Thursday, August 16, 2007

Living Inside Books

“There is something about words. In expert hands, manipulated deftly, they take you prisoner, wind themselves around your limbs like spidersilk, and when you are so enthralled you cannot move, they pierce your skin, enter your blood, numb your thoughts. Inside you, they work their magic…” -Margaret Lea in The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield

This summer has given me the time to dive into words again. I feel like the child I once was who spent hours living inside novels. The first of several books on my path this summer was The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield. I listened to this story unfold on my iPod. It was so well read that the world around me disappeared and I was wrapped in the twin stories of book-lover Margaret who is recording the life of writer Vida Winter. There are such wonderful passages about the joys of reading. In one stretch, Setterfield describes Margaret’s mundane tasks leading up to 8pm when “the world came to an end - it was reading time…. Against the blue candlewick bedspread, the white pages of my open book illuminated by a circle of lamplight were the gateway to another world.”

One of the other worlds I traveled to this summer was an island off the coast of Maine. A friend lent me her copy of Joe Coomer’s Pocketful of Names about an artist who lives and works in solitude on an island until one day a dog washes up on her beach, then a teenage boy looking for a place to a hide, and soon others…Her solitary life gives way to one of connectedness. There are some great passages about the creative life.

I also succumbed to the Harry Potter craze, and re-read book 6, before reading the new book 7. Although these books are not perfect, they cast a perfect spell. They rendered me half alive to my own life while I was engaged in their plot. It was pure escapist pleasure.

Diane Setterfield warns, “Reading can be dangerous.” For me, the danger is that the worlds in books begin to shine more bright than the world around me. It is as if I must shake cobwebs out of my brain to get back to work (of which is there is plenty). I have to tell myself that later in the day – after I have organized my inventory, shot new images for Evocations, responded to my email, etc. – then I can find my way back to the yellow armchair in the sunroom and open a fresh new book and see where it takes me.

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