Halfway through, I am entranced by Gail Jones’s Dreams of Speaking. Take this passage about a bookshop:
Arriving at the bookshop, Alice browsed without pleasure. The books conveyed both intimidation and overabundant presence. They lined up like the immense bar code of some key to all mythologies. There were new novels, in hardback, with expressionistic covers and virtuosic claims, and colourful paperbacks, each announcing a superior, unmatched talent. Tables sagged under so many new-minted words. So many leaves of meaning, so many sentences, strung together, in immoderately shiny covers. After slow deliberation, Alice bought a volume of Henry James’s Portrait of a Lady. Although she had read it before, she felt it was a choice-against-disappointment…
Strangely enough, I abandoned Henry James’s The Ambassadors for her book. One day perhaps I’ll have the patience, the sharpness of mind to untangle James, to keep him afloat in my mind. I do not in any way deny his genius.
Back to Jones’s passage. I find the weight of new books published overwhelming (the pressure to keep up? I don’t even pretend). And this passage captures some of that experience for me. And then there’s that experience of going back to a book I know when I’m in a bad reading patch.