It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve last written a blog, which I’ll blame on a series of exams and assignments, insomnia and caffeine induced hallucinations. Now that they’ve gone, I almost miss it, as the vacuum left in its absence has left me scaling walls in the hope that I’ll find something vaguely interesting stapled into the ceiling to save me from this well of boredom.
Which is where this blog comes in.
The thing I miss most from my childhood is the ability to read. By this I don’t mean being able to make sense of a series of orthographic glyphs thrown up on my screen and rendered unattractively in Comic Sans. I mean being able to sit down and consume, devour a narrative in a single sitting; to become so utterly absorbed in a fictional world of swirling type that your family begins to treat the purchase of a new novel with trepidation. This is an ability I have lost, or at least misplaced haphazardly in adulthood.
Today, the places I find time to read seem concentrated solely on public transport – on trains, on planes, at airports, and in cars. Places that are so utterly devoid of stimulation that cracking open a text of P.G. Wodehouse or H.P. Lovecraft (or anyone else that starts with a couple of initials, and ends with a portmanteau) feels like a complete liberation. For a few short hours, I seem able to dive into a story, and when I arrive home it dissolves into a mush of crushed up memes and amusing cat pictures.
This is all laziness, of course - there’s nothing stopping me from picking a book off the shelf and working my way through a Douglas Adams novel except my own lack of will and motivation. But I still miss the feeling of discovering a new book at the library, and finishing it a couple of hours or days later. I remember being denied a book at the library once in grade 8 – it was a Jeffrey Archer novel. The librarian refused to let me borrow it out, saying all of his other novels were fine, but this one she’d feel uncomfortable letting a 12 year old read (it had a graphic sex scene, I found a copy at home just a couple of weeks later ;).
A year later I wandered through the senior fiction section again, Jeffrey Archer consumed and finished. I came across my first novel by Stephen King, ‘Misery’, and wandered over to the check-out, fully expecting to be denied once more. He took one look at it, and asked me if I’d seen the movie, then recommended that I check it out. (“Blood, everywhere.”)
I’ll end this blog by giving a story about the last time I visited bookstore in Brisbane, Archive Fine Books. I was there with a friend from French, and we were browsing (she ended up going home with a steamy, Harlequin French romance - “If you don’t buy it, I will”). I chanced upon a hard-cover copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam, which is famous for the stanza “The Moving Finger writes: and, having writ/ Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit/ Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line/ Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it." The spine was damaged, so the shopkeeper offered to fix it. As the glue was drying, she asked us if we had heard of the Tamám Shud Mystery.
The Tamám Shud Mystery takes its name from the final line of the Rubaiyat and roughly translates to ‘It is ended’. On the first of December 1948, a man was found dead on Somerton Beach in Adelaide. He was in top physical condition, dressed well - however, he carried no identification, and the tags to his clothes had all been torn off. The man carried no papers on him except for a tiny piece of paper which had been rolled and placed in a fob pocket in his trousers. It had been torn from a rare first edition copy of the Rubaiyat, and simply bore the words ‘Tamám Shud’. Despite intense media scrutiny and police investigation the mystery remains unsolved to this day.