I had been drinking, so i decided to go to the bookshop.
This was not a good idea.
This was a good idea.
I had not drunk so much that I had lost all control of the reins that slow my bibliophilic canter, they were just a little looser.
“Forever be accursed the star under which I was born, may no sky protect it, let in crumble in space like dust without honour! And let the traitorous moment that cast me among the creatures be forever erased from the lists of time!”
I had gone to buy a copy of A Short History of Decay by EM Cioran. I had recently read about him and his abrupt pessimism seemed like the right paragraphs for these times. Apparently, his mother told him that had she known how utterly miserable he was going to be, she would not have brought him into the world. A Short History of Decay is a rich book, I began underlining the sentences I savoured and soon realised I had underlined the entirety of the first page.
“The abundance of solutions to the aspects of existence is equaled only by their futility”.
I browsed downwards from the third floor of Waterstones Gower Street until I was in the remainder basement. I had looked at John Updike’s Always Looking: Essays on Art before and wrongly decided that I didn’t need it. I corrected this mistake.
“One does not expect that the Magritte exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art will be a humanistic revelation of considerable grandeur, but it is”
I wish I could write about art, but I can’t. I can see the ideas in my head, but something chokes and stalls as the thoughts make the journey from my mind to my mouth.
I find it very hard to write about anything that is visually beautiful or fascinating, so I just stare and wonder.
Updike quotes Magritte on why the titles of his work were so elaborate.
‘The titles are chosen in such a way as to prevent my pictures from being situated in the reassuring region to which people’s minds would automatically assign them in order to underestimate their significance. The titles must be an extra protection which will discourage any attempt to reduce pure poetry to a trivial game”.
Words like these are why I buy so many books. I am desperately seeking revelations on how to view the world and change the way I see it. Much of my upper body strength comes from reading big books in the bath. I don’t speed read, but I do run through books with my laces untried, tripping and gasping.
Updike writes of Magritte’s The Lovers, “we are denied a sensation of human presence; rather a human absence is portrayed”. It reminded me of a comedian who was so incredibly dull, so almost invisible in his lack of presence, that it was said that as he left the stage empty, it was as if some had just walked on.
I think I had come to find surrealism dull by the mid nineties, Its images had been so overused in advertising and popular culture that it had become mundane. I found out how preposterously wrong I was when I took the bus the Another World: Dali, Magritte, Miró and the Surrealists exhibition at the Dean Gallery in Edinburgh . Once I had become connected to the stories and ambitions of the artist, it all made just the right amount of sense and confusion again.
As Updike walked into the final room of the Magritte exhibition, he heard a spectator exclaim, “these are not dreams; these are the truth! Magritte was a philosopher! He was a good man!”
The final big book of the vaguely inebriated browse was Dreams 1900 – 2000: Science, art and the Unconscious Mind. I am sure there will be handy revelation in there.
Josie and Robin’s Book Shambles is available here – latest broadcast is a horror special with Reece Shearsmith reading from some hilariously grim Grimm’s tales, Josie Long discussing her ghost story, Anna Savoury explaining the curse of Dennis Wheatley’s library, and Rufus Hound reading an HP Lovecraft short story.
I was going to write about the other books I bought over the last seven days, but it is a silly number.