Falling headlong,

Art, books, Life, United Kingdom

Barthélémy d' Eyck 1442 - 1445 Still life with booksSomewhere there must be a Venn diagram that shows people who read, and people who don’t, well I am in the section where they live to read. Is that strange to you? Possibly not, since you are reading this blog post. Lately my time has been increasingly devoted to my hobby (illustration), since I am getting used to the new freedom that a woman without a real job but with a family begins to enjoy on the imminent stretching of wings by the adult offspring. I say that with tongue partly in cheek, since I worked full time in a very busy environment with a responsible paid job which I eschewed in favour of bringing up a family. I never regretted a moment, though sometimes I would have like to have gone back to work for a) recognition of my talents b) a rest and c) some of that dirty lucre. Oh well, we are where we are, self respect diminished to non-existence, a rubbish wardrobe and a knackered spirit. Boys are good though. I digress, this is about reading, or what happens when the lights go out? My reading gene has been hijacked by some monstrous atrocity, and I want it back. I’m not saying I don’t read, just that I struggle to maintain the same enthusiasm for it. I will not give up however, because who am I without a book to shape my thoughts? Beg my affection?
It does occur to me, sometimes, that there are people inhabiting this planet with me who do not care for reading. I know, shocking, it upsets me even to consider. Should I be evangelising reading? Perhaps I should. I have helped out in the local school with the juniors, does that count? I don’t want people to just read, I want them to eulogise about what they read, to fall headlong.

“The reader became the book; and summer night

Was like the conscious being of the book.” 
― Wallace Stevens


I am not a preacher though, I have no talent for conscription and fully hold with the idea that  the world is improved by diversity  as opposed to homogeny.  So if those non readers prefer kayaking or climbing mountains, football or the society of naturists, so be it.  I shall continue to risk everything in the pursuit of the alchemy of the written word, and hope to be transported to foreign landscapes and impossible times by wizards and wordsmiths.  See you there.

Image is Bartheleme d’Eyck c 1442 , courtesy of the Rijks Museum.

If you are interested in owning a reproduction of his beautiful painting, it is incorporated into a variety of products on my Society 6 site, which is linked on my home page.




5 thoughts on “Falling headlong,

  1. Funny, I just finished reading this today


    It was on the facebook page of a friend of mine, who is a children’s librarian and storyteller!

    “Fiction has two uses. Firstly, it’s a gateway drug to reading. The drive to know what happens next, to want to turn the page, the need to keep going, even if it’s hard, because someone’s in trouble and you have to know how it’s all going to end … that’s a very real drive. And it forces you to learn new words, to think new thoughts, to keep going. To discover that reading per se is pleasurable. Once you learn that, you’re on the road to reading everything. And reading is key. There were noises made briefly, a few years ago, about the idea that we were living in a post-literate world, in which the ability to make sense out of written words was somehow redundant, but those days are gone: words are more important than they ever were: we navigate the world with words, and as the world slips onto the web, we need to follow, to communicate and to comprehend what we are reading. People who cannot understand each other cannot exchange ideas, cannot communicate, and translation programs only go so far.”

    and this part, I absolutely loved:

    “And while we’re on the subject, I’d like to say a few words about escapism. I hear the term bandied about as if it’s a bad thing. As if “escapist” fiction is a cheap opiate used by the muddled and the foolish and the deluded, and the only fiction that is worthy, for adults or for children, is mimetic fiction, mirroring the worst of the world the reader finds herself in.

    If you were trapped in an impossible situation, in an unpleasant place, with people who meant you ill, and someone offered you a temporary escape, why wouldn’t you take it? And escapist fiction is just that: fiction that opens a door, shows the sunlight outside, gives you a place to go where you are in control, are with people you want to be with(and books are real places, make no mistake about that); and more importantly, during your escape, books can also give you knowledge about the world and your predicament, give you weapons, give you armour: real things you can take back into your prison. Skills and knowledge and tools you can use to escape for real.”

    Reading actually teaches empathy.


    Interestingly enough, I actually very surprised when I read D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Not just for the sensual/moral aspects of it, but for the social context in which he wrote and the dehumanizing effects of the industrial age.


    I still read, now. I read the Hunger Games Trilogy right before my oldest daughter (who is twelve) did. She read Divergent, first, and now I am. Backwater by Joan Bauer was a beautiful young adult novel we both read too. I love the fact that we’ve been able to talk about the books we’d both read.

    I’m all for diversity, yet, I think people who don’t read throughout their adulthood are less able to discern for themselves what is true and what is not. They are much more easily led by charismatic (and potentially dangerous) leaders.

    I think there is nothing wrong with kayaking, mountain climbing, football, etc, AND reading. In fact, I usually take at least one book in my backpack to read when I take a break from hiking.



    1. Great link, thank you for taking me there! i loved the last paragraph about Albert Einstein’s instruction to read fairy tales. He is an absolute hero of mine. Such a fascinating man of humility and intelligence and human spirit.


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