these are traps

March 20, 2018

If you must write, you must do it in the face of all opposition… Do not spend too much more time on culture & reading, these are traps. When everything conspires to make the thing impossible, when you are tired, worried, with no time, or money, it is then that things get done.

Samuel Beckett
Letter to Claude Raimbourg, 3 May 1954

When I read a book, I put in all the imagination I can, so that it is almost like writing the book as well as reading it – or rather, it is like living it. It makes reading so much more exciting, but I don’t suppose many people try to do it.

Dodie Smith
I Capture the Castle

the echo of words

January 2, 2018

Once, in my father’s bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later – no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget – we will return.

Carlos Ruiz Zafón
The Shadow of the Wind
Trans. Lucia Graves

A book or two

December 21, 2017

Sunday morning idea

September 24, 2017

Prose is not to be read aloud but to oneself alone at night, and it is not quick as poetry but rather a gathering web of insinuations … Prose should be a long intimacy between strangers with no direct appeal to what both may have known. It should slowly appeal to feelings unexpressed, it should in the end draw tears out of the stone …

Henry Green
Pack My Bag

There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag-and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty-and vise-versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you. Remember that for all the books we have in print, are as many that have never reached print, have never been written down — even now, in this age of compulsive reverence for the written word, history, even social ethic, are taught by means of stories, and the people who have been conditioned into thinking only in terms of what is written — and unfortunately nearly all the products of our educational system can do no more than this — are missing what is before their eyes. For instance, the real history of Africa is still in the custody of black storytellers and wise men, black historians, medicine men: it is a verbal history, still kept safe from the white man and his predations. Everywhere, if you keep your mind open, you will find the truth in words not written down. So never let the printed page be your master. Above all, you should know that the fact that you have to spend one year, or two years, on one book, or one author means that you are badly taught — you should have been taught to read your way from one sympathy to another, you should be learning to follow your own intuitive feeling about what you need: that is what you should have been developing, not the way to quote from other people.

But unfortunately it is nearly always too late.

Doris Lessing
The Golden Notebook

I read indiscriminately

June 13, 2017

I could for instance talk about my education, which critics say I have not got. And that is true enough but I do wish I had learned some other languages apart from English, BBC third program, and saloon. Then perhaps I could understand what some people mean when they say I have been influenced by Rimbaud. My education was the liberty I had to read whatever I cared to, I read indiscriminately and all the time with my eyes hanging out. I never could have dreamt there were such goings on, such duels and argy-bargies, such ice blast of words, such love and sense and terror and humbug such and so many blinding bright lights breaking across the just awaking wits – and splashing all over the pages as they can never quite do again after the first revelation. In a million bits and pieces, all of which were words, words, words. And each of which seemed alive forever in its own delight and glory and right.

It was then in my father’s brown study before homework, usually the first botched scribbling of gauche and gawky heart choked poems about black bloomered nymphs, the jussive grave, and the tall improbable love of the sardine packed sky – poems never to be shown to anyone except on pain of death. But I began to know one kind of writing from another – one kind of badness and one kind of goodness. I wrote endless imitations. though I never at the time of writing them thought them to be imitations but rather colossally original things unheard of like eggs laid by tigers. Imitations of whatever I happened to be galloping then; Thomas Brown, Robert Douglas Service, Stevenson, De Quincy, Eskimo Nell, Newbolt, Blake, Marlowe, the imagists, the boys own paper, Keats, Poe, Burns, Dostoevsky, Anon and Shakespeare. I tried my little trotters at every poetical form – how could I know the tricks of this trade unless I tried to do them myself, for the poets wouldn’t soar from the grave and show me how their poems were done by mirrors. And I couldn’t trust the critics then… Or now.

Dylan Thomas
A few words of a kind

6th June 6

Last night’s raging gales and watery darkness, collapsed this morning into wind-muscled day. High skies with racing clouds like huge white fortresses above the flowered lanes and tall church-tower…

Reasons to be cheerful part thirty-two: In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro (I’ve sought tranquility in everything, but found it nowhere except in a corner with a book).

Hold a hand up to your cheek, feel the slanting rain on your skin, soaking your hair, while you, drowning, floundering like a big black bird, scream ‘Feck, feck, feck it’ at the uncaring elements.

Such is life in the wilds.

Aware of time passing. Each new day is a day nearer death. This house over time will faded, its windows take on a new clarity, the glass imprinted on the very air. The stairs will become shadows. Perhaps as a ghost I’ll return, pass through a door that is no longer there?

Truth can hurt…

May 25, 2017