Iain’s book-related post Ordeals led me to the following reflections.
I tried very hard to read Old Mortality by Sir Walter Scott and couldn’t stick with it. Nor was I fond of the only Brontë books I ever read – Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. One classic I keep meaning to read is Middlemarch by George Eliot. It’s been staring reproachfully at me for 23 years.
Troublesome books aside, I recognize the formless, hungry desire to read everything as soon as it’s brought to mind. Only two days ago I was pining after The Wind in the Willows, which was being talked about on someone’s blog. I’ve read it more than once, but always feel I remember it imperfectly and need one more go to get it absolutely crystal clear. I feel that way about most books I’ve enjoyed.
Around the house are hundreds of books waiting their turn. I have four on the go right now… Hippopotamus by Stephen Fry, The Memoirs of Cleopatra by Margaret George (so heavy it makes your wrists ache), Know Your Cat by John Horsford Hickey and Priscilla Beach (dates from 1946) and a fourth book I’m keeping quiet about for now.
I have difficulty figuring out which to go for. I would read them simultaneously if I could, but settle for reading them in different rooms.
The only reason I didn’t say I was reading five books is that I stopped in the middle of Rest Upon the Wind by Gill Twissell. I kept waiting for it to start and couldn’t get interested in any of the characters. Possibly the novel came together further on, but I was exactly halfway through and still not hooked. It has five stars in Amazon so maybe I was just impatient; my experience of the book is the exact opposite of at least one UK reviewer’s.
Regarding something else the reviewers hinted at, I did get the feeling that the two main characters were the same, but I hadn’t (at that stage) spotted any overt suggestion of reincarnation. It could be that everything falls into place at a later point, but the blurred boundaries between the two women was one of the things that made it seem so monotone.
Moving on to reading sources, my main difficulty with libraries is that I never remember to return the books until the deadline. I’ve had to walk to town and back when my plans for the day did not involve going out. That’s a real shortcut to putting me in a foul mood, especially when I’ve not finished reading. I could renew, but usually feel I might as well get rid of them now, as they would only drag me out again at a later date.
Bought books, on the other hand, can be returned to the general reading pool at my leisure. Foul moods neatly sidestepped – till the next thing goes wrong.
As for not cluttering up the house with books I’ve read and enjoyed – that’s something I’m really struggling with. It’s fine to pass the more ordinary paperbacks to charity or to someone else, but I tend to want to keep the ones I liked. Such as Brother Odd by Dean Koontz – it’s sitting in my bookcase, flanked by The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon and Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson.
One way I’ve got round my reluctance is to pass the best books to my sister. I don’t even give her the chance to refuse them – I just give her a bag of books and say “these were very good – that’s why I picked them out.” I feel then that they’re still in the family, being enjoyed by someone else. I know it doesn’t stop there, but I don’t have to think about them any more. Either she reads them or she doesn’t; she keeps them or passes them on. I’ll never know, and I don’t particularly want to.
As for the Odd books by Dean Koontz… the aim is to collect them all and then give them to my sister with the words “these are wonderful, you’re not allowed to not read them.” Gives me the excuse to hang on to them a little longer…