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“There’s no spectacle that is as terrifying as the sight of a guest in your house whom you catch staring at your books. It is not the judgmental possibility that is frightening. The fact that one’s sense of discrimination is exposed by his books. Indeed, most people would much prefer to see the guest first scan, then peer and turn away in boredom or disapproval. Alas, too often the eyes, dark with calculation, shift from title to title as from floozie to floozie in an overheated dance hall. Nor is that the worst.

It is when those eyes stop moving that the heart, too, stops. The guest’s body twitches; his hand floats up to where his eyes have led it. There is nothing to be done. You freeze. He smiles. You hear the question even as it forms:  Would you mind if I borrowed this book?”

Roger Rosenblatt, Bibliomania

Hal Porter


The thing about Hal Porter is that I do not know why I am reading him. I found him by accident and the volume was dull, without a dust cover, neither new nor old. The title, The Tilted Cross was quiet. It did not look at me.
This book came to me within a library that was gifted to me, an enormous and unexpected gift that will take me the rest of my years to discover. The reasons that libraries are put together and the decades it takes to put them together makes each one its own province with an understood currency and an exceptional climate. This library is a monarchy and this book, by Hal Porter, is now my favourite so far. The library is now blended with mine, and after the usual difficulties of integration and acceptance of minorities, is now settled mostly comfortably. It sheds more light, merged light, so different light and it is very beautiful inside it.
Now I am reading this book, The Tilted Cross, which is bizarre and difficult to read and difficult to understand and set in Hobart Town, Tasmania, convict history and ugly.
But what it is about is just the skin. The characters and the places are all just skin. What happens is just skin. What it holds is really it. It is not entertaining and not reassuring, and it is not clear. What it is, I am not clear on either, but it is important to me. I am unable to analyse the book, I am only able to read it.
It is something like a glass jug, held and turned and regarded in every light, upside down and inside out, bottom and handle, lip, glass, base and translucence. Regarded empty and fallen or full and erect. What is it and why.

Photography by Andrey Grinkevich

The Little Girl Who Chose Babar


I like listening to young people talk about what they read. I like the way they stand and gesture and run out of words. This is soooo good. Oh my God, this is so good. This is soooo good.

They rarely analyse, criticise or predict. The book is relevant or not, there is not much in between. The book becomes a fragment of them or it doesn’t.

One girl said that when she reads, everything becomes real. She looked at me intensely, anxiously, daring me to disagree. I did not disagree. She said: Oh my God, I loved Twilight. Her friend who is tall and gracious and grave, said: I have read Twilight, too, and I think that – but her  friend interrupted, I believe that when I read it, it is all true. She described her two shelves at home, packed with books, spines, titles, only the best ones. She has read them all.

Younger readers have to describe even more intense and glittering experiences with even less words. Geronimo Stilton is soooo crazy, Across the Nightingale Floor is like… mad. The Eregons are – but this boy had no words.  He then offered, politely, a suitable description for me: it was quite good, very good.

But his own words of his own experience, he did not share with me.

One girl, nine years old, described a book, a reader in her classroom that she wanted so much she might die. It was a mystery that you solve as you read it, it is soooo good.  it is soooo fun,  it is even on the internet!

A small child, about four years old chose Babar. Her father thought it not the right one. She turned away, clutching the book, frowning, furious, she wore pink gumboots and a red dress, she had scarf that trailed on the floor, she was organised for the cold.  And she would not let her father take the book, though he worked hard to retrieve it, to choose a better one. But there was no better one; there was only Babar and there were no words to explain.