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around the labyrinth. In exchange for food, we started leaving books. I was adamant that the stories should have happy endings and we decided to use mostly fairytales. After all, they were good enough for us at the start of our lives. To our delight, the books were seized upon. We felt as if we were giving bread to the starving and we increased our output, certain of success.” “It took a while before I realised, that although the people were reading the books, they were not doing so from beginning to end. They would pick a page, scan it for a while, flick to another, read some more, apparently with great interest, then discard it. The pages became separated from their bindings. You would go to sleep in a room and find a couple of leaves of well thumbed paper carefully pinned to the pillow but on one would be the adventures of a cut throat pirate and on the other, a gentle tale of rewarded loyalty. The rest would be gone. The islanders enjoyed the stories for the sheer pleasure of reading but character, plot and the message of the tale were of no interest to them.” “I once saw a boy of maybe twelve, mesmerised by a book as he sat leaning against a lobster pot on the beach. I always like to see the young reading, so I asked him how he found the story. He could hardly tear himself away from it.” “It’s very good,” he murmured and went straight back to the page. I watched him read the same paragraph several times, curling his tongue round the words. Then suddenly, he jumped up, flung the book on the sea wall and trotted off. “You’ve dropped your book,” I said, offering him the tatty volume. “it's not mine,” he replied.
Published on Oct 24, 2009