Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rice and Cutlets are my Affair

Why do I choose one book over another? I came to the end of Invitation to the Waltz, and, trying to work out the book I should read next, began to feel, in my mind, the contours of War and Peace: the shapes of the short scenes at the start, the conversations in the drawing rooms as they appear in print (the staggered type on the page), the prince speaking, the aristocratic interpolation of French, the hostesses wishing everyone would go away -- all of this said to me, as if a voice had proclaimed it out loud, You should re-read War and Peace.

Had a subconscious part of my brain noticed that I was missing Proust and said to itself, "One big translated book by a famous dead man is more or less the same as another"? A week ago I wanted to read Jean Frémon's Island of the Dead, which was lying next to my chair. Although I was alone in the room I felt that someone was watching me. It was the author, on the cover, staring upwards.

Knowing that I was alone yet at the same time feeling that I was being spied on was so unnerving that I put another book over his face. (Maxim Gorky, I think: My Apprenticeship, a ratty Penguin, the cover streaked with white creases folded into the cardboard by some previous owner.)

In the downstairs bookshop near the station I've sometimes had the feeling that a man was trying to get my attention and when I look up I see a huge cutout of James Marsters dressed as Spike.

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