In 2009, when Amazon’s Kindle ebook was launched within the UK, it appeared inconceivable to think about {that a} dozen years later booksellers could be reporting a record year of gross sales of paperbacks and hardbacks. Even if bookshops were closed for 3 months early in 2021, figures present that the rejuvenation of the printed phrase has gathered tempo.

That development undermines the tech corporations’ seductive guarantees that apps and platforms will at all times and inevitably eclipse bodily objects. The surprising triumph of printed books – partly a results of their enhanced design values – proves that not all upgrades signify progress.

As the nice after-hours polymath Tom Waits as soon as observed to me: “If I need to stroll out within the desert and warmth up a tin of beans on a hearth, I nonetheless can. In films similar to Gattaca, the space-age stuff is at all times all there’s. However on the planet there’s by no means only one way of life. It’s extra like a giant junkyard. Put it this manner: I’m not afraid I’m going to finish up on an area station in aluminium-foil underwear.”

Beguiled by slime

Merlin Sheldrake
Merlin Sheldrake: ‘Nature is an occasion that by no means stops.’ {Photograph}: Samir Hussein/Getty Pictures for BoF VOICES

Among the many extra shocking books that at the moment function on bestseller lists are these dedicated to the biography of the bottom beneath our ft. Merlin Sheldrake’s mesmerising Entangled Life, his quest into the subterranean kingdom of fungi, started that development. I’ve subsequently been hooked on Susanne Wedlich’s uncovering of 3bn years of Slime and Robin Wall Kimmerer’s cultural historical past, Gathering Mosses. If these books share a thread it’s that life is basically cooperation; its precept “we”, not “I”. Because the magically named Sheldrake places it: “A mycelial community is a useful reminder that every one life-forms are processes not issues. The ‘you’ of 5 years in the past was constructed from totally different stuff than the ‘you’ of at the moment. Nature is an occasion that by no means stops.”

Authorized assist

Jolyon Maugham
Jolyon Maugham’s newest victory within the excessive court docket, proved the illegality of the federal government’s ‘VIP lane’. {Photograph}: Jean-Francois Pelletier/Alamy

British individuals discover it exhausting to take attorneys to their hearts. An exception might need to be made, nonetheless, for Jolyon Maugham and his Good Regulation Challenge.

On a busy information day final Wednesday, with the competing disgrace of the prime minister and Prince Andrew dominating the headlines, Maugham’s latest victory within the excessive court docket, proving the illegality of the federal government’s “VIP lane” for PPE procurement, was relegated downpage. As the complete element of the billions squandered within the chaotic early response to the pandemic emerges, nonetheless, it might nicely show the story that almost all defines the unravelling core perception of Johnsonism – that legal guidelines are for different individuals.

Previous haunts

Jan Morris at home in Wales
Jan Morris at house in Wales: ‘It HAS been enjoyable!’ {Photograph}: Antonio Olmos/The Observer

My journalistic spotlight of the previous couple of years was visiting 93-year-old Jan Morris at her house in north Wales. Morris, essentially the most mercurial of spirits, was stuffed with a strong presentiment each of her mortality and what would possibly come subsequent. She gaily imagined an afterlife that concerned each a terrific love affair with Lord Jacky Fisher, former admiral of the fleet, and the haunting of her two non secular houses: the River Dwyfor beside her home and the cliffs of Trieste, the place she would once more “watch the nightingales swarm”.

Her life exemplified a perception that there’s no have to settle as a single being. That shape-shifting spirit is alive and nicely within the new posthumous assortment of Morris’s essays, Allegorizings.

In a single, she desires of an alternate Britain wherein Princess Diana, our “patron sinner”, nonetheless bewitches the world in a “summer season costume of blazing crimson and a tremendous hat”, eternally uttering the fond farewell Morris at all times aspired to: “It HAS been enjoyable!”

Tim Adams in an Observer columnist


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