Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner by Alan Sillitoe (Plume/Penguin 1959)

Sitting in what has come to be called my study, a room in the first-floor flat of a ramshackle Majorcan house, my eyes move over racks of books around me. Row after row of coloured backs and dusty tops, they give an air of distinction not only to the room but to the whole flat, and one can sense the thoughts of occasional visitors who stoop down discreetly during drinks to read their titles:

"A Greek Lexicon, Homer in the original. He knows Greek! (Wrong, those books belong to my brother-in-law.) Shakespeare, The Golden Bough, a Holy Bible bookmarked with tapes and paper. He even reads it! Euripides and the rest, and a dozen mouldering Baedekers. What a funny idea to collect them! Proust, all twelve volumes! I never could wade through that lot. (Neither did I.) Doestoevsky. My god, is he still going strong?"

And so on and so on, items that have become part of me, foliage that is grown to conceal the bare stem of my real personality, what I was like before I ever saw these books, or any book at all, come to that. [From The Decline And Fall Of Frankie Buller]

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