Blind Book Group
One of the first audio books Ruth Mercer read after joining the RVIB (Royal Victorian Institute for the Blind) library some thirty years ago was Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses. The postman delivered all 32 tapes to her front door and announced “It’s the Satanic Verses, love”.
Vision Australia Radio, Melbourne
Mentor: Lorena Allam (ABC)
Ruth maintains to this day that if she had tried to read it in print rather than audio form she would not have finished the book. For me, the postman’s words demonstrate how Ruth and the other book group members chose to approach their blindness: with a mix of realism and humour.
The group meet monthly in the Vision Australia office building where I work – ‘just another blind bunch of old women’. It was that they were blind and older and loved books that attracted me to them. I enjoyed their company instantly. They are unafraid to laugh loudly or to use their minds, voices and opinions. I have been moved by their involved and zealous discussions about books which, more broadly, are conversations about the world in general.
While all of them enjoy reading it is Jan who is the most passionate about books; she keenly felt the loss of her ability to read. She missed browsing through bookshops. For most book lovers, walking into a bookshop is akin to a spiritual experience, giving a sense of purpose and place. For Ruth, while she did take pleasure in books, she says it’s newspapers she missed the most.
“I always imagined that when I retired I would sit in bed every morning with my cup of tea and read The Age. Sadly, I can’t.”
It’s the Satanic Verses, love.
Pictured: Vision Australia Book Club