An irregular, irreverent, post-modern account of the surreal, the ordinary, and the bizarre happenings on and around the Felia lavender farm in Crete

Friday, February 09, 2007


I could read when I started school. I think now that all of my siblings could. I have no idea how I learnt to read. Maybe it was a genetic thing. It certainly wasn't a nurture thing - ours was not an upbringing surrounded by books and reading. I cannot remember a time when I could not read.

Throughout my life there have been moments of literary epiphany. Moments when I discovered things not about words - words are meaningless sub-fragments in the same way as individual notes are in music - but about literature itself. About what language is capable of when written.

What images and music are to others is what literature is to me. It is my bedrock, my building block. I have no visual imagination (my surviving sister "suffers" the same "sensory deficit") - I think, dream, and imagine, in language. My life is language and language is my life.

My first? My first literary epiphany? I think I was eleven, maybe twelve, no older. I had read every book in my school libraries. I had been given a library card at 6 or 7. I had graduated from the junior to the adult library precociously. I recall it well.

I had read something - a book perhaps, an article maybe, could have been a review of a reprint -  it doesn't matter, it isn't relevant.  It stickes with me to this day, millions of destroyed brain cells later, hundreds, possibly thousands of books later: not the article but the book. Anyway, the piece talked about The Dead. The finest short story of all time it said. An Irishman, a rebel and an exile had written this story and it was included in a book called Dubliners - no article definite or otherwise.

I  rushed down to the library and took the book, almost pristine I remember now, (not much call for James Joyce in Dagenham), down from the wooden shelving. I sat at one of their desks in a silence that was near impossible to replicate anywhere else in my life - a refuge that would become ever more significant in my formative years and I read The Dead. And then I read Araby. And then I read The Sisters. I sat and read in total silence until the head librarian ushered me out at closing time and stamped the book for return in 2 weeks time.

I had always loved reading but my encounter with Dubliners taught me something that has stayed with me to this day. Language is abstract. Plot is not that important. Language can shine, and resonate. A tale is but a tale. Perfect language lives in the memory for the rest of your life. A perfect story is a linguistic achievement. The form backgrounds the content.

Most important of all - maybe - to me at least - language is itself paramount.  And language can be perfected. Joyce had done it. Had anyone else?  I had a quest that would last my living life.  To search and to find perfect literature.

1 comment:

  1. lovely thoughts D. i was an early reader as well, and always asked for and received books as gifts for christmas and birthdays...much better than toys i remember thinking.