Thursday, January 14, 2016

Literary yeast and the mating of books


Reading, even just handling, lots of books puts literary yeast in the air. It means, as anyone who bakes knows, that good things tend to rise faster. If you want to get a book of your own in the oven, make sure you have literary yeast.
     I don't have a reading plan. I am a non-linear reader, jumping from one thing to another, easily driven or distracted by shelf elves, ever ready to take on reading and research assignments suggested by dreams and the play of synchronicity. I have at least twenty books on the go at any given time. I read novels from beginning to end, generally at high speed, but will open anything else where I please and read forwards and back. I am pleased that Montaigne approached reading the same way. 
"I leaf through one book, now another," he wrote, "without order and without plan, by disconnected fragments." Yet as his biographer Sarah Bakewell informs us, "he took up books as if they were people and welcomed them into his family."   
     Family, yes. And a huge one. This helps to account for the fact that I welcome into my home, on average, at least three new books a day, to m
ingle with the thousands already there. My books form a very lively society, and their mixer parties are remarkable. Right now, for example, on my desk, a trio of goddesses (books on the Sumerian goddess Inanna) are getting to know Victorian ghost hunters (W.T. Stead, F.W.H. Myers), and some mysterious Romanians  with French accents (in Mircea Eliade's fiction, which I am reading in French). Fairies loosed from several anthologies are dazzling a cohort of neuroscientists, physicists and anthropologists from a mountain of academic works.
     When I'm not looking, the goddesses give the Bull (from Michael Rice's The Power of the Bull) a fine gallop around my study. Jung or Yeats, Robert Graves or Arthur Koestler, swoop down from time to time, from eyries above my desk, William Blake arises, flourishing drawings that he made for Dante's Divine Comedy. Philip K. Dick mutters, "The Empire never ended" and looks for something strong to drink.
    I want to be at these parties for longer than the night allows. I always want another four hours with my books before the sun comes up, winter or summer.
    At some point, I have to leave the books to carry on without me, while I go to bed or head off to an airport. Later there is evidence that carry on they did. The disarray around my desk or reading corner suggests that the Victorian ghost hunters staged a seance, or that the goddesses scared the pants off a neuroscientist. Philip K. Dick has crashed and lies sprawling face down on the floor. There is something in the air that indicates that the strange magician Andronic from Eliade's novella went on making magical passes to raise the serpent. I hear the echo of a lecture I would like to give on how dreaming is the key to understanding quantum reality on a human scale.
     I am pretty sure these nightly book parties turn into orgies when I have gone to bed. The literary sex that goes on may be wild but I think it is also sacred, the hieros gamos of a dozen or a hundred minds slipping in and out of their covers. The proof will come if new books are born, through me, with the DNA of many, many literary ancestors and a character that is all their own, When the mating of books is as wild and free as it is around me, around the clock, I am quite sure of this: What happens in Bookland won't stay in Bookland.

Photo: I took this one in Shakespeare & Co in Paris. I was going to photograph the books on my desk this morning, but they made it clear that some things do need to stay in Bookland.

2 comments:

Patricia said...

Great Goddess what a great read! Perhaps you are my favorite Wizard. You had me laughing and swirling and determined. I am not going to be a slow reader any longer. In three months I am going to be Wizardy fast. And when I get to my new house, I am going to start baking bread again.

Jana Mitzoda said...

Dreaming is one of the most natural ways to understand and befriend quantum universe! You have no idea what a relief it was to find out that we both read books in the same non-linear way (some would call it messy, but we know, hah!) I no longer feel bad about the huge pile on the bed side table and in my Bookland...lol here :D