I’m holding here a book

So right now I’m reading a book called ‘How Proust Can Change Your Life’.  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.  Generally a book of literary criticism is enough to put me to sleep, but this guy writes with a lot of humour and it’s almost like he’s read everything Marcel Proust wrote (which I’m certain he has) and given us just a best of.  And not only that, a way we can apply it to ourselves.

Anyway, I’m enjoying it a lot.  Last night, when talking to someone about fairy tales, a memory presented itself that had been lying dormant for a long time.  The house I grew up in was always full of mess and kids and dogs and general circus commotion.  It was small, too – 3 bedrooms at a pinch and no really open living areas.  It was so hard to get away from people – 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.  I think it used to be a side entrance, but the door had long ago been shut and not opened in a loooong time.  Along the wall of this little nook there was a bookcase filled with pretty much every book we had in the house.  We didn’t have a lot, but everything was there, along with Mum’s magazines.  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 she’d take them off the line.  They’d never get folded or ironed – 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.  I swear I read every book there, including the encyclopedias.  I read Mum’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.  I can’t remember why she was looking, but she always blazed.  I remember burrowing way down in the clothes so deep that I hit the floor boards.  There were so many clothes there, and they’d been there so long, that there was a layer of grit down there.  It was dark and cool and smelt musty – I remember feeling alone and invisible and it felt good.  I listened to her storm past me once or twice, until I thought the better of it and came out.

Anyway!  The reason I remembered all this was a discussion about fairy tales, and then I came across this Proust quote tonight –

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.

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