Parables of Sunlight

Mark Harpur

What you remember and experience when you read is complicated. You remember the story and your own experience of reading it at the same time. That is two things. Montaigne said this about his experience of reading the words in a book: I took to trailing far behind them murmuring, ‘hear, hear.’

Trailing far behind……

Here are some of the things I have been told about reading as people come and go through my book shop, told in the exact words that these customers said to me:

  • Reading is not simple. It is sailing and sailing.
  • It makes you there.
  • Reading is multidimensional and leaves you with a mother lode of new stuff to think about. That’s if you read science fiction.
  • To read more than one book at a time is to read in counterpoint. Each book works on the other even though you may not realise it.
  • Reading is a thousand add ons a minute.
  • How many books can your head hold? Are we as big as the internet?
  • Do the bad books get squeezed out of your head?
  • Reading a good book is a constant bursting of understandings. So if you like the sea and ships then read about them, your idea of them gets bigger. And it never stops getting bigger which it is why it is a bursting of understandings that never stops. Do you get it?
  • I was wondering what you might think this means, this from Dylan Thomas:

Through the parables

Of sunlight

And the legends of the green chapel

And the twice told fields of infancy…..

  • Because I think it is about memory. Do you have any books of his poetry? I have these memories of the books I read and am now trying to find again. And I think that the parables of sunlight stand for each book I read, especially when I was a child as they are the ones that are still lit up. One of the books was called People of the Deer and I’m working hard to find that book again.
  • When you read with other people there, it’s hard to listen isn’t it….you know when they are talking about the weather and that and you are in there, in the book, dealing with the dying racehorse that give it everything and all that. Bloody hard. The light and just the shape of a gate or something that the horse went past, it all adds up doesn’t it though?
  • I’m a great one for reading I am….there’s not many who can read as fast as me. I don’t remember the books I suppose but really, who even does?
  • When I read the Troll Fell books, he had this red cloak and it was really important but when they made the cover they got the colour of the cloak wrong! I couldn’t believe that they even did that. I didn’t want that one, book 3, because they got that wrong. I never forget anything that is important in the books. In 100 Cupboards I remember every single item…..

(Hear, hear…)






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