This blog entry is so far off-topic that I have been wondering how I can at least try to make it reflect something of Bon Abri. This afternoon, as the sun beat down out of a clear blue sky, I thought that when Winter does hit us, with the devastating cold that everyone tells us is usual, we will need to be sure that we are well prepared with a veritable library of good books. We can then snuggle closer to the log burner and we can escape into a really good read.
I think there are three reasons for reading books, on second thoughts four if we are talking about ‘real’ books (ones printed on paper not electronic things). Firstly to learn something – factual books such as manuals, guide books or any number of non-fiction works. Secondly to fill in some eternal time between bed and sleep, waiting for that long delayed train or trapped inside a cosy cottage as the winter beats at the stone walls. My third reason is the physical act of having the book in ones hands, touching the pages, feeling the weight, sniffing it and enjoying the smell of paper, leather, rags, dust, glue and ‘age’. The fourth reason is that wonderful almost physical presence well-crafted words can make on your brains pleasure centres. A sentence that, when you read it, has to be savoured like a good St Emilion, rolled around the mouth and then, swallowed to get the full play of pleasure from it.
When I find books written in a style where the skilfully crafted words have this physical presence I read them slowly working through the sentences perhaps two or three times before moving on; I may then close my eyes as the words are tasted and digested then absorbed. The author I most associate with this style is the great Laurie Lee, the artist who lovingly created ‘As I walked out one midsummer morning…’, ‘Cider with Rosie’, etc..
Of more recent vintage, although his works are for reading more than savouring, is Ian Rankin. His evocation of Edinburgh is stunningly physical. I was sitting reading ‘Let it Bleed’ when I came upon the following incredibly palpable sentence. Rebus, the ‘hero’ of the book is sitting, late at night, gazing out of the window of his tenement flat and he observes “The streets grew quieter after the students had slouched home on the wings of blasphemy.” To me that sentence has physical presence; one can touch it, I know it, I have seen it, I have heard it (and probably done it – but that is another story). As a small aside one of the ‘characters’ in his books is the ‘Oxford’, a pub close to the centre of Edinburgh where both Rankin and Rebus like to drink.
It is a stroke of genius that has fictional ‘hero’ meet author in a brief, glancing aside in at least one of his books. It is also a tremendously atmospheric pub. My friend Roger, a scientist of 18th century eclecticism, often works and writes in the small, dimly lit back room
However the master of writing, in my mind, was the great poet Dylan Thomas. In my opinion he is the greatest writer in the English language (admittedly helped by the oral nuances of a Welsh accent). His style is often parodied and badly mistreated but the originals are a unique bag of the most wonderfully sweet gob-stoppers and brittle toffees. Fill your mouth with his words, pause, close your eyes and suck that sweetness into your brain. Anyway, the reason for this rather off-topic start to the blog is that I was reminded that this year is the centenary (or at least yesterday, 27th October was) of Thomas’s birth.
So, back to preparations for the winter, cutting logs, picking field mushrooms from the lawns and watching the cranes fly over in ever increasing ‘V’ shaped, noisy, flocks.
So, until next time, santé.