‘If the words are flowing, this is a good thing’. So says Zadie Smith, a talented British writer who has propelled me here to this page with the hopes that she’s right. If the words are not flowing but the heart is racing will this do? It’s not always easy to be articulate on matters we feel deeply about but here goes.
I have just finished listening to a recent broadcast of Zadie Smith in interview. Her passion for reading struck such a response in me that I want to be her friend. Even better, I want to be her. When someone understands what you can’t do without, books in this case, the emotion I feel is akin to love. If you tell me that you love to read I’m sure that my pupils dilate. I want to back you into a corner and say “what and who do you love to read”? And then I wait for the click.
It’s only during the past few years that I’ve become so aware of the importance that books have played in my life. And here I falter. How can I go back all those years when the seed was planted which grew like Jack’s beanstock. The many shoots that took me places, across years and countries and enriched me to the degree that I sometimes feel my hyperbole an embarrassment. Some call it an escape. Maybe it is, but the gratitude just goes on. As well, I don’t think it’s an escape from but an escape to. When impressed by a beautiful sentence, I sometimes feel the gift so keenly, that I close the book, hug it to myself and kiss the cover. Am I crazy? I don’t think so. I’m sure there are many of us affected by the beauty of ideas well put who will relate to this.
So here I confess my weakness for developing crushes on writers. “Martin Amis, you are some guy”, I said to myself out loud while reading one of his essays. That day I was full of admiration for him, his intelligence, and his savage wit. The book and the writer are inseparable. I think this is the reason that I’ve always avoided Writer’s Festivals. I’m afraid there may be a disconnect between the flesh and blood person and their work. The work stands for all time in what for me may be perfection. The writer in all probability will disappoint me – I’m sure they’ll lag behind.
Reading of other’s enthusiasms – of what they read, why they read it, where they read it, always interests me. Harold Bloom exhorts us to reach for the top and engage with the best, and I know he’s right. I could go on and on, citing writers who have written on the pleasures and values of reading – writers who are much more eloquent on this subject than I could ever hope to be. A History of Reading by Alberto Manguel is full of the most wonderful information on just that, and so readable. Jorge Luis Borges hoped that paradise would be like some sort of library. I hope he’s right. In the meantime I’ll continue to wander through my own book filled labyrinth, always on the look out for kindred spirits.
My heart has slowed. It’s time to open my book and hold hands with my current crush, Jose Saramago. There is always warmth.