Monday, January 18, 2010

Books in my life

The uncommon reader by Alan Bennett
I acquiesce to a friend's suggestion, and begin jotting in this blog, a few lines about books that I've read, am reading, or hope to read in the future. My reading habits are notoriously meandering, snagging at benevolent rocks, swishing through clumps of reeds, tickled by overhanging branches, running a short straight course, slowly stagnating in fanning deltas, amalgamating into the soup that holds aloft our collective and individual continents.

Books about books is a genre I warmed to late in life—thus qualifying as an opsimath. I came to it, of course, book by book, but once arrived, a whole new world lay ahead. I wandered onto this uncommon path by way of a genetic urge to collect. Philatelist father…bibliomaniac son. By the way, dad too was afflicted with the gentle madness once, till he passed it on to me. Not that I'm complaining! But about this journey, another time. Now about a little gem that I read, in one sitting, a few days ago, and then passed on to the missus of eclectic reading tastes, who, thank heavens, pronounced it 'unputdownable'.

The uncommon reader of Bennett's endearing work is none other than Queen Elizabeth, who stumbles upon books late in life. As she begins to be drawn into the world of books, her life changes, as do her views about people, administration and governance. Feeling and emotion towards fellow humans bloom in her, despite her equerries' disapproval. The immortal world of words casts its spell and Her Majesty begins to think about what she's reading, and begins to change subtly. Books begin to clarify her thinking, her development as a monarch and a human being…And through her charming infatuation, Bennett speaks about reading and books and their place in our evolution as humans. I'll leave you with a couple of quotes:

'The appeal of reading, she thought, lay in its indifference: there was something lofty about literature. Books did not care who was reading them or whether one read them or not. All readers were equal, herself included. Literature, she thought, is a commonwealth; letters a republic…books did not defer. All books were equal…[reading] was anonymous; it was shared; it was common. And she who had lived a life apart now found that she craved it. Here in these pages and between these covers she could go unrecognised.'


Sheetal said...

Oh lovely post and the promise of more to come - what could be better. It seems like an absorbing novella.

Aasheesh, since you're so fond of the metareading sub-genre, and since what you'll try to do is write about reading, have you come across Alberto Manguel's A Reading Diary? Here is a link to a blogpost on it.

Aasheesh said...

Sheetal, yes, I have that on my reading list. In fact, I've read his 'The library at night'. A fabulous work…about which, anon.