; it’s personal and it’s something you go through by yourself but it’s an experience that when you’re done, you’ll share with real people over dinner tables, coffee afternoons and long planned meet-ups with your nearest and dearest. It’s something you’ll place in the hand of someone that means something to you, not in their inbox. It’s what brought you all here tonight, whoever you are. Eccentrics, introverts, extroverts, socially awkward all remain equal in each other’s eyes in the world of reading and the wonderful worlds that bring us together.
Harold Kushner introduced us to the notion that life is like a good book. The more you get into it, the more you understand it. But the wonderful contrast to that, that stands in equal measure, is what Edmund Wilson said; ‘no two persons ever read the same book.’. That right there, is pure life and that’s why books in their many wonderful forms, just like us, remain the last great simple pleasure.
And that brings me on to Koob. When my good friend Sophie invited me for a trial night to test out some of the wonderfully creative cocktails that you guys have probably already sampled tonight (after all I find that readers drink as well as we read) and to get a small taste of what Koob will be all about, I was skeptical. That’s just my nature personally. But any themed community makes me wonder where we go wrong in life to seek out such a thing. After all, I’d tried out a few before with mixed results. The only one that really worked out for me was the creative writing group I go to every week and I slowly figured out that wasn’t necessarily because of the concept of creative writing but more the reality that everyone that walks through that door has their own neuroses and some of my favourite people in the world are more than a little nuts in the best possible way.
When I arrived at the Koob trial, I immediately met and started talking to two or three people nervously about books. After all, that’s what’s bringing us together. After ten minutes we’re talking about life. We’re talking about Libby’s university course and my writing style and MJ, my weird 16 year old cat. Then two other people walked in and sat at the far end of the bar. This is how cliques form and that is how it’s worked since at least the beginning of the 21st century. Somewhere along the way, we lost the ability to interact as well as we did years before. Our attention span is shorter which is something that probably more than a little influenced my decision to write short stories. But then my skepticism was quashed in one moment when the lady I was sat talking to, began discussing a very specific book and one of the people that walked in late overheard and immediately snapped into the conversation like she’d been in it all along. From thereon, we talked all night about all kind of things. Maybe everything. When the Koob event time extinguished we moved on, we drank, we ate and we kept talking.
This is the wonder of reading and Koob as a vehicle for that. Like reading itself, it’s such a simple concept that it might just work. It’s in my nature to look at people and try to read what’s going on with them and I said to Sophie on many occasions that night about how it’d been such a long time since I’d seen people who hadn’t met each other at all come together in such a way and be so comfortable with each other. I’m a stubborn git at the best of times and my mind is rarely changed but despite my initial cynicism, this is why I believe Koob will work…
Despite how life has changed so quickly in the last 50 years, we still strive for simplicity, for purity and we’re all looking for that happy ending, whether in life, love, a good book or otherwise. In this room you’ll be sat (stood?) next to someone you may not know. Normally I’d not give you any kind of advice but I know in this room there will be people you will be able to talk to based on this most simple of passions, that we all love, that brought us here tonight. This is important for the publishing industry. It’s so important that writers like me remain as grounded and as involved with our audiences as possible which is just one of the reasons it’s a pleasure to be here and to read here tonight. As a writer it will enable me to be closer to you, the reader and build potential audiences. It promotes reading to a wider audience and ultimately it helps us all find more like minded people to share within our great love.
Enjoy tonight, try the Romeo and Juliet at the bar that Jim so creatively devised if you haven’t already, keep reading and live for the simple pleasures.