Normally, I’d have had my head in a book these last two or three weeks of withdrawing from the world. True, I read. A dozen and more books, but all on the e-reader. I see a title reviewed or a friend recommends an author. I check if the book is available in e-format, order it and within seconds it’s there for me to read. Any time of day or night. Where’s the fun in that?
Getting away from the misery of the black dog via stories, true or invented, often works for me. While I’m immersed in someone else’s life my attention is focussed away from myself. I’ve also concentrated on humorous writers, recommended by a friend. Evelyn Waugh was new to me, I started my journey with him with ‘Decline And Fall’, a darkly witty social satire, which brought forth an involuntary bark of laughter on practically every page, in spite of feeling slightly uncomfortable throughout. Nancy Mitford too was a new discovery. Her novels (I’ve read three of them so far) read like eating ice cream laced with sharp plum sauce. I shall finish her oeuvre and read more of Waugh, but not ‘Brideshead Revisited’, which made him known to those who don’t read. There were a few by Wodehouse and E.F.Benson, who are funny, but without the painful bite. Barbara Pym came in somewhere too, I used to like her years ago; she still has something that appeals, although nothing she wrote could ever cause offence. I have Muriel Spark’s ‘Memento Mori’ ready to go, also recommended by the same waspish source.
Too much of the same diet makes for indigestion, so I interrupted the satirical reading with Penelope Lively’s quasi memoir cum musings on aspects of a long life ‘Ammonites And Leaping Fish’; I like her novels and these essays address ageing, memory, time and a life in the 20th century. A few mysteries leavened the broth further, Christopher Brookmeyer is a thriller writer I can bear to read and I’ve also recently discovered that Jill Paton Walsh, a very reasonable writer, has picked up the Dorothy L. Sayers baton and is prolonging the literary life of Lord Peter Wimsey. So you see, there’s plenty up there in that Cloud waiting for me, all wrapped up in one slim volume.
If only they were waiting in a tottering pile on my book table. Going to the library or, much better, to a book shop, browsing the shelves, talking to the librarian or the bookseller, getting chatting with other book lovers, comparing notes, flicking through a book, getting trapped by a passage, finding a new writer and wondering ‘should I give them a try’; no, Amazon has none of that. It’s a lonely business, ordering books and music online (heavens, do you remember the old record shops where you stood in a narrow booth with clunky headphones and listened to an album prior to purchase?). Taking your treasures to the till, having them wrapped in the store’s bag and proudly bearing them off home - half the pleasure was in that.
And now I use ITunes for music downloads and Amazon for books. The record shops have gone and my eyes, damn them, have grown feeble and prefer e-books where I can adjust the size of type. I’ve been thinking of buying the book favourites anyway and maybe even a cd instead of downloading to an e-device. But that would be silly and unnecessary, wouldn’t it?
Anyway, all that reading (and listening to music) have made me feel a lot better.