How we all love that quote from Louisa May Alcott and it seemed to fit so well that I omitted the bit about 'and it has turned her brain', for obvious reasons of credibility and seriousness, and used it as the title for a piece that was commissioned by The Reader magazine for their Health issue which was published this week. The editors wanted my take on a life spent with books and reading and how that may have seeped into my life as a nurse, so it was really good to reflect on that and ponder all those influences.
You may recall this was the piece of the lost first 1000 words which were somehow eaten by the Sony Vaio over Christmas, then soundly digested never to be regurgitated, and over which I may well have wept had it not been for the fact that I recognised I had actually got off on the wrong writing foot anyway so they were best abandoned.
Whilst I am mentioning The Reader I must also mention their recent publication of A Little Aloud, An anthology of prose and poetry for reading aloud to someone you care for and which seems really apt given my hopes for reading aloud surrounding my World Book Night gift of The World's Wife.
Blake Morrison, in his foreword, highlights the capacity of literature to 'make us feel better - better in ourselves and better about ourselves' something with which I feel sure we might all concur. He goes on to talk about the inclusivity of books and the way they invite us in and to belong and nothing could feel more relevant this week after such a wonderful Team Tolstoy troika stop... goodness me how much more I know I am gaining from sharing this read with so many of you. I think we may really exemplify Blake Morrison's assertion that literature can be communal and collaborative here.
The Reader Organisation now running over 200 Get Into Reading groups across the UK and utilising the lost art of shared reading aloud to get books and reading into those dark corners where they may have been little experienced.
Reading Jane Davis's introduction again now I see that my little essay also segues nicely into the concepts explored in A Little Aloud... about us all being the tellers of our own story, the owners of our own narratives, something you will see if you read She is Too Fond of Books that became increasingly clear to me in my working life once I realised I was listening daily to those narratives of other people's lives, and what a privilege that was.
So a book that champions reading aloud and I'm remembering George Eliot's letters and diaries, and how often she and George Henry Lewes would sit and read aloud to each other and I used to think how quaint and how unfashionable that had become for adults, and doubtless for obvious technological reasons perhaps... but what a fine revival The Reader is spearheading with this book.
The collection is wide-ranging and full of little surprises, some familiar, some less so, all timed and with the suggestion from Jane Davis that the book is used as a 'tool' with plenty of scope for matching the reading to the situation...from a family sitting around the fire at Christmas who want to be entertained, to the group that may need to grapple with a problem or feel cheered, to the patient in the hospital bed
In the end, having recovered from The Lost Words, I enjoyed writing She is Too Fond of Books immensely and it was a real pleasure to work with Sarah Coley who edited my offerings into the space available and conferred so sensitively and thoughtfully with me over it all. So my sincere thanks to The Reader magazine for asking, accepting and publishing the finished essay, and for anyone who is interested The Reader have very kindly allowed me to publish it on here. As it is 2000 words I have uploaded it as a file which you should find on the side bar over here >>>> titled 'Publishing...' and the link is here too if you should want to read.