After a fortnight of roving, it is getting rather difficult to settle back into a slightly less exciting and sedentary life; I’m still dreaming of moors, dales and gorges, and looking forward to Cumbria and Devonshire (not that I have any plans yet, but I see wishing hard enough helps).
December austerity turned into a splurge on the penultimate day of the year, with four books being purchased at The Last Bookshop at Bristol. At GBP 2 a copy for new books, I just didn’t have the heart to deny myself a year-end present. There was much I could have bought, of course: but my erratic Spartan ideas kick in sometimes to knock what they call sense into my head. Not that it helps. I’ve decided that when I go home, I’ll just leave my clothes behind and take all my books. And so I pottered around the shop with a friend who was just as willing to do so- one of the few occasions I haven’t been dragged out by impatient people whose half-hearted responses to my enthusiastic soliloquies grow increasingly monosyllabic when they find themselves sequestered with me in a book-filled room. But you should know that when you’re in a bookshop with me, I immediately metamorphose into the most selfish person in the world.
I atoned for the sin of leaving my MR James behind by helping myself to a volume of HP Lovecraft’s short stories, for what is a rainy night in English hills without a horror story to go with it? I can’t wait to begin on this nice, thick volume. Accompanying it is The Turn of the Screw by Henry James- I tried reading it online but it just wasn’t creepy enough without the feel of paper and the fragrance of print. Lloyd Jones was an obvious choice: ever since the first sighting of Mister Pip, I haven’t given up a chance to read him, and The Book of Fame was added to the pile without a second thought. Finally, after much vacillation, I picked up an anthology of short stories edited by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantonio. I carefully avoided the slightly dusty books on the top of the pile in the shop and picked out one from the bottom: only to find out later that it had a crease on the cover from when the girl at the counter shoved it not too carefully into the bag. It has been mutilated some more in my suitcase, and I’m glad to find I’m as upset as I used to be when the tiniest crease or fold appeared on a page. I was beginning to fear I wasn’t as fond of books as I once was, because I haven’t done much reading of late. It only takes one splendid book to get you back in form though, and I’m hoping Lloyd Jones will do that to me.
I began The Book of Fame this afternoon on the train from Bristol to Brighton, after the sheep-dotted hills grew increasingly blurry in the rain and the mist. Twenty pages in, I find his prose is as delicious as ever; it brought back to me in waves the magic Mister Pip once enthralled me with, resuscitating memories I didn’t know were hidden away in distant recesses. Do you know that feeling of having experienced something similar just once earlier, very briefly, but which has elevated you to the highest levels of bliss? Rare, fleeting occurrences they are, transforming into memories that lie dormant until jolted into sight by something else that is equally spellbinding. This is one of the things for which I don’t know if a name exists.
I should be studying now, but I’ll let my thoughts settle for a bit: they’re swirling madly, and all the names, places, streets and people are rather muddled up in my head. A good night’s sleep should help. I thought growing older was mellowing me down and making me less highstrung than I used to be, but I don’t suppose it’ll happen. I have much to write about, and I’ll do it in good time. It’s been a while since I wrote thus on an impulse. I’m delirious, and so that I don’t land with a crash, I must try and soften the blow. I’ll begin by trying to let the reality of my marvellous vacation, which felt like a dream within a dream, sink in.