…this is my way of reading…

“Don’t be amazed if you see my eyes always wandering. In fact, this is my way of reading, and it is only in this way that reading proves fruitful to me. If a book truly interests me, I cannot follow it for more than a few lines before my mind, having seized on a thought that the text suggests to it, or a feeling, or a question, or an image, goes off on a tangent and springs from thought to thought, from image to image, in an itinerary of reasonings and fantasies that I feel the need to pursue to the end, moving away from the book until I have lost sight of it. The stimulus of reading is indispensable to me, and of meaty reading, even if, of every book, I manage to read no more than a few pages. But those few pages already enclose for me whole universes, which I can never exhaust.”


Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

Image by Kyle Brock

“In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover…”

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The divine Italo Calvino identifies the real trouble with bookshops….

“In the shop window you have promptly identified the cover with the title you were looking for. Following this visual trail, you have forced your way through the shop past the thick barricade of Books You Haven’t Read, which were frowning at you from the tables and shelves, trying to cow you.
But you know you must never allow yourself to be awed, that among them there extends for acres and acres the Books You Needn’t Read, the Books Made For Purposes Other Than Reading, Books Read Even Before You Open Them Since They Belong To The Category Of Books Read Before Being Written.
And thus you pass the outer girdle of ramparts, but then you are attacked by the infantry of the Books That If You Had More Than One Life You Would Certainly Also Read But Unfortunately Your Days Are Numbered. With a rapid manoeuvre you bypass them and move into the phalanxes of the Books You Mean To Read But There Are Others You Must Read First, the Books Too Expensive Now And You’ll Wait Till They’re Remaindered, the Books Ditto When They Come Out In Paperback, Books You Can Borrow From Somebody, Books That Everybody’s Read So It’s As If You Had Read Them, Too.
Eluding these assaults, you come up beneath the towers of the fortress, where other troops are holding out:

the Books You’ve Been Planning To Read For Ages,

the Books You’ve Been Hunting For Years Without Success,

the Books Dealing With Something You’re Working On At The Moment,

the Books You Want To Own So They’ll Be Handy Just In Case,

the Books You Could Put Aside Maybe To Read This Summer,

the Books You Need To Go With Other Books On Your Shelves,

the Books That Fill You With Sudden, Inexplicable Curiosity, Not Easily Justified,

Now you have been able to reduce the countless embattled troops to an array that is, to be sure, very large but still calculable in a finite number; but this relative relief is then undermined by the ambush of the Books Read Long Ago Which It’s Now Time To Reread and the Books You’ve Always Pretended To Have Read And Now It’s Time To Sit Down And Really Read Them….”

 

Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveler

If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller

Chris Brignola

 

‘The things that the novel does not say are necessarily more numerous than those it does say, and only a special halo around what is written can give the illusion that you are reading also what is not written.

Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller

It is true that what is not said also holds its own significance. Each visitor that stops to tell me something is offering me a tiny glittering chip from their reading life, and it is of no small value.

When Lyle left today he said that the reason he is reading Catcher in the Rye is to calibrate himself and see that all is running to reason.

I was informed that Wilbur Smith is getting too old to write properly.

A young woman said to me, ‘I want to write a book. The trouble is that I have nothing to write about.’ I said that nearly everybody feels this, so maybe just write about what you think and feel about your life so far.

She answered that so far it had not been that good.

Someone told me that they will die reading. So it had better be with somebody good. Like Umberto Eco.

I was asked for: I am Malala, An Atlas History of Australian Shipwrecks, Hunting with Eagles, Oceans of Nectar and The Red Tent.

All day, though I am still, I am not still. The landscape of every book described intrudes into my mind and I think about it.

‘I want that book where you can put the whole ocean in a bucket and carry it. In that bucket, the whole sea is there, but the bucket is not as heavy as you think. It’s by Neil Gaiman.’

‘There was this magic elf that had a flute made out of glass, and you could see inside it at the music and that. In the book it broke, and there was no other one. Do you have that book?’

‘Linwood Barcley, he wrote a book where there was a child who wakes up and goes downstairs, and her family, everyone had just disappeared….so shocking…imagine something like this happening for real. Every other book here is nothing compared to it. All other books are just the same as each other after you read this book.’

‘The Dark Road to Darjeeling is the best book you will ever read.’

‘Un Lun Dun is the best book you will ever read.’

‘The Wind in the Willows is the best book you will ever read.’

‘I’m going home now to have a cold beer and this here Lee Child. I’m pretty pleased.’

A lady said to me that her son re reads everything instead of reading new things. She said, ‘Do you think it’s ok? Why do they read things over and over? Don’t they get it all the first time…….?’

 

Photography by Chris Brignola