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(Update: Blogger hasn't fixed its problem with the "adult warning". Will go back to posting at my WordPress blog)

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Pleasure of Books

Just a short while ago I mentioned Dirk Bogarde's book A Particular Friendship. I wanted to read it, but found that it was no longer available new on Amazon or anywhere else. How tiresome, I thought. (I misspelled tiresome, and the spell-checker wanted me to write Tiresias, who was a Greek prophet who was blind and became a woman for 7 years, so Wikipedia informs me) Anyway, I was rifling through my books and I found it! I clearly bought it on publication in 1989, probably through my favourite bookshop in Cape Town, Juta's, because it has no bookshop sticker so I must have ordered it. My sister-in-law used to work there and she said I was legendary as I had the largest private individual's account at Juta's ever. I have squandered my patrimony on books and records. Not that I had a patrimony. So it has been sitting unread in my bookcases for 20 years.

There's something immensely pleasurable about embarking on the journey of reading a well-written, entertaining book. It's as if you had the author himself in your sitting room, and you could listen to his wit (and sarcasm). All wit is a little bit cruel, don't you think? DB wrote these letters to a woman, Mrs X, whom he never met. They're filled with reminiscences, anecdotes and little cartoonish descriptions of ppl he met, of places he'd seen. Some are very funny, some sad, and some just magical.

It's always seemed to me that being clever and educated is immensely unfair, because although there is a price (one sees to the heart of things, and sometimes hearts are black) there is also the overwhelming pleasure of words and ideas, of seeing things through the eyes of someone else. A pleasure as intense and satisfying as any. I don't at all regret the loss of my patrimony. My books are my friends and my guides to other places, other times, other values. And unlike real friends, they wait patiently for me to read them. Sometimes 20 years!

N

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dirk Bogarde is a wonderful writer, especially his memoirs, and yes, A Particular Friendship. Thank you for
an excellent review. I concur. What better way to spend money than on books which fill our minds with visions and keep us company in the midnight hours.

Nigel said...

I'm looking forward to reading a recently published volume of his letters to his other friends and contacts. A pleasure I'm carefully hoarding, for now.