What emerges, I think, is a kind of meditative work — a work of thought to try to understand, and fail to understand, what it is that reading is, what reading does, how to read, what to read. An act of thinking about books that sinks into its relation with memory.
I’ve been trying to reconstruct a mental library of everything I read, or at least those that left fragments and impressions in what seems to be memory. There was a boy who visits his sister in north London. This is what I remember. In that book I came across the term golden arm for the first time. Its druggy milieu induced two decades of casual stupor. An incident in a north London pub. That is all that remains in the fragile spider’s web of memory. It isn’t enough to find the book again, but enough to compel the quest. There is a feminist alien who visits earth seeking vengeance, proto-Despentes. All I remember is the cover, but that memory too is precarious. Scenes from a long immersion in science fiction, even less is preserved, insufficient to fuel a search. I should break away from a pointless elegiac nostalgia; mature elegies that take on a life of their own.
This meditative work also an act of memory, to retain more of a book than nostalgia, a patient engagement that allows a work to settle more deeply, an ethic of contemplation if that is not too serious or overly pompous. That is the danger. He is very earnest, never praise in this decaying culture. Ten years of trying to be receptive enough to write something of what I read, but in the end it does seem pompous, because what I came to understand the more I read is how little it is possible to comprehend, and less so to share that comprehension and appreciation. I read to catalyse change and transformation, to keep open an ethical relation with the world and the other.
More and more, it is quotes and fragments I share, a still unsatisfactory way of providing an ethical, aesthetic experience of what I read, without the limited ambition of interpretation. It is a way of communicating atmosphere and mood, encountering the otherness of a text that seduces in some way. It is I hope a way of yielding and gesturing towards literature that is a source of energy. After ten years it is still an experiment, where conventions and certainties of how to read and write are still muzzy.