Sunday 3 June 2012

Reading without reflecting is like eating without digesting - Edmund Burke

Following my delight with Doris Lessing's The Grass is Singing, I decided to prolong my discovery and launch forth into The Golden Notebook.  And I do mean launch forth.  I love the idea of thick books, but never the actual reading of them.  I mean, TGN is 500+ pages.  Seriously. How did DL get anything else done in her life? Certainly any other writing? And she wrote loads.

Tomes feel like such a commitment.  Illogical for a bookworm, yes.  Silly, undoubtedly.  But here's a fundamental truth I live with: I'm not good at living in the moment.  So much so that I try to make my moments short enough for me to get to the end of them quickly, in order to know how good or bad a time I've just had.  I think it's a mental disease. 

I thus feel trapped when I've delved into a huge volume.  And my whole time in there is usually about getting out again as soon as possible.  The tunnels under the River Mersey had much the same effect on me throughout my formative years.  The result is that the experience itself can be lost on me.  Along with the ideas, the tale.  The purpose.

Still, if I've learned nothing else during my convalescence, I've recognised and lived the importance of patience.  Of doing only what you can, when you can.  Bite-sized, if necessary.  And appreciating that much. 

I'm now approaching the home straight of TGN having (more or less) enjoyed the whole experience.  Just a twinge or two of my usual panic. 

I actually started out intending to highlight passages, so that I could come back to them another time.  To be able to really savour them in the knowledge I'd already conquered the whole.  To promote a relaxed read.  But I never managed it.  The very idea stressed me out.

Making marks on books is beyond me.  It always feels more than a tad presumptuous, somehow.  My first French employer - I was an au pair for the summer, looking after his daughter - bestowed on me a number of French novels to help me improve my French.  Well, it was more of a directive, actually: improve your French.  A la fran├žaise.  But I was so impressed that he dared to write in the margins.  That his ideas, reactions, feelings were so important that they should be scrawled there for all to see. Scrawled so small though that I couldn't understand any of it.  So it could well have been drivel.  But the audacity impressed me, all the same.  Beyond me, as it is.  For now at least.  Small steps, n'est-ce pas...

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