Another month just folded, another one is unfolding, and between them are books bought, hoarded, and yet remained unread.
One of the recent purchases was Octavio Paz’s On Poets and Others—a collection of personal and critical essays juxtaposing poets’ lives—the mundane side—as well as their respective writings and styles. His personal encounter with Robert Frost, which was the first presented in the collection, made me contemplative about my compulsive buying disorder—solely applicable to books, I might say.
Robert Frost wot that we should only read few good books. The beauty, art of reading, he said, lies in rereading—which shares the same principle in writing.
The problem with new writers, he noted, they consumed numerous books, without completely and wholly committing everything to memory.
It reminded me of Magnus Flett—a character from Carol Shields’s The Stone Diaries. Having spent forty-six years in Canada, he boarded a train to Montreal and from there a ship to Liverpool and spent eight days crossing the Atlantic. With him was few possessions: a picture of his wife and Jane Eyre.
He memorized every line from the novel. A time came that decent conversation was impossible since he kept on reiterating passages while sighing the name of his wife. I found the act both gratifying and melancholic.
I sometimes feel that we read because of necessity: the necessity to abolish ignorance, to gnaw arrogance, and most essentially to fill in the emptiness by consuming words, experiences, places, people we cannot possibly experience. And perhaps have not experienced yet.
It’s like A Being’s Guide to Life of the ephemeral, of the abstract, of the concrete, of the surreal, of the lies, of the real but untrue lives we want to take part in but end up as voyeurs.