I'm no longer a devotional reader as in Biblical tomes by the bed or perhaps a daily following of spiritually directed reading, but I do like something recognizable that is waiting there each day.
A consecutive read, following day on night on day again, food for the spirit none the less, giving me something to ponder and there, familiar, ready and waiting again the next day and the day after.
Each year I choose a few books to stay by the bed and it's these I may browse while the bath's running or as I'm drinking a cup of tea when I know I have only a few minutes before I absolutely must get up for work.
This year's choices varied but launching my reading year off to a fine and contemplative start.
I've already mentioned my love of The Paris Review Interviews here and Volume Two is proving a great foundation to this year's literary travels, so much about the art of writing from the likes of Toni Morrison and recently I've read Isaac Bashevis Singer. I dipped in and out of Volume One all last year and read them over and again, always spotting something new and of interest for my pencil to attack.
I did say I was going to try and read an entry per day of The Assassin's Cloak thinking it would probbaly become a burden and I'd be catching up six days at a time but no, it's been an easy task, and now I'm hooked and having trouble not sneaking in two or three days at a time in advance.
Here's Virginia Woolf on January 3rd 1915
'I begin to loathe my kind, principally from looking at their faces in the tube. Really raw beef and silver herrings give me more pleasure to look upon.'
and Sylvia Plath on January 4th 1958
'1958: the year I stop teaching and start writing. Ted's faith:don't expect: just write: what? It will take months to get my inner world peopled, and the people moving. How else to do it but plunge out of this safe scheduled time-clock wage-check world into my own voids.'
Sylvia leads me nicely onto Letters of Ted Hughes.I had been dipping in and out of these in shades of awe and wonder and have decided to make them daily reading. Ted Hughes has an eye for the everyday that takes you by surprise, here in a letter dated Spring 1952 to his sister Olwyn,
' this afternoon I went to a Beethoven Concert by Adrian Boult and his Boys.Played Loenora I, and 8th, and Eroica. Leonora I and 8th fine, but suffered wherever grip and momentum and furor were required - they got through because of their music, but the Eroica, which is a Creative act to hear, was just bled white - all the fiddlers tickling like a field of mere grashoppers, or conjurer's assistants, while Boult's hands fluttered in the void like Shelley's for effect...We had our first Spring day Yesterday, and so many people were feeding the ducks that I think several died.'
Lastly and mentioned already, The Collected Stories of Grace Paley, these are something special indeed and I shall be bereft when I run out of her stories.
I will add to this little stack on the bedside table through the year, there's space set aside already for Penelope Fitzgerald's letters when they arrive and more will join until eventually by December there's barely room for the cup of tea.
Then I start all over again with a new selection.
Finally you could be forgiven for thinking that Molton Brown have started making ribbon bookmarks.The Kayaker and his GF could see little sense in me dashing up to Hotel Endsleigh or Brown's in Tavistock every five minutes to avail myself of their hand-washing facilities so they bought me some Molton Brown handwash and handcream of my own for Christmas.
It was beautifully gift-wrapped and that claret ribbon far too sumptious to discard.
PS Head here to enter a really unusual competition to win a copy of The Assassin's Cloak.