Yes, yes, it is of course too early for one of my year in reading posts, but I wasn’t going to write one any way. A year is too arbitrary in a lifetime of reading. The phases and disjunctures of my reading life operate more in decades. It’s five on Sunday morning in Beijing and city is quiet. I’m channeling through a Japanese IP address to get access to WordPress.
My decade in reading is charted here on this blog, a strange record of the meandering byways of a life spent reading. I wouldn’t have been able to articulate why I read so coherently at the start, and then for a long time I thought reading was about seeing through another’s eyes. This isn’t of course possible nor does it explain with any clarity how essential books and specifically literature are to my life. Jon Fosse gets closer:
‘Some authors know that they don’t know, yet they still have the feeling of knowing something which cannot be known, something which cannot be pronounced as meaning, but which perhaps despite everything can be said through literature.’
It’s not about good books and certainly not exquisitely written stories, or pacy plots, or believable characterisation. A decade ago I would’ve argued against this perspective. It’s that sense that even the writer of an enchanted text doesn’t quite know the depths she or he has scaled. We don’t have the language to really capture the quickening that occurs when a voice has broken through and communicated something below our conscious mind. The ineffable in all its glorious beauty.
The quivering heart of this year’s reading is Maria Gabriela Llansol’s Geography of Rebels trilogy. Her writing has transformed my way of perceiving writing and the world, which I increasingly think might well be the same thing. These squiggly symbols on a page are a Lascaux of sorts. They shape us as we interpret what we think we perceive.
This is a good year of reading. It is a life-changing decade of reading. It isn’t possible to see who I’d be without all these books, a version of myself that exists somewhere, but I’d rather not meet him.