…like butter through mosquito netting…


A child rode past on a scooter. He said: a bookshop….. AND it’s open!

A woman and two friends attend the same reading group. They are here to browse. The leader of the group is a champion reader and she has read everything.

I saw her indicate The Count of Monte Cristo, a book that is still here, loyal in blue and gold leather, but still not chosen, heavy and magnificent. She said: who would even bother with this. She went back to Her List. The Count was not on it. She said she had learned to speed read and it was a marvellous thing…

…but I don’t think that you should hustle through The Count. If you did you might miss the part when he falls in love with the prosecutor’s daughter. And this part is important.

I do not think you should hurry through Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress.

You might miss the mountain and how it was called the Phoenix of the Sky and when Luo whispered the name of the forbidden western author and we discover that it is Balzac… and worst of all, we could gently slip through the story and not realise we can read lingeringly and down to the beating heart of the book.

I can see that it might be possible to miss the beating heart of a book.

But this lady was generous and passionate. She was devoted to literature. Everything I had piled next to me, lent by customers to me, she examined. She had read everything. She judged competently – everything. She looked at the Pepys, at his portrait on the cover. I thought that he looked back, insolent, amused. She had not read and did not choose the Pepys.

David contemplates past pain through what he reads now, examining every sentence, every word, every letter, which he then replaces with great care and the utmost respect. There is an Indian writer he likes and he can only speak of him with a facial expression. There are no words. When I read Kingfishers Catch Fire, I did not think it was written for me. I thought it was written for itself. But there it was, standing there for me to have and have it I did. That includes the butter yellow stone walls and the mint green of crockery and the rich aching scent of sandalwood and the smoke and the furious villagers and blood. Those things became mine too. The colours became mine. The chance to see raspberry and jade side by side became mine. The fear of the mountain children of the Himalayan Kashmir; mine, and the reason to break off a small (stolen) bough of an apple tree, mine. I have read it seven times. It is written by Rumer Godden.

If you dash through Kingfishers Catch Fire you might miss… simply everything.

A child, a little girl whispered to me the entire story of Puff the Magic Dragon. She was sad about it. She said that Jackie Paper, he grew up. He mother offered her The Wind in the Willows but she said no. (The heartbeat of one book cannot be duplicated or extended by that of another).The child said that the dragon ate strings and things. She made a small face to show what it might be like to eat string.

Two small sisters in the front room overhear a mother and child alight from the car directly outside the window. The mother says to the boy: I do not like your attitude. The girls inside glance at one another and lift their shoulders. They duck their heads and smile significantly at each other.

Robert stops by to tell me that he has had nine pianos over the years but each of them was destroyed by people who were drunk at the time. Also his guitar was smashed. He said that The Arts are always under attack.

John wobbled past the door on his bike; there were lemons and a Lonely Planet Guide in the case on the front. He must be back from Tasmania.

I am reading Smoke and Other Early Stories by Djuna Barnes. I am reading it because it is a Virago Modern Classic, it has been lent to me and it has a nice cover. In the first story, The Terrible Peacock, there is a woman called The Terrible Peacock and her hair is piled high and terribly red and shines even in the darkness. Someone is waiting to meet her and he notices her hair:

The moon shone through it like butter through mosquito netting.

I am happy to have not missed the moon like butter and also, what it might be like to eat string.

Photography of moon artist: Leonid Tishkov