Topical Guide 99
Reading and Readers; Writers and Readers; Books, Real and Fictional
One of Leroy’s (and Kraft’s) themes is the circular or reciprocal relationship between writing and reading, writer and reader, a circle dance for three: the writer, the reader, and the book. If—or when—I get around to writing The Topical Autobiography of Mark Dorset, I could use as an epigraph this description of that three-part harmony:
Reader, loe here [is] a well-meaning Booke. . . . I desire therein to be delineated in mine owne genuine, simple and ordinary fashion, without contention, art or study; for it is myselfe I pourtray. . . . Thus, gentle Reader, myselfe am the groundworke of my book: it is then no reason thou shouldest employ thy time about so frivolous and vaine a subject.
I detect a whiff of Pandora’s Box here:
I pulled the wrapping paper off the book and lifted the cover. The book was placed on the table with the binding away from me, so that I opened it as I would have opened a box, lifting the cover up and away as if I were lifting its lid.
Little Follies, “The Fox and the Clam”
Note the way she is opening the box in Perugini’s portrait, with the hinge (binding) away from her:
A sub-theme: the personal relationship that one develops with some books, that is, with the physical book itself, and perhaps a bit of nostalgic affection for printed books (though I know that Kraft now reads almost exclusively on an iPad):
When I opened the book, it released into the kitchen a rich, earthy, damp odor that I have ever since associated with reading, an odor that I’ve come to expect to smell when I’m about to begin reading a book, an odor that produces an anticipatory thrill and an appetite for graham crackers and milk. Of course, the odor is missing from new books, which smell only of paper and ink, and even from most used books, those that have been treated with care, but from time to time I find a used book with that evocative odor, and when I come across one of these, I buy it at once, regardless of its subject or author. As a result, I have a number of books—The Piezoelectric Properties of Wood comes to mind—that I’ve bought for their odor alone.
Little Follies, “The Fox and the Clam”
A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory … A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.
By the way: According to an illuminating article from physicsworld, “infecting wood with wood-decay fungus [can] boost its piezoelectric output by 55 times,” allowing “floors built from fungus-treated wood [to] generate renewable electricity from people’s footsteps.”
[more to come on Thursday, September 30, 2021]
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