Friday 02 Dec 2016

BHSIB Syndrome
David Simmonds

I was a victim of Big, Heavy, Serious, Important Book Syndrome (BHSIB) last month. You’ve probably experienced it, too.

BHSIB Syndrome is an affliction whereby you feel the need to acquire and conquer a BHSIB. You delude yourself, with the false hope that this time you really will devote half an hour each morning and evening to reading the HSIB, thoroughly, for days on end if necessary, until you finish it. It’s usually downhill from that oath.


Phase one of BHSIB Syndrome.

In the first phase of the syndrome, the pleasure of initial association, you notice the book on the library shelf, just sitting there waiting to be claimed. You grab it, announcing to the assembled multitude of a couple of people catching up on back issues of the newspaper; “Ah: how fortuitous! Just the book I’ve been looking for! My, this book does seem heavy! Good gracious: 685 pages, with more than 100 of them devoted to notes and references! This is my kind of book!” To the librarian, you say “I understand you have a no fines policy over late books, but no worries: I’ll be able to polish this baby off in a few days.”

You bring it home, and leave it artfully placed at the top of a pile of books, with the Hulk Hogan autobiography (sic) discreetly parked out of sight, just in case someone happens by and wonders what you are reading. You often find it helpful to place a ‘decoy’ bookmark somewhere in the middle of the book, just to give the casual observer the impression you are deep into the contents. For a brief time, you can luxuriate in your association with the BHSIB without having read it. “So,” you begin,” have you read the new book that’s the topic of conversation, today? You haven’t. Oh, me, yes, I have it from the library at the moment and I’m just getting into it.” Deliberately, and rather deliciously, no representation is made you either read the book or will read it, but the impression is left that you are the serious sort who no doubt will.


Phase two of BHSIB Syndrome.

In the second phase, the confrontation with reality, you begin with a small rush of pleasure as you crack the BHSIB open, at the introduction, and realize that the pagination actually begins at page one and not some false set of Latinesque page numbers. “Good,” you say to yourself, as you master the first page: “684 to go and I can knock off 100 more for the references, so that’s 584.”

That rush quickly gives way to a soporific state, during which you realize that you have fallen asleep somewhere on page two, imagining you were Peter Rabbit in Mr. McGregor’s garden. You try again and this time you make it to page five, at which point you realize you have been daydreaming about whether you would choose kale or broccoli, if forced to eat one of the two. You shrug off these distractions and take another crack. This time, you make it all the way through the introduction. Yet, when you are about to reward yourself with a cookie or perhaps even a stiff drink, you bring yourself to your senses and realize that you haven’t absorbed a word you’ve read, unless it was something about using rabbits to harvest broccoli.


Phase three of BHSIB Syndrome.

It is round about this time that the third phase, the messy compromise, kicks in. It dawns on you that there is no way that you are going to finish the book using the conventional front to back, page at a time, method. You look for handy ways to get the gist of the thing.

Let’s see, read the first and last chapters. Flip and scan the pages for a key word, like “wrestling.” Eventually, you read the last paragraph and fling the book aside, with a grim sense that you were not quite the intellectual you thought you were. You start rehearsing your excuses: “Oh, I had a bad attack of toenail fungus and had to return it”; “I saw this collection of Wisdom of the Dalai Lama, only 123 pages long, and just had to read that first. After all, what can be more important than spiritual growth? I’ll take the BHSIB out again soon and finish it then.”

What was my BHSIB? It was “Capital in the Twenty-First Century,” by French economist Thomas Picketty. Two things I can tell you about it for sure: one, it was not written for the layperson and, two, it hardly mentions wrestling at all. I think it says that the rich get richer off the earnings from their accumulated wealth faster than the poor get rich by working hard, which is a bad thing for the poor and a good thing for the rich. It’s something along those lines.


There is a book to grapple with, fairly.

Speaking of which, let me tell you about a gripping read. It’s an autobiography by Hulk Hogan.

 

Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Mike Barnacle, Jimmy Breslin, the late Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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