From today onwards the sun will now set further and further this way >>>>> slowly making its way back around the horizon as we watch and wait patiently for the Longest Day.
It all makes me want to sit and contemplate were it not for the fact I'm working at the day job through Christmas and New Year, catching up with friends and still have Christmas shopping to do, suddenly there doesn't seem to be much free time this week.
But in looking back over a year of very happy reading there are quite a few books that have been making me stop and do a great deal of thinking. I've dipped in and out of them, set them aside for a while, picked them up again and kept them nearby. Roger Deakin's Notes From Walnut Tree Farm has been a constant companion and John McGahern has been a very close second with Love of the World, a collection of his essays.
I'm rarely if ever stuck for something to read but sometimes I really want to stop as one trail fades out and I need to find another, and a book of good essays can be a wonderful source of ideas and inspiration; books that will light a blue touch paper and Love of the World has certainly done that with its introduction by our Ulyssesian friend, Declan Kiberd.
I'm interested to note how a really good introduction can draw me in so perfectly and completely into a book, set me up for what may be to come without telling me too much or displacing those fledgling ideas of my own about what may be ahead. It's a fine balance and I give up on plenty of introductions; those that are giving it all away or planting too many definitive assessments before I've had a chance to formulate some thoughts of my own. Declan Kiberd treads the line quite perfectly with a very moving tribute to a great writer, giving his own impressions of this man of many talents and here describing John McGahern's strengths as a book reviewer,
'He held that it was the duty of a reviewer to report as exactly as
possible the very process of moving from page to page through a
narrative: how he felt, what thoughts occurred, the final feelings on
closing the volume. Precisely because his reviews were occasional,
there is an elegiac quality, a sense of sadness in shutting not just
the book but a window on a world which may never be seen again.'
John McGahern sometimes found the act of reading incommunicable and, in my own small way, I know that feeling too. Sometimes I sit here and spend a very long time and many drafts later trying to translate the emotional experience of reading a book into the right words.
happiness was something to be felt but never fully described as it was
being experienced, the same was also true of reading. Its risky
pleasures can be hinted at, anticipated or reconstructed as an
experience, but never with the full cohesion of the elements that made
I truly understand that, and I expect so many of you do too.
Then this, still in the introduction but I've read it countless times it's so full of insight,
'He wished to slow down the speed of our reading, so that people might learn again how to identify and savour the everyday...intrepid, self-admiring intellectuals lusted after the exceptional, castigating the everyday as banal and routine: but McGahern rendered the dignity of ordinary people's lives.'
You see, how can you not want to read more John McGahern ?
Appropriately I have That They May Face the Rising Sun at the ready.
Once I'd read this
'...he feared a loss of the old courtesies in a world of push, rush and bustle.'
I was off and away with Love of the World and much more here about this book and John McGahern's writing in 2010 I feel sure.
Daylight here in the south west will be a mere 7h 57mins 25secs today, come back at sunset which will be at 16.11 GMT for a prize draw from a good friend of us here at dovegreyreader scribbles.