So right now Iâ€™m reading a book called â€˜How Proust Can Change Your Lifeâ€™.Â The reason I picked it up originally was because it is written by Alain de Botton, who did a series on the ABC about philosophers and I really, really enjoyed it.Â Generally a book of literary criticism is enough to put me to sleep, but this guy writes with a lot of humour and itâ€™s almost like heâ€™s read everything Marcel Proust wrote (which Iâ€™m certain he has) and given us just a best of.Â And not only that, a way we can apply it to ourselves.
Anyway, Iâ€™m enjoying it a lot.Â Last night, when talking to someone about fairy tales, a memory presented itself that had been lying dormant for a long time.Â The house I grew up in was always full of mess and kids and dogs and general circus commotion.Â It was small, too â€“ 3 bedrooms at a pinch and no really open living areas.Â It was so hard to get away from people â€“ and as a kid that really liked her own space, it was kinda nightmarish at times.
In between the lounge and the kitchen, when walking through the house, there was a little hall/alcove thing.Â I think it used to be a side entrance, but the door had long ago been shut and not opened in a loooong time.Â Along the wall of this little nook there was a bookcase filled with pretty much every book we had in the house.Â We didnâ€™t have a lot, but everything was there, along with Mumâ€™s magazines.Â With up to 8 kids living in the house poor Mum was always behind with the washing, and this space is where she used to put all the clean clothes when sheâ€™d take them off the line.Â Theyâ€™d never get folded or ironed â€“ growing up I remember rummaging through the increasingly large piles of washing in that hallway to find something to wear or socks that matched.
The memory I have is of making my way into the massive piles of clothes and clean washing, burying myself there, and reading things in the bookcase.Â I swear I read every book there, including the encyclopedias.Â I read Mumâ€™s cooking magazines, I read Dr Seuss books, and I even read all the novels that were way above my head at the time.
Once, laying there in the hall, Mum came blazing through the house looking for me.Â I canâ€™t remember why she was looking, but she always blazed.Â I remember burrowing way down in the clothes so deep that I hit the floor boards.Â There were so many clothes there, and theyâ€™d been there so long, that there was a layer of grit down there.Â It was dark and cool and smelt musty â€“ I remember feeling alone and invisible and it felt good.Â I listened to her storm past me once or twice, until I thought the better of it and came out.
Anyway!Â The reason I remembered all this was a discussion about fairy tales, and then I came across this Proust quote tonight â€“
There are perhaps no days of our childhood we lived so fully as those we spent with a favorite book.
I reckon he might be right.