It’s lovely, and I am so glad I waited till now to read it, as there are so many beautiful moments that my younger self wouldn’t have appreciated.
Not that my younger self would have read Huxley of his free will.
I was made to suffer though his work for my GCSEs. Don’t get me wrong, “Brave New World” is an excellent book, but our teacher took it upon herself to edit out the drugs and sex. The whole experience put me off Huxley, Orwell, Heller and the rest of them for years. At one point I even spent my own pocket money on an unexpurgated copy from the bookshop, so that I might have half a chance of answering exam questions on it.
But now, almost thirty, I gave Huxley another go, and it was so beautiful that I dug through the bookcase to see what else I had been putting off for no good reason.
The list is …shamefully long.
Island by Aldous Huxley (1976) Shelf time:15years. Reason: I was misled into thinking it was serious. Shame?: No! It’s awesome, but I wouldn’t have been in the position to appreciate that. How can you relate to a man haunted by temptation if you have never been tempted ?
Orientalism by Edward W. Said (1978) Shelf time: 11 years
Reason: I was bored at college, and a drunken convo convinced me this book would be my next great adventure. I promptly checked it out of the University Library and just as promptly lost it in a “desk-a-lanche”, caused by a ludicrous, sangria inflated argument with a forester over the nature of phospholipids.
I won. But I also forgot “Orientalism” until the library sent me a letter. It was a notification that, since the overdue charges were by that point greater than the value of the book, would I please forward them the sum so we could all draw a line under the issue.
I only found it when moving out, and have kept it, un-read, to this day, through every move I have ever made.
Shame?: Everytime an accusation of orientalism is made, I have no idea what is going on. I look around sheepishly and try to change the topic. And to top it all, there have been publication anniversary retrospectives that I couldn’t read in the magazines so that thy didn’t spoil the book. Now I have a collection of his essays, or essays on him, that I cannot read till I make it through this bottleneck.
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time by Mark Haddon. (2003)
Shelf time; circa 9 years.
Reason: It exploded. It was THE Big Thing. An ex gave me a copy and gushed about how “You can’t fail to fall for it!”
Shame?: A stubborn voice at the back of my head grumbled, “Yes I can…”
Shelf time: 6 years
Reason; I was bored, and went to a poetry reading to support a friend of the sister of a friend. I bought one and had him sign it, mainly because I had liked a comedic poem in a previous anthology and hoped there might be another chuckle in this.
Shame?: Yes. Lots! I haven’t yet bothered to check if there is a another chuckle in it. BUT I did write a glowing review on amazon about it because I thought he was a nice chap and could do with a bit of exposure.
Shelf time 8 years
Reason; 568 densely printed sheets of dead tree on the subject of dead tree.
Shame? 568 densely printed UNREAD sheets of dead tree on the subject of dead tree.
Shelf time: None, in constant use. It’s tasty and healthy recipes have formed the backbone of many of my happiest evenings
Shame?: Yes, I have now read more of it than the actual Bible.