During a chat with F earlier this week about taking a stand, I was reminded of a time in my childhood when my father was making his own stand against South Africa’s brutal regime by boycotting all things of said country. Sometimes, my poor mother, having probably dashed into the supermarket after a long day at the hospital, would forget to check the origin of the tinned fruit, but nothing got past my father and we would all be subject to another thunderous reminder of the barbarity of the Apartheid Regime.
Not one to shy away from voicing my own opinions, I had been describing to F my horror when trying to sign up to a certain online audiobook service (my usually ever-reliable iPlayer having a bit of a dry season) I found myself being directed to sign up to Amaz*n, something I would rather lose a finger over rather than be forced to do! The realisation hit me that this behomoth has its nastly little fingers in very many online pies! And sometimes, we are not even aware of this!
I have never personally bought anything from the A-Word, and my children have felt the lash of my tongue if any so-branded packages arrive at my house (never books, I hasten to add). Online shopping has never appealed; I like to use more than one sense when I buy even the most mundane items. Anyway, I usually do something wrong on the endless forms and end up wanting to hurl my iPad across the room.
As a bookshop, we are only too aware of the threat they pose to indies in particular, unable and unwilling to sell a book for the price of a bar of chocolate and seeing the publishing industry bowed down by wrangling and swingeing deals and conditions.
But there are so many ethical reasons not to use this particular company: there is the blatant arrogance in a pittance in corporation tax for years despite massive profits, thus contributing nothing to the country it was fleecing; their draconian and callous treatment of their employees – constant monitoring and penalisation, barbarous working hours and conditions for very little pay; the association with the NRA, providing a platform for their streaming channel with a pro-guns-rights message. The further down the list the murkier and more morally questionable does the monopoly and power of this organisation become. What happened to employment laws, monopoly laws? Or does money ($702 billion, February 2018) speak louder than any laws and human rights?
Which leads me on very aptly to Crime and Punishment which we have been reading for our Classics book group and it is such a great book that really does improve with age. Simultaneously we read Brighton Rock for the Crime book group which is another book that doesn’t fail to excite lively discussion even after several readings.
My books of the week are: Tomorrow by Elisabeth Russell Taylor which I have just started but immediately I am attracted by the deceptively cool narrative voice and the hauntingly beautiful setting of the Danish island of Mon.
My other book or books is the Sally Lockhart quartet by Philip Pullman: I am nearing the end of the second book and they are wonderful evoking the spirit and feel of late Victorian London with another sparky Pullman heroine and a host of lively, unforgettable individuals. I can’t believe it has taken me 30 years to read them…