This was the first writing exercise from the creative writing course I just started. The teacher told us to spend 15 minutes writing a piece entitled “Who Am I”, which I thought was boring. But then he gave it a little twist. We had to write it in the third person. Thought I’d share what I wrote:
The room she lives in now is probably the biggest she’s ever lived in, and it just about contains all the things she takes with her whenever she moves. Just about. These are things that didn’t make the Give to Charity list over the years. They are mainly books. Books stacked high against the wall, haphazard paperback towers leaning crookedly against each other. She finds a secret joy in adding more books to that tower, always placing the new books on top, even if they are bigger than the ones underneath. The possibility of chaos is irresistible. The possibility that one day the towers will topple, making that soft thud paperbacks make when they fall.
She imagines someday having so many books that she will need no other forms of decoration in her house. If, that is, she ever has a house to herself. All those books would be remnants of countless attempts to escape, piling up and filling shelves and corners and window sills. All those other worlds. All those characters, with their broken hearts, and their thoughts, and their own escapes. Perhaps you are wondering if there is some irony to this: escaping into books because her own life is so empty. That is not the case. There is no such cliche here.
In the room there is also a banjo, which she loves almost as if it were a person. She loves the sound of the banjo and hates when she has to put it down because there are more pressing matters to attend to: lessons to be planned, exams to be marked, bills to be paid, people to be talked to, dishes to be washed, floors to be swept, teeth to be brushed, pyjamas to be put on, alarms to be set…
2 weeks away and I’m back. I meant to come back with less, but I came back with more. I came back with Joan Didion because she saved me from myself once; I came back with David Mamet because everyone needs a dose of true and false from time to time; I came back with David Lodge because I don’t know him yet.
I’m back and I’m happy because my mother’s house is not my home anymore. The rooms are occupied by memories, and cats. The house made me sneeze and my bed gave me nightmares.
I’m back and I’m sad because tomorrow I will wake up at sunrise and get on a train, close-eyed, with all the other robots, and there will be no time for dreaming. I will do this for 7 weeks. Then another 6. It doesn’t seem like much, does it? Somehow it feels like a lifetime.
And I will come home each night and Didion will ask me why I don’t just leave my job and write. Mamet will urge me to stop looking to the future. Lodge will be nonplussed.
I have been advised by several people in Malawi to buy a Kindle before moving out there, because books are not readily available and those that are are expensive. I spent a good half hour on Amazon adding and removing, adding and removing the £89 gadget from my basket. In the end I just couldn’t do it. Instead, I resolved to bring a suitcase-full of brand new books to Malawi with me. Foyles will love me; my bank account will not. To me, a book is more than just the story inside. Reading a book is just as much about its visual, tactile beauty. I don’t care how convenient a Kindle is, it is a book without a soul. Or perhaps a soul without a body? You decide.
Here are some of the books I bought mainly for the beauty of their covers:
A darling little Tim Burton-esque story about a boy with a mechanical heart who falls in love with a girl from Andalusia. Makes me smile because I'm in love with a boy from Andalusia.
I bought this in a Cambridge charity shop. It's a thin paperback containing poems by Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac.
The Qur'an: A New Translation by M.A.S. Abdel Haleem
I was drawn to Islam for a long time. I read this from time to time but mainly I love looking at the cover art.