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PLEASURES OF THE OPEN ROAD


4 th Feb 2015

The year stretches ahead, fresh and wide and empty, and with projects not only on the back-burner but on the front and side burners, too, there is much for me to write, edit, and publish. I am also looking forward to some concentrated reading time, for in the rushed lead-up to and aftermath of Christmas it struck me that I have not been spending as many hours as I would like with a book in my hand.

Reading is such a nourishing activity, and good books always spread their fairy dust on my own writing, whether it is in reinforcing a sense of the possibilities for structure, or as a reminder of the musicality of good sentences. The problem is that I have fallen into the habit of reading without much of a plan, amassing a pile of books that relate to what I am currently working on and dipping into them whenever I have a spare hour.

For the last few months this has meant gardening books, and a particular pleasure has been the out of print vintage classics acquired for just a couple of dollars at my local second-hand bookshop. To read Constance Spry’s thoughts on white flowers now is to be as enchanted as when her book was first published, and I am thankful that people have valued these dusty volumes enough to pass them on rather than pulp them, and that there are still shops that are prepared to gather, sort, and sell them.

This year, though, I want to make a serious assault on the ‘to be read’ pile. It was a piece in The New York Review of Books about Alice Munro that prompted me to make a reading plan - New York Review of Books

In it Hermione Lee reminded me of the reasons why I have loved Alice Munro’s writing, and yet when I looked on my bookshelves I found that I had yet to read many of her stories. So I sat down and began immediately with The Love of a Good Woman. It did not disappoint, and it was wonderful to realise that, as well as Alice, the bookcases still hold riches that have yet to be plundered.

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