Monday, October 29, 2007

What a tale!

The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield, just grabbed me, threw me about, and didn't let me go for two days.
It's an amazing tale within a tale within a tale.
If you love to read, love libraries, love words...
then you'll love this book.

"I didn't intend to read. Not as such. A few phrases were all I wanted. Something bold enough, strong enough, to still the words from the letter that kept going around in my head. Fight fire with fire, people say. A couple of sentences, a page maybe, and then I would be able to sleep.
I removed the dust jacket and placed it for safety in the special drawer I keep for the purpose. Even with gloves you can't be too careful. Opening the book, I inhaled. The smell of old books, so sharp, so dry you can taste it.
The prologue. Just a few words.
But my eyes, brushing the first line, were snared.
All children mythologize their birth. It is a universal trait. You want to know someone? Heart, mind and soul? Ask him to tell you about when he was born. What you get won't be the truth; it will be a story. And nothing is more telling than a story.
It was like falling into water...
...Aspects of my room came back into view, one by one. My bedroom, the book in my hand, the lamp still shining palely in the daylight that was beginning to creep in through the thin curtains.
It was morning.
I had read the night away."
(page 26-28)

Many people understand (how sad for the ones who don't) that books can be like friends--a joy to spend time with, an adventure. They are FUN!
"Of course one always hopes for something special when one reads an author one hasn't read before, and Miss Winter's books gave me the same thrill I had when I discovered the Landier diaries, for instance. But it was more than that. I have always been a reader, I have read at every stage of my life, and there has never been a time when reading was not my greatest joy. And yet I cannot pretend that the reading I have done in my adult years matches in its impact on my soul the reading I did as a child. I still believe in stories. I still forget myself when I am in the middle of a good book. Yet is is not the same. Books are, for me, it must be said, the most important thing; what I cannot forget is that there was a time when they were at once more banal and more essential than that. When I was a child, books were everything. And so there is in me, always, a nostalgic yearning for the lost pleasure of books. It is not a yearning that one ever expects to be fulfilled. And during this time, these days when I read all days and half the night, when I slept under a counterpane strewn with books, when my sleep was black and dreamless and passed in a flash and I woke to read again--the lost joys of reading returned to me. Miss Winter restored in me the virginal qualities of the novice reader, and then with her stories she ravished me." (page 32)

Characters come to life in books, or in the case of biographies of people who lived long ago, books bring them back to life.
In this way, books are like photographs--the essence of a person, summed up with words.
"For all my biographical projects, I have kept a box of lives. A box of index cards containing the details--name, occupation, dates, place of residence and any other piece of information that seems relevant--of all the significant people in the life of my subject. I never quite know what to make of my boxes of lives. Depending on my mood they either strike me as a memorial to gladden the dead ('Look!' I've imagined them saying as they peer through the glass at me. 'She's writing us down on her cards! And to think we've been dead two hundred years!') or, when the glass is very dark and I feel quite stranded and alone this side of it, they seem like little cardboard tombstones, inanimate and cold, and the box itself is as dead as the cemetery." (page 159)

One of my favorite books--a really excellent journey.



Blogger Peace said...

I love these excerpt. Very good blog here. Thanks for sharing. I had bookmarked your blogs.

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This book also shattered my ideas of what this genre of literature could be. I was captivated from day one and could not put it down until every word had been digested.

2:37 PM  

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