Do you know The White Stripes? No? Icky, while a useful word in some circumstances - particularly when young children are around - is tied in my mind to one of their songs called, Icky Thump. I like TWS, but if modern rock and/or nonsense songs are not your thing, pretend this whole paragraph never happened and meet me at the next one below. Icky thump is one of those, "I'm not sure I entirely understand what Jack is singing about, or that I want to know, but it's got a groovin' rhythm, cool structure and catchy rhyme" songs. But this post isn't about The White Stripes or Jack White.
Today is about the ick factor. Have you ever been slimed? You could be reading an innocuous novel or watching some diverting television hoping for a little mental respite from the cares of your day. You let your defenses down, forgetting for a moment that the world can take a sudden and surprising turn... and suddenly, WHAM! You get slimed. It was icky. A nasty scene flashes on the tv screen, or a horrible plot twist develops in your book. A song you've been humming all day under your breath and gradually the lyrics seep into your consciousness and you realize just what it is you've been half murmuring, half hmmhmm-ing to yourself. Ick.
My work in libraries exposes me to many wonderful books I wouldn't normally come across in my own wanderings through the stacks. I'm grateful to have discovered The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, for example, and The House at Tyneford. Now and then, though - and today had more than one of those now-and-thens - I have to 'technically read' a book full of ick. (To technically read a book as a librarian means to peruse it so as to be able to describe it in the detail necessary. A cataloguer has to be able to code in the information describing the physical characteristics of the book, its contents, and its subject matter. A public librarian benefits from being familiar with the collection. In both capacities, I've held plenty of ick in my hands.) For some reason today my cart was full of books about sexploitation in Nazi-themed films; the oppression of women in the workplace, and literature, and academia; ethics through American cinema; and a beautifully illustrated book that was most horribly about ... I forget how it was phrased, something about art and time... art in time? of China. An 'artist' injected a 'surprise' object into his friend's thigh, and took photos of the procedure, then an x-ray of the thing was another piece of 'art'. Then he tattooed a random number onto his friends arm as a -I'm sure - profound commentary on the state or consumerism. There were also upsetting photos involving meat and, err, toys and, well, none of it was beautiful. It dripped with ick.
I don't want to leave you with that, though. That would be me piling ick on you, so I will instead close with this quote I came across in a book called, "The eclipse and recovery of beauty" by John D. Dudosky - about a line from Hans Urs von Balthasar
"Human beings need the surplus of meaning provided by beautiful nature, art, and le joie de vivre in order to expose them to more than just the ordinary business of everyday living. Hence, human beings create and contemplate beauty."