21st Century Dodos
For some it's mystery whodunits, for others crosswords, and for a select few who are readers of exceptional taste, their books of secret pleasure are the cartoon adventures of Horrid Henry. We all have our own special favourite tastes in all manner of art and media. Take me for instance; and as many a well-heeled huckster over the years will snicker, believe me sister, I am prime for the taking.
Now as for me, my tipple back in cocktail days was the martini, my brekky is Eggs Benedict, and my naughty reading materials are books of trivia. I have been sucker to lollipop for them since I was a kid and would buy the latest paperback and then question my Mom about all the cool stuff I had missed because she had the temerity to not give birth to my inquisitive mind when she was age eight. The past has always had a certain grandeur, an allure, a whimsicality that today's iNoun world seems to lack. Every strange device invented Back Then, not only featured on the cover of Popular Science, but it equally seemed the invention of Back to the Future's Doc Brown, with or without added Flux Capacitor.
Right. So let's actually talk about the book we're reviewing, just for a change of pace. When the publicist for publisher The Friday Project timidly suggested to me that I might possibly, by some wild chance, be interested in a book about popular things if yesteryear that are now extinct, I leapt at the suggestion like a school of piranha spotting a river-diving cow.
No, that's rather too violent a metaphor.
I grasped for it like a trapeze artist hurtling at a swing.
(Yes, much better.)
The writer Steve Stack – which is a pseudonym; which in turn makes me wonder if his real name is Batman Superpower – has filled these pages with a multitude of products, television shows, even professions that have gone the way of, you can guess, the dodo bird. Many, indeed most, of the lost and mourned are of British origin, but that certainly did not bother me one iota. If anything, the accumulated knowledge will aid my profession as, the next time someone sends me a novel set in 1980s Kent, if ir doesn't mention audio cassettes or fish n' chips wrapped in newspaper, I shall question its worth and damn its author has a woebegone shallow chancer.
It is tempting to find some deep metaphysical Meaning of All This; along the order of sic transit gloria mundi (Latin studies too have gone the way of the dodo). Ah yes, all things that we deem today as modern and cutting edge are just the Woolworth's 5 and 10 store of the future. But that would destroy all the fun. Stack writes his descriptions with the exact correct degree of shaking his head, nostalgic humour to make 21st Century Dodos a precious and precocious read even for thiose who don;t know their game of British Bulldog (my neck still hurts) from the saucy ladies on Tennent's beer cans. My (Snip! - editor) still hurts.
I'l probably read this year fifty earnest novels about the doom collapsing about our heads, fifty histories about how the Balfour Declaration was a colossal eff-up, and fifty biographies trying to convince me that I should give a damn about F. Murray Abraham's early theatrical career, but all of 'em combined won't give me a tenth of the pleasure that I received from reading 21st Century Dodos.
So what do all those former lighthouse keepers do to make a living now? I await the next volume.
Be seeing you.