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Worth the paper ...


Synchronicity – what a wonderful thing! Just like that some answers to the questions I was reflecting on in the last blog post have popped out of the unexpected-nowhere, and It Feels Good. Let me remind you: I had been poking around the question of the value of writing, and, in an uncomfortable don’t-know-where-to-start-today hesitancy, doubting myself and my ambitions to communicate my worldview to anyone else ‘out there’. But – hooray! - I have been serendipitously reminded that we as readers read because we are looking for affirmation, for enchantment, for escape, for transformation, for home-coming … and of course we as writers write for the same reasons and because of our need to explore and express these things (whatever our own particular ‘things’ are.)

I spent my Christmas money from faithful, generous Auntie Joan on a book: A Velocity of Being, Letters to a Young Reader, edited by Maria Popova and Claudia Bedrick. These unusual women have a definite illness – not a medical one, to be sure, but one that has taken over their hearts and souls in the form of an avid passion for reading. They also can’t stop trying to infect the world with their germs (and I came down with the same bug years ago). Here they have commissioned a book of letters on the subject of reading: 121 letters from super-impressive people like the first Italian woman in space, or a 100 year old holocaust survivor… and for each letter in this labor-of-love collection there is a piece of newly commissioned art (the one above is from John Parra). So it is, in fact, a thick, heavy and very beautiful book that shouts out with every paper-fibre “READ! WRITE! LOOK! LOVE! AND READ AND WRITE SOME MORE!”.

My words are not book-words (although never say never) but they do tell my story. Quoting poet Gwendolyn Brooks, the role of books (and stories) is described as flame and flight and flower, which, because that is so absolutely explosively marvelous a way to encapsulate the life that words have for us and in us, frees me with no further ado to stop agonising about the whys and ifs and arghs of what I have been doing … and to keep writing. Keep writing for myself, and for anyone who loves flames or flights or flowers enough to seek them out wherever they may be found, even in the words that I put together here.

There is something about books made out of paper, isn’t there? I have been reading Hermann Hesse’s Siddharta (auf deutsch, oooh), which I downloaded as an e-loan from the New York Public Library onto my phone. I squint at the screen (yes it can be a squint, actually, depending on the light) and flick page to page like a Tinder rejection tic. I like reading the story and am glad to not have the bulk of a book in my bag, but there is something about the e-experience that feels superficial and unsatisfying. Like I am viewing a scene from behind a hygiene screen, instead of becoming a part of the story by experiencing its sights, sounds, and smells.

So much for book-ness: a blog happens only on a screen and is transmitted only by the nothing of digitality. Ah well, it is what it is, and is immediate and global, and that is a huge advantage. Let’s not advocate a return to scrolls and parchment, hey?

PS: Maria Popova produces a weekly inspiration called BrainPickings, an example of which you can find here ( She is simply brilliant (way beyond my intellect so I won’t try to describe her work more than this!) and if you like broad, deep thinking, and like exploring conceptual relationships in literature, art, science, philosophy and all and all and all, you may well like this blog. You can arrange it to arrive in your email inbox every week.


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