This is something I've never done before. It's also something I hope I never have to do again.
Over the last week I've felt the urge to write. But every time I had a keyboard to myself, either people arrived or the inspiration left. (Inspiration? Pretentious sod!) All the while the urge to produce words grew stronger, yet no release came. Painful situation. A sort of mental constipation. (".. have you heard / that silence where the birds are dead yet something singeth like a bird?" James Elroy Flecker may not have been a great poet, but he had the ear for melodrama, the scrape of a violin that signals Grendel's approach.)
So now I "sit by my window and I watch the cars roll by / I fear I'll do some damage one fine day". Except that during this last week, I visited my parents. And (as usual) got into an argument with my mother. It's a long-running dispute - she says she no longer has room for all my old books and has to give them away, I say she has no business giving away 20 years of systematic book buying / borrowing (well, I return books these days. Only nobody returns mine). Then a young friend found one of my books in a second-hand bookstore at Gariahat and I was indiscreet enough to upbraid my mother about it. On the lines of "if they're to be sold off, at least I should be the one selling them!"
To cut a long story short, I must now (a) retrieve that book as evidence with which to confront the unworthy beneficiary of my mother's impatience and (b) take all my other books off my parents' shelves post-haste. Doesn't make sense to me - the books still line the walls of what used to be my room, except that it's now my father's study (where he makes love to his computer and a slide guitar), and he doesn't complain, but my mother says there's no place for the books. Yeah right. What used to be my bedroom on the ground floor is now her spare kitchen. SPARE kitchen! Why can't she move some bookshelves there?
So now, on the box-shaped cabinet to my right, I see … Conrad’s The Secret Agent; Hammond Innes, Wreckers must breathe; J.B. Priestley, The Doomsday Men; T.E. Shaw .. sorry,
Oh, one more. Now lacking a cover, the paper brown with age and the blurb kitschy – Leon Uris’ first novel, Battle Cry. I shall read it again now. “What you want, chief, eggs in your beer?” and “I don’t give a big rat’s ass!” and “This is my rifle / this is my gun / this is for fighting / this is for fun” (I was 14 when I first read it, the impressions remain).
And so I sit and look at this cart-load of potential reading matter (even Lord of Arabia by Armstrong, an account of Ibn Saud’s rise that my father forced down my throat when I was about 12, so of course I hated it then but rather liked bits of it when I read it again after 10 years) and I wonder, will I ever read all these books again? DID I ever read them once? I can’t remember more than bits and pieces. Some of them I never did read all the way through. Others have just left blurred impressions, especially those I read before I was ready for them.
I missed a lot of good stuff because I started on it too early. If you’re 10 or 12 years old and you start on Heart of Darkness, chances are that for a long time you’ll hold the impression that Conrad is a dull writer. So they sit on the shelves, neglected, until you grow up enough to take another shot. Sometimes the initial dislike is too strong and you never get back to them (I’ve only ever read Moby Dick in the old Classics Illustrated comic series). Sometimes you get back and the book suddenly lights up, because at 22 you can relate to issues and ideas that you couldn’t at 12.
And sometimes the books sit on the shelves after one reading, like old friends you mean to get in touch with, only you’re too busy or too lazy and suddenly you find you haven’t spoken for a year or two and when you finally call you get somebody else who says your friend left town 6 months ago and sorry, we do not have his new address. So a friend drops by and you have no idea when he borrowed that book, only when you want to start on it again there’s a gap in the bookshelf.
Anyway, I’ve now started on I, Claudius and Bowdrie’s Law at the same time and life is very good.
Except that I can’t get myself to write anything. Unless I start writing about my own life, which is not interesting material. And which, in any case, is something I only do on my other blog, never on this one. Which was what this post was all about. Or supposed to be all about. Dang it.