Thursday, 19 May 2016


The world's news is switched off and the lesson commences: the current book opened at the place I left off the night before, or the first page of a new subject turned; each greeted like a respected teacher about to impart new knowledge: Morning Friend, did you miss me? or Hello, it's nice to make your acquaintance – I hope in time we'll become good friends.
Addresses made, I focus on their words, fix my being to the spot for the next forty-five minutes to an hour. My unchanging surroundings fade in and out as background noise fluctuates, oscillates and softens. Nothing, except the printed word, allowed to fully infiltrate, as I, their faithful pupil take it in.
Whatever I'm studying (at any time of day) I immerse myself in it: leap into a pool of words . The lengths I manage measured in pages, those read and absorbed. How far have I got? Have I been drawn in deeper or am I still at the shallow end? Sometimes I'm in so deep I can't speak because to critique would break the spell, whereas if I'm still paddling I reserve passing judgement too soon. Some books take longer than others to get into, some books have you in their grip straight away and don't let go till the happy or bitter ending; others are middling, enjoyed at the time but instantly forgettable.
The neutral feeling leaves me cold: the not caring one way or another what happens, what is happening, and yet determined to reach the final word on the final page. Never giving up, even though I might close the book and think what was that about? I want to feel sated and left feeling hungry; I want to have soared and to have died; I want to have learnt something about myself and possibly something of the author; I want to feel inspired and encouraged. I expect a lot from a book, but in exploring you also learn what you like. Above all, I want to have gained an insight into another world, a way of life that might be very different to mine or similar.
The spate of time does not exist in books. You can traverse in many directions, and feel no qualms at doing so. I actually find it slows or quickens up time as you know it. Your pace can be rushed whilst the outside world counts the minutes and seconds, or it can be like a luxurious wallow where time, any concept of time, is neglected; in emerging from either you have to adjust, reset your senses to the present instant.
Time is what I have plenty of, or at least that's what others assume, but none of it is wasted or abused. Interests that were hibernating have awoken, those that weren't allowed to develop before now have me in their thrall. The thirst for knowledge is unabated – I read, think, read, research, write, and still want more, more. More vintage classics, more translated into English literature, more recordings of history, more fantasy, more author memoirs or biographies, more renowned or not so widely read works, and yet more of the previously heard of but unread until he, she or it makes itself known to me.
It's a voyage of discovery, one with no land in sight, just a perpetual sea, which flows onwards into art, photography, black and white film, historical events and public figures. An education that travels down through the ages like a family tree or pans out as a camera does as you keep reading and ingesting material.
I have given myself the rare gift of being a scholar, a home-schooled scholar without the privileges that seemed common in the days of E. M. Forster and Henry James, in order to form a sole member literati who debates with opposing sides of herself and with non-existing individuals. It's a bit like a gentleman's club, except it contains no cigars and only one gentlewoman with a plethora of books.

Picture Credit: The Yellow Books, c.1887, Vincent Van Gogh