Why don’t you
write a book about it ? is one of those things I am asked from time to time and the truthful answer is, I long ago admitted to myself that I am only so much of a writer. I really need speech and interaction. I don’t miss a thing she said, the friend I fell out with a year ago, but I miss the voice. I am not proud of admitting that but so help me, it’s true.
For example, the other night out of the dark up loomed the tall figure of the art teacher next door, a doll of a girl and I asked where she was off to. Going to see the boyfriend. The same boyfriend ? She grinned, yes.
She arrived on my doorstep a couple of months ago and said “You look like a person who might have a potato masher, do you and if you do may we borrow it ? “ Delighted to be asked I went for the utensil and she said “Come and meet my boyfriend. We’re making a shepherd’s pie
for comfort food.” So I met him, handshake, grin, a human , hooray, wished them luck with the cooking and she returned the masher in due course.
So the other night we stood and laughed and talked (I hate chatted and this exchange was as good as a weekend in the country). Then I sent her on her way having made sure she had a scarf – it was chilly – turned back into the house and realised – oh greasy fingerprints of age across the screen of communication – that for the moment
I couldn’t remember her name. It came back but I briefly felt 127.
It’s no secret I love books. When macular degeneration was diagnosed, my daily prayer became “Please God take me before you take my eyes.” Spare me the blandishments, I fear what I am not capable of.
Some of my earliest books await (I hope) my granddaughter’s enthusiasm. If not, hooray for Oxfam. If I could drive, I’d love to fill a truck with used books
and take them to children in Africa. Mind you, you don’t have to go that far, All too many schools are short of books and I shall never forget the girl I taught English telling me of her school ”We don’t have books.” What an impoverishment. Not just what’s in them but how they feel.
Talking to my son about my Christmas book list the other day, I said (as I have for years) paperbacks preferred – and he asked “ Do you really ? I prefer the feel of hardbacks – “ I said I like the feel of them but not the price and paperbacks are connected to being in the US 50 years ago when the covers were a breakthrough and I never looked back. I don’t remember much of Mishima but I remember the cover of the first book of his I read. Snowdrop is in the final stages of a book on Diana Dors with a terrific cover. Don’t judge a book by its cover ? A striking cover really helps.
Fascinating to read a review of My Body by Emily Ratajowski and get a feeling of that modern estrangement between what someone looks like and what he/she/it might be, how a person might be interpreted by context (even erroneously), what clothes might mean and what they don’t, how you can overcome that and how you cannot. Sometimes what you look like lies across the path of communication like a tree trunk. Another book about how I have suffered and been humiliated while earning heaven knows how many million dollars – so that’s all right then – to be washed in money.
And still so much to learn …. As if humiliation is always a learning curve ? Books are cruel in what they intend to reveal and what is discovered unintentionally. That is true of conversation too – even conversation by email or in the letters I used to read long ago.
But in conversational exchange there are all sorts of bits of information – what we call non verbal communication – going on in and around speech – the sound of the voice, the way the head is held, where the eyes look and where they shift to, what the hands do, what the body does – rich rich – the diet of my life. Can I have both please, books and bodies ?