Friday, 4 May 2012

A writer only begins a book. A reader finishes it - Samuel Johnson

Starting a new book is always a special moment:  turning it over in your hands, anticipating what awaits you.  Opening the cover and launching tentatively into the first page.  Tension.  Will this work out?  Will the journey be a good one?  If not, will I overcome the torment and succeed in abandoning it?  Like the start of a new relationship.  Only better.

Then you feel the words wash over you.  It's a pleasing experience.  Your shoulders relax.  You allow yourself to be pulled in gently, guided over the next few pages.  Tempted in further and further.  You're hooked.  And it's simply wonderful.

Yesterday, I started my journey into Doris Lessing's The Grass is Singing.  I was a bit trepidatious, I don't mind telling you.  It's on my reading list.  DL won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2007. And the book is said to be "a classic".  Actually, the back cover says it's a "landmark of twentieth-century literature".  No pressure, then.

Of course, the cover would read that.  It's not like the cover can be neutral.  All the same, trepidatious I was.  All the more so because I was sitting at the physiotherapist's, waiting for my treatment. In itself sometimes unpleasant, sometimes downright painful.  Nevertheless, I launched forth.  The journey began.  Well.  Indeed, I was almost sorry the physio ended.

DL is a supreme story-teller:  I could not put the book down.  And haven't since.  I've nearly finished it already and you know I'm a slow reader.  But this is a book you need to get through.  You need to know why everything falls apart so spectacularly.  You drag yourself through the searing heat, feeling your skin burning and drying out.  You choke on the dust, the oppression.  It's bleak, for sure.  And then some.  You follow the characters deeper and deeper down into their despair.  It's a strange, yet compelling experience. 

I will finish it shortly.  But The Good Terrorist and The Golden Notebook are already sitting on my shelf, waiting to take its place.  I bought the three books together because of my reading list.  I know that must sound barmy.  That I should have tried one DL book first to see if I liked her.  And then bought some more.  But I can't be sensible around books.  Or around my Amazon basket.  You must know me by now...

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