Names of previous owners on the inside of second hand books often add
a dimension to the pleasure of possessing the book experienced by the present owner. I am taking a break from Proust at the moment to read one of the Simenon paperbacks which I find from time to time in the Oxfam bookshop in Chapel Place. This one is inscribed Denis Keefe. France '74. There is a lot to be inferred from these words, and they somehow add to the melancholy pleasure of reading the pages of taut, unpretentious narrative, printed on paper, once white and now faded to a fog-like pale ochre.
A new word in the leader of this week's The Week magazine is nocebo. This is the opposite to placebo. It is used to describe the effect of health warnings. Just as placebos can make people better by boosting their natural self-healing abilities, nocebos raise negative expectations in the mind that can become self-fulfilling. I am someone, who cannnot see a health warning without believing that I have the symptoms described. I can spot a nocebo from a mile away and will run another mile when I meet one.