How do you mark your progress through a book? What sort of place-holders do you use? Any? Me, I use none. Purists would cringe at my page folding, spine bending, postcard/Post-it/cinema ticket inserting-cum-bookmarking skills; the kind of techniques solely reserved for guilt-free communion with (hopefully) musty pages. Hey, at least it’s not a big fat rasher of bacon…
Corner turning in a book is symbolic, a tantalising glimpse into self, and perhaps even the future. From The Bible to Harry Potter, and even Anthony Kiedis’ autobiography, the allure of dead certainties fly towards spine-tingling moments—not just because of the added resonance the physical act of paper provocation illicits, but because it always appears so relaxed and happy to be manipulated.
Books have to be read (worse luck it takes so long a time). It is the only way of discovering what they contain. A few savage tribes eat them, but reading is the only method of assimilation revealed to the West. EM Forster
Going off-piste with say 650 pages, enlivens what could easily become a dry curatorial exercise. Last summer I bought a paperback from a book stall in East Hampton and read it over the next few days. And then somehow the physical book itself vanished from my life. This week, with barely enough time for writing, my mind went back to the novel I had read which has gradually acquired talisman-like status. It doesn’t really matter what the book was called, what matters is that it represented the first thing a writer, somebody else, wanted to say about the world.
And while I too am contemplating what I want to say about the world (in print, no less), I feel I’m about to enter the time of the superlative. Literally and figuratively, I’m crawling into burrows and magical wardrobes, an almost unpredictable enchantment of the realist (not me) or the heavy hand of prophecy. Because much as I may enjoy them, such sparkly tales do not stand as any old myths stood. They demand nothing from me, except digging into satisfying that infantile desire I found in my childhood books, rather than any holy books I was forced to read.
Talking about holy books, the communion I feel with each page, is akin to evoking perfumed literary enchantment. Where once scents promised a ride on a magic carpet, now they can capture the olfactory experience of manhandling your overdue tome to a disappointed friend or librarian. Which is not to say that people should always give off the odor you expect them to…or do.