I like the word ‘vortex,’ it has about it much more a sense of excitement than is conveyed by its definition in the realm of physics.
A friend attended Sussex University at the end of the 1970s. They were times when access to the airwaves was something novel and universities would have their own radio stations. On a Friday night at Sussex, the programme broadcast was called Charles Suet’s Total Music Vortex, or something similar. (The broadcaster’s name probably wasn’t ‘Suet,’ although I think if I was using ‘Suet’ as an assumed name, I would have become ‘Atora Suet’). ‘Vortex’ suggested that the music would draw you into it. To those who remembered Helen Reddy’s song Angie Baby, in which the miscreant is drawn into the radio, there was almost a touch of the sinister in the idea of a music vortex.
Perhaps vortices are much more common than is imagined, psychological vortices which pull down those who stray too near without the momentum to carry them clear.
Bookshops seem to be vortices for some of us.
Having bought twelve or so books for summer reading, I had vowed that there would be no more books bought until they had been read. I determinedly put them in a pile on the dresser as a reminder that there was no further need to buy anything until I had made inroads into those I had bought, which range from Che Guevara’s Motorcycle Diaries to A.C. Grayling’s History of Philosophy. (I read two chapters of the Motorcycle Diaries, I think I had subsconsciously imagined something with the pace of Jack Kerouac and found something instead that seems very pedestrian. Grayling’s tome has not yet been opened).
Walking through the city centre on Wednesday afternoon, I deliberately avoided streets where there were bookshops. However, to reach the stop for the No 7 bus, I had to walk down Dawson Street and there one passes the greatest vortex of them all, Hodges Figgis. Any book lover would find it difficult to pass a shop with four floors of books.
I promised myself that I would only browse, but in the academic section there was a box of books at reduced prices. One book caught my eye and then I noticed it had been reduced from €35 to €5, too good to be left behind. Of course, it would have seemed mean to have just bought a book from the reduced price section, so I found another book to make the bill look more respectable.
Having paid the pleasant young American who was at the checkout, I was released from the vortex, promising myself that there would be no more books bought for a long time.