This year there has been just one post on afterthoughts on books. It is not for the lack of reading. On the contrary, this has been a very good year for books. But to have some afterthoughts one needs to wait for a sufficient amount of time and see if one has any thoughts on the book. Sometimes it is difficult to even recollect the plot of the book. But with age this is becoming a rare occurrence. Lets just say one has become more discerning in choosing what to read. There is no pressure to read something just because the entire world and their aunt is reading it. In fact, that is often a good reason to give the book a miss.
Then there are those books that are never far, within reach by the bedside, and alive in the mind. A cursory but perceptive glance at the blog will yield the favored authors, if not the names of some of the books themselves. There have been times when one has found it easier to give up on a friendship than give up on any of these books. In any case, if a person does not appreciate ‘To the Lighthouse’ at a young age then it holds very little hope for any kind of meaningful relationship in the any kind of future.
Had there been an axe handy, a poker, or any weapon that would have gashed a hole in his father’s breast and killed him, there and then, James would have seized it.
One vividly recollects that strange emotion that gripped the heart when one came upon this sentence on the first page of the book itself. An emotion so rare that one can still find no words to express it. It was akin to something felt a few years ago on reading the first lines of ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’,
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.
And it takes one all the way back to the first day of summer vacations when, as a young girl, one read the words, “Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.*” The same indescribable emotion gripped the heart and one had to, but naturally, stay up all night to find out more about Manderley and the dream. That too was a good year for books.
Then there are those other books that may never get mentioned on the blog but hold a similar grip on the heart.
The much battered but even much better loved ‘The Art of Looking Sideways’ would feature close to the top of the list of books you wish you had if you were shipwrecked on a deserted island. The book is a peek into the inner workings of a super creative mind. It demonstrates the basic truth about creativity– it is a way of life. And yes, it subsumes everything; the eyes, the ears, the hands and the imagination all align in the pursuit of creative excellence. The mouth too has a role to play. It keeps silent for if one is creatively inclined there is no need at all to shout so from the rooftops.
‘The Art of Looking Sideways’ was one’s first and most formative education in visual intelligence. Some years later when well past midnight one sent Darth Vader shopping for books, the depth and impact of that education was realized.
Another is ‘The Way We Live’, though it may not figure on the above mentioned list. For it is very heavy and if one is given such a huge weight allowance then one could carry a few more paperbacks and feel that much less lonesome on the deserted island. But ever since it has been a part of the family 'The Way We Live' has taken the place of what people refer to as ‘comfort food’. Especially on days when one is inclined to say to the world at large,
Society, you're a crazy breed.
I hope you're not lonely, without me.**
Ironic as it may seem but looking at pictures of the way we live actually makes one empathize with one’s fellow beings. Every image in the book breathes. Every object in every room– its colour, shape, place, and use– holds up a mirror to people’s most intrinsic ideas, beliefs and hopes. Every year, as one gains newer perspectives into life, the stories behind the images too evolve, and one begins to see a bit differently. Perhaps even a bit better. Therein lies the comfort.
And then sometimes when society is being way too crazy one simply reaches out to Saki. And that’s how the light gets in.
*From Rebecca a novel by Daphne du Maurier
**Society a song by Eddie Vedder (Into the Wild)
To the Lighthouse a novel by Virginia Woolf
One Hundred Years of Solitude a novel by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
The Art of Looking Sideways by Alan Fletcher
The Way We Live by Standford Cliff, Photographs by Gilles De Chabaneix
Afterthoughts on Books: part 16