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Tips on making light work of heavy reading

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Harry Potter and the Whatsit slipped from nerveless hands and all five tonnes of this doorstep tome attempted to demolish what remains of my sleeping face. It was the second time this had happened and, thus painfully awakened, my thoughts turned to better ways of reading on the sunlounger here in the south of France.

There is one. It involves Project Gutenberg, The Sugar Quill and your palmtop. The palmtop bit is easy. You almost certainly have one and it is probably light enough not to cause damage to flesh and bones in your head when dropped from reading height.

The Sugar Quill, www. sugarquill. net, is a site which allows you to download Harry Potter stories written by JK Rowling-wannabees. You may sniff, but what about all those thousands of buildings designed by Mies-, Corb- and FLW-wannabees over the years? What you do is download the stories from this parallel writing universe to your desktop and then upload them to your palmtop whence you can read them anywhere.

And Gutenberg? This is a fascinating project which intends to render all the major books ever written into a digital format. Needless to say, the texts are all out of copyright. For those of you who have already read the sublime Ms Rowling and balk at imitations, here, at www. gutenberg. org, is a cornucopia of freely downloadable titles by writers from Aesop through Edgar Rice Burroughs and Lawrence Sterne to Virginia Woolf and Xenophon.

This is the opportunity to read Ayn Rand's novella Anthem - though not, yet, The Fountainhead - and Apollonius of Rhodes'version of Jason and the Argonauts. However, the translation is from 1912 and slightly mind-numbing.

'Hypsipyle, very dear to our hearts is the help we shall meet with, which thou grantest to us who need thee', is a not very encouraging sample which might have been rendered more simply: 'Hi, Hyps, thanks for the help' sutherland. lyall@btinternet. com

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