Sunday, 23 September 2012

Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers - Charles William Eliot

So my first Kindle outing has been and gone.  It was not as fulfilling as I’d imagined.  Or hoped.  But then, such is often the way with our expectations and wishes.

I was initially so excited that I couldn’t concentrate on what I was reading.  And then I couldn’t settle on one thing.  There I was flicking from short story to poem.  To history.  And a bit of psychology.  Yet not actually reading anything.  Like literary zapping.  It's simply too much choice in one place.  The kind of blinding effect of standing before vast shelves of unread pages.  All as inviting as the next.
Teething problems, methinks.  I have more journeys before the end of the year and will hopefully calm down for the next time.  Although I’m wondering if the Kindle is not actually the problem.  I mean, how could it be??
Since my return to work, I have mentioned the trouble of finding quality time to read.  But something is wrong.  I do have opportunities to read, albeit fewer and farther between than earlier in the year. On the bus, waiting (for people, for things…), before bed.  Yet my mind is elsewhere.  Open pages are remaining unturned and unread. 
My physiotherapist commented how long Summer had been.  And he was right. The book itself (by Edith Wharton) is short.  I am careful to choose shorter books or stories now I have less time available. To ease the transition. But I’ve been reading it for a good three weeks.  Three weeks?!
It’s not that I wasn’t loving it either.  I do love EW – vivid, thoughtful.  Endearing.  If always a tad tragic.  But reading it has been like wading through waves of the sea – a happy chore. Tiring and bordering on burdensome.  An unfamiliar malaise.   
Concerned, I made time to address such madness. So I killed off Summer last night.  And today, my day has been dedicated to catching up.  I slept late, cooked, baked.  And this afternoon, took up with Alan Bennett.  The Uncommon Reader.  Thankfully, I devoured it in a matter of hours.  Thankfully, because it is the very remedy to end any literary malady.  The very book to send you right back into reading.  Superb.  Even with Elizabeth II as the central character.  Strange.  But true.
Reading how HRH discovered “how one book led to another, doors kept opening wherever she turned and the days weren’t long enough for the reading she wanted to do”, you can’t help but be inspired back between the pages.  Delightful.  My world makes sense again.  For now at least...

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

What is reading but silent conversation? - Walter Savage Landor

There are very few occasions when I would recommend watching rather than reading.  But let's face it - last night was one of them.  Andy Murray.  The US Open Final.  Five sets. 

Words on the page cannot convey the brutal emotional ride that Andy Murray's games often are.  And were last night. Who knows how those men were still standing at the end of the match. I wasn't. 

Indeed, I'd gone to bed before the end.  As the fourth set finished.  The match wasn't.  But I really was.  

I'm drinking my champers in honour of the win today instead.  Truly delighted!  A great match, a great fight and a great feeling to see AM finally do the deed.

There's nothing else to say.  Reading about it is not watching it.  But reading about it certainly makes you smile big and wide...

Sunday, 9 September 2012

A word is dead when it is said, some say. I say it just begins to live that day - Emily Dickinson

I have never been one to listen.  To anyone or anything.  This is not a boast, simply an admission.  And something I'm not particularly proud of.  It just is.

But be it due to age or experience - or pure need - things change.  And for the past three weeks, I've been enjoying listening to a serialised production of Thomas Mann's Buddenbrooks on Radio 4. While pottering in the kitchen, preparing food and snacks for the week.

It's been wonderful.  And took the whole stress off seeing Buddenbrooks sitting on my shelf and expecting to be read.  It's in German.  I have no idea why I bought it in German.  But in German it is.  And I have no compulsion, energy or otherwise to struggle through the German text just now.  If ever.

The whole experience was just that.  And is it mad that I felt so grown up listening to Radio 4?  I usually tune in to France Info in the morning, and Radio 2 in work so this was my first foray into Radio 4.  And it felt... different.

Anyway, the point that came home to me was that reading is reading is reading.  Whether you go through the words yourself, or have them read to you.  And one is as stimulating as the other.  Hence the recognised importance of reading to children.  But why stop with them?

The wonderful thing about being read to is that, as you are being entertained, you can get on with necessary tasks.  Which are rendered less burdensome (if like me you are not a fan of housework, cooking, baking or otherwise...) because the mind is being thus entertained.

As I have said previously, going back to work is increasingly denying me of quality time for my books.  So I feel a great need to compensate in whatever way possible to continue my reading.  Particularly as my one last reading refuge - my visit to the physiotherapist - has now progressed such that I am no longer allowed to lie back and let the TENS machine do the work.  It appears that I should put in some effort myself now to encourage my muscles back to action.  And I can't use weights and read at the same time.  If you were a fly on the wall, you'd see the problem.

All this means that, unless I do something drastic, I will end up reading less.  Surely that is not necessary.  There are options. And I am so very much more open to all reading possibilities now.  Read to me, read with me, read for me.  Read, read, read.  Oh, and did I mention that my Kindle can read to me?  Loving it more each day...

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you - Harold Bloom

There are times when you simply don't have the words. To express what needs to be expressed. To undo the muddle of thoughts and feelings clogged up inside. To simply speak and be heard.

At the same time, somebody else will have all the words. Will express exactly what should be expressed. Will undo and unclog your muddle of thoughts and feelings. And will be heard clearly over the world's din.

An author with such eloquence is a delight to the soul.  Especially when it is stuck. Or simply dissatisfied. Even momentarily. Abstractly. Unconsciously.

This is the joy of reading. Those moments of unbridled delight when the reader hears words spoken in such a way and with such intimacy that it is both alarming and assuaging. The release and relief. The escape and the rediscovery.

You will know by now that I'm really not a poetry reader, as much as it would please me to be one. All the same, this weekend, I've been thinking much about W.B.Yeats' words in He wishes for the cloths of Heaven.

I know so little about Yeats that it amounts to nothing. So little in fact that I once sang one of his poems for an exam and have only now realised he wrote it. But I have read that he wrote to be read aloud. So I put this to the test with the collection of his works I have just acquired. Reading aloud to my cats. The words did indeed trip elegantly and gracefully off my inexperienced tongue. I was impressed. The cats were less so.

He wishes for the cloths of Heaven is beautiful read aloud or not.  It strikes cord after cord within.  Such a tangible beauty that I don’t mind knowing nothing about poetry. Or about Yeats.  The sentiment of love is so strong, the giving of oneself so complete. And the final statement so stunning: "Tread softly because you tread on my dreams."

Such power. Such vulnerability. It touches me and I'm not sure why. But it seems to speak from deep within me. And I like the sensation. Which is why I believe that reading is always such an irresistible joy...