Onwards, Readers!

 

I woke up this morning at 5.24am and immediately got up to log on and see what had happened with the #Big Give since I went to bed. Nearly £500, some of it in very small denominations, that’s what!

It is absolutely amazing to see donations coming in from NYC public library, Bootle New Strand, Central London, Mossley Hill, Cornwall, Norris Green, Kensington London and Kensington Liverpool, Hampshire, Wigston, Salford, Strabane, Prenton and sunny California, as well as dear old Strathey Lighthouse, to name but a few of the locations people are donating from…

Our friends, colleagues, ex-colleagues, Trustees, ex-Trustees, relations, partners, group members and supporters are donating five pounds’ in their scores, as well as £10, £20, £30,£40, £50, £100, £300, £420, £500 and £1000’s…

It is one of best jobs I’ve ever had at The Reader, logging on and reading through the list of donors – and it is not just the money, though at time of writing we’ve secured a total of  £25,876.25  which is TERRIFIC.

But it is not the money that makes it uplifting and exciting … It never is the money, is it?

(Though the day I took a phone call to say we’d got £2.1m from HLF for Calderstones Mansion, it did feel as if money could make you joyful. I was in a hand-car-wash in Everton, and still holding the phone, shouted out to the man wielding the spray gun, ‘I’ve got £2.1 million!!’ and he shouted back ‘Allah be praised!’ and carried on washing my car.)

But that rare moment aside, it is not usually the money.

No, it is the reach of the people who want to support our reading revolution that I am finding really moving. The smallest sums – many of them coming from group members or others whose lives have been touched by shared reading – feel profound. It reminds me of the flowers lining the route of Charles Dickens funeral… of course it was expected that Westminster Abbey would be filled with expensive lilies and it was, but London was full of bunches of wildflowers laid at the wayside, gathered by the poor who knew Dickens wrote their lives.

As we enter the  3rd day of the #BigGive and  support naturally slows down, may I ask you to lend a hand  by talking to people, posting on Facebook, tweeting or emailing the direct link to the donate page to colleagues, friends and relations?

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and boldly, boldly but kindly, I ask you to do as I have done and to ask your friends and relations, your contacts and colleagues to give what they can to help us  continue to train volunteers to read with older people, like Rose.

Rose, 77 and living in a Home for last 3 years says of her shared reading group:

It puts something in your mind. It doesn’t always come straight away but the mind starts thinking. This is the only time we talk, you see. The rest of it is always in there [points to head] and we’re not happy. Everything that’s been happening in the group has been very true. Real. And this stuff that’s written down makes you feel different. It makes you feel lucky to be here. Because whatever’s in these stories is true – a lot of them are very truthful – they say a lot, they mean something.

 

Onwards, readers!

 

 

That shining place

Rose’s Reader story

Rose is 77 and has been a Care home resident for over 3 years. She has been attending a weekly Shared Reading group organised by The Reader. 

These are  her words. 

You might have a friend here but they’re not really interested in what you’re saying. There’s a lot of them sad. Lots of people that don’t feel happy, frightened to speak. You keep a lot to yourself. There’s no one who really takes any interest. I don’t think anyone else cares. It’s only you who comes and does these things and it’s something to look forward to. I look forward to the poems and I look forward to you talking.

We’re all pleased about you coming. We feel like somebody cares. We didn’t know what to expect when we first started the shared reading group, but what we got was lovely! If you didn’t come, we’d have nothing to think about.

It’s surprising what it does to the mind. Your mind starts wandering when you’re unhappy, it wanders too much. After you’ve been and we’ve read these poems, I think it helps a lot. Everything in your mind seems clearer. I often think about them after you’ve left.

It puts something in your mind. It doesn’t always come straight away but the mind starts thinking. This is the only time we talk, you see. The rest of it is always in there [points to head] and we’re not happy. Everything that’s been happening in the group has been very true. Real. And this stuff that’s written down makes you feel different. It makes you feel lucky to be here. Because whatever’s in these stories is true – a lot of them are very truthful – they say a lot, they mean something.

Bringing it out [puts her hand on her chest]. It brings out what’s been gathering here [hand on chest]. Not leaving it there. Leaving it there makes you unhappy. Bringing it out with the group. Whatever’s been bothering you.

Reading about other things and other people makes you feel better. I thought my life was bad but I think some people have gone through worse. It’s a shame because a lot of people have suffered haven’t they? It makes you think ‘well it wasn’t too bad’. It helps. And we like to know you’re coming here because it brings back memories in a way. It’s important not to chase them away – remember them!  You start thinking about what you’re life’s been like and you think ‘this is very important’.

See – you’ve had a life where you haven’t always been happy, and you can’t really put it into words, it just stays there [points to head]. But talking about these poems, I think it helps. They’ve got a lot to say these poems about life as if, that’s the way life’s got to be. It can’t be good for everybody. We hope it is, but it never is, is it? These poems means something don’t they? They mean something because you can’t wait to hear them, read them and think about how it’s been a bit like the life we’ve had.

(Together we read the poem)

 SLOWLY, SLOWLY WISDOM GATHERS
Slowly, slowly wisdom gathers:
Golden dust in the afternoon,
Somewhere between the sun and me,
Sometimes so near that I can see,
Yet never settling, late or soon.

Would that it did, and a rug of gold
Spread west of me a mile or more:
Not large, but so that I might lie
Face up, between the earth and sky,
And know what none has known before.

Then I would tell as best I could
The secrets of that shining place:
The web of the world, how thick, how thin,
How firm, with all things folded in;
How ancient, and how full of grace.                    Mark Van Doren

Good poem that one. They’ve all been good really. It gets everything together that one. It’s very true what it says, it’s what happens in our life. And that’s the way our life is. Slowly but surely, we’ll get there. It’s put me in the picture now. Yes, and it’s a very nice place. Mustn’t worry about it. ‘Then I would tell as best I could the secrets of that shining place’ – we know that shining place don’t we?

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Can you help The Reader raise money to bring shared reading, company, pleasure, thinking and comfort to Rose and others like her?

This year, The Reader is taking part in The Big Give’s Christmas Challenge, with the opportunity to raise £40,000 to support older people through Shared Reading.

But we need your help. Click  here to find out more about The Reader’s Big Give and how to donate – all donations must be made online between midday Tuesday 29 November and midday Friday 2 December.

Please help spread Rose’s Reader Story and help us train volunteers to read in Care Homes

Becoming Self-Winding

imageOne of the greatest reads of the twentieth century, for me, is Russell Hoban’s extraordinary novel, The Mouse and His Child. In this deeply resonant children’s book, a father and son clockwork mouse toy is broken and thrown away, found by a tramp, more or less mended and set down on a road which leads them to… I’ll not give the story away, but suffice it to say that once their physical needs have been taken care of and they have a roof over their heads, the mouse father and child develop the dream of becoming ‘self-winding’.

Over the past five or six years The Reader’s various volunteer projects have produced some remarkable outcomes for volunteers themselves and for the people with whom they work. But however moving, these outcomes are more or less what we expected when the projects were devised: that people would gain confidence, make friendships, find meaning and purposive social activity in the shared reading of great literature.

What we didn’t expect is that volunteer projects would change our idea of what The Reader is and will become.

But that is what has happened. Because of their desire to become, in effect, ‘self-winding’, we can no longer think of The Reader’s volunteers as defined by time-limited ‘projects’. Their demonstrated commitment, energy and staying-power has led to us developing what we’re calling for now the ‘membership model ‘, which will encourage everyone involved in groups or one-to-one reading to become part of The Reader.

Last week I spent an evening in the company of Reader Leaders in South London, where for the past five years we’ve been building a community of shared reading, funded through Guys and St Thomas Charity in partnership with the  Maudsley Charity. We’ve trained nearly 200 people to  become Reader Leaders, running shared reading groups in locations such as Blackfriars Settlement or Southwark Resource Centre.

I was moved and excited by the brave and determined people I met. I sat next to Elsa Joseph, an aspiring writer and part-time carer. She spoke to me about the way in which shared reading had become a lifeline for her, and wrote to me later to explain,

I’ve always loved books and reading. For me, my shared reading group is my one social weekly outing that I look forward too and can’t envision living without. The hustle and bustle of urban city life can sometimes make you lose sight of your hobbies and interests and that’s why I’m so grateful to the Reader for re-igniting my passion for reading and writing.

Elsa also spoke of the power of the group she leads to provide support for the people she reads with. 

‘It’s good for us, and it is good for others,’ agreed John, who sat on the other side of the table. ‘We all get so much out of it.’

‘One of my ladies says it is the only time she gets to talk to others in the week, she never has anyone to speak to.’

We read the fine Philip Booth poem, First Lesson, together and talked about what we pass on to our children and others.

John said, ‘But this is also what we’ve been talking about – passing on the groups, letting go…’

It was touching to see my colleagues, Penny, Lois and Val, who have built groups, recruited these Reader Leaders,  and passed the groups on, letting their ‘daughters’ swim alone. Every poem had been chosen to reflect in some way this situation. I was moved to tears when Lois read Seamus Heaney’s ‘Scaffolding’, and spoke bravely and openly about the ways in which building this tremendous project had changed her. ‘I’m a better person now than I was 5 years ago,’ she said. Not many jobs offer us that kind of personal development. Sitting reading poetry with homeless people was one of the things Lois thought had changed her for good.

I feel as if we’re changing our model from a small fleet of busses driven by professional drivers to an enormous caravan of people on foot, on bicycles, rollerblades and scooters. There is a support team and there are some busses in the caravan too, but they are no longer the only mode of transport. The support team don’t have enough bicycle pumps or blister plasters or rucksacks or spanner sets or oil yet. But we’ve got the people, and they are moving, and that’s the only thing you really need. Love will find a way for everything else. 

 

 

 

Infant Joy, Infant Sorrow

 

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Redeemable: A memoir of darkness and hope, by Erwin James, Bloomsbury

Erwin James is a Guardian columnist and author, a trustee of the Prison Reform Trust and a Patron of The Reader. Redeemable, his memoir, builds on and expands what we know of him through his two collections of essays, A Life Inside: A Prisoner’s Notebook and The Home Stretch: From Prison to Parole. Erwin is a convicted murderer who spent twenty years in prison before his release in 2004. You can read his remarkable essay on the power of reading  in The Reader magazine, number 54.

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Though I knew it would be a sad, hard book, I had been longing to read Redeemable, because Erwin is a remarkable man, and because ‘how do people change? ’ has been one of my key obsessions for thirty years. As I write these life-size numbers – twenty years, thirty years – I feel both how long and how short are these lives I am reading and thinking about.

I read the book over three days, nights and early mornings this week. The first reading session gave me nightmares. That’s not a very comfortable recommendation for a book, but don’t be put off. There are particular reasons why I would be moved to nightmares by Erwin’s story. The remorselessly crazy of helter-skelter of a family dominated by unacknowledged pain, dogged by poverty, and knocked about by hunger and alcohol brought alive many memories of my own childhood. And for all the brute reality of memory and fact, there’s something blank, which I found as frightening as anything else, this blank numbness, recalling William Empson’s  poem, ‘Let It Go’;

It is this deep blankness is the real thing strange.
The more things happen to you the more you can’t
Tell or remember even what they were.

The contradictions cover such a range.
The talk would talk and go so far aslant.
You don’t want madhouse and the whole thing there.

It is as if, even now, after all this thinking and sifting and remembering, Erwin cannot fathom his father, whom he loved, loved, loved. But why, after his wife’s death, did Erwin Snr continually abandon his children? Why did he beat his little son? It’s as if Erwin has, in the end, simply to let it go, ‘the contradictions cover such a range’.  There are no answers and no time for answers in the first two-thirds of the book, which feels a rushing headlong descent towards the newspaper clipping that gives the bare, public details of Erwin’s trial for double murder.

Erwin mentions reading Crime and Punishment in prison many years later, and I felt as I read, that the world of Redeemable was lit by the same feverish pained misery as Dostoevsky’s novel.  So, as a  twelve-year-old, Erwin is living in children’s home when he gets into a fight at school and runs away, from Ilkley to Shipley, an eight mile walk, to the place  he thinks his father is living. His father’s girlfriend won’t let him stay and sends him on to Aunt Bridie’s house.

She told me where my aunt Bridie’s house was and said that Maw (Erwin’s much loved grandmother) was staying with her and my uncle Jake. Bursting with excitement I sped off to find them. The house was at the top of the estate, the very roughest part where houses had windows missing and holes in front doors. When I arrived I banged on the door as loud as I could.

As soon as she saw me Aunt Bridie threw her arms around me and hugged me tight. ‘Maw, look,’ she called to the living room. ‘It’s wee Erwin!’

I cried with joy when I saw Maw and rushed to her, grabbing hold of her and sobbing into her arms. ‘Oh, son,’ she said, ‘look at the size of you!’ I hadn’t seen her since a few weeks after the crash (in which Erwin’s mother was killed) more than five years earlier. She looked very old and not at all well. She had a great blue and black bruise on the left side of her face. ‘Don’t worry son,’ she said when I stared. ‘I just fell doon the stairs when I was tired.’ I could smell alcohol on her breath. Around the room I saw empty beer and wine bottles and realised that Maw, Aunt Bridie and Uncle Jake were all drunk.

The police picked me up in Shipley town centre two days later and after a couple of hours in the police station I was taken back to the Home.

And so it goes on, the unstoppable blur of drunken faces, robberies and runnings-off that make up this child-and-early-adulthood.

At one point in the week, Redeemable is in my mind as I watch a young mother playing with her three-month-old baby. The mother is holding the baby about ten inches away from her face, completely focusing the child’s attention. The mother smiles and talks, nodding, making deep contact. ‘Aren’t you a lovely one, you are, aren’t you?’ She pauses, waits patiently, holds the child, and continues to nod and smile. In response, the baby smiles and coos, almost, you’d say, speaks back. They talk to one another, communing, communicating for ten, fifteen minutes as I watch. I’m thinking of Wordsworth’s Prelude where in Book 2, the babe ‘nursed in his mother’s arms…doth gather passion from his mother’s eye.’  Wordsworth observed, as psychologists and baby-watchers have done, that the baby recognises its feelings in the faces of others, and gradually learns through language to name those feelings.  Language is what we use to communicate between inside our wordless, feeling-driven selves and the outside world of everyone else. Language is what we have to help us become part of humanity. Language and role-models, as William Blake knew. His poems Infant Joy and Infant Sorrow give us the psychology in two tiny nutshells.

infant joy

Erwin, like many children who fall into the Care system and later into prison, doesn’t have much in the way of role-models (though he loves reading and writing and, a school failure, loves English). He learns what his family teaches him: to love without hope of love returned, to drink as a way to escape the pain of being unbeloved, and to hurt others as he has been hurt. Care teaches him nothing but that he is a criminal. It is only when he is convicted and  meets the patient, one might even say loving, psychologist, Joan Branton, that you feel the human exchange, the eye contact, the focus, the shared language of feelings begin to enter his consciousness. He is no baby: he is twenty–eight years old.

But Joan gives him time, conversation, books, including Crime and Punishment. ‘What have you done to yourself?’ Sonia the prostitute asks Raskolnikov the murderer in one of that novel’s culminating moments. This is one of the questions Joan invites Erwin to consider.

The book is testimony to the possibility of redemption, to the work of some of those working in the prison system and to Erwin James’ creation for himself an inner life, a set of values and a belief, learned from Joan, that we are redeemable. ‘There is always a way back,’ she tells him, ‘if you want it badly enough and are prepared to work hard enough.’

Highly recommended, but it is a hard read.  Have tissues and time to recover. Then send some books to prisoners or support the work of The Reader in prisons and other criminal justice settings.

The Reader’s Shared Reading model gives people in prison an opportunity to think about their lives and the lives of others through the medium of literature. We run shared reading groups in a number of criminal justice settings across the UK. We are glad to have recently won the first ever public tender for a shared reading contract, which will provide shared reading in all Northern Ireland Prisons.

 

That best part of a good man’s life

issy

 

A Song for Issy Bradley by Carys Bray

Another recommendation via Angie Macmillan. Recommended so heavily, in fact, that she posted it through my door the night before I was leaving for my sabbatical. I’m sorry to report my prejudices put me off before I had even opened the book. I thought the cover made it look, as a dragged-up David Walliams might say,  like a ladies book; a lightweight, slightly romantic family saga… And yet Angie had said, worth reading, you might like it. Even so, it went to the bottom of the pile and I read other things. Until I ran out of them.

And of course, Angie was right; the cover was an irrelevant (to me) marketing tool and my prejudices were, as usual, quite unhelpful.

This was a terrific novel, powerfully real and deeply moving. Hurray and very, very well done, Carys Bray. Not many contemporary writers take on religious faith as a subject. But this story of a devout Mormon family living through an immense trauma offers a lot of human depth.

You’ll think of Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges are Not the Only Fruit, if you’ve read it, because there’s a powerful portrait of a closely-knit  religious community that looks very odd to most people who are not part of it.  There’s initially a kind of spectator laughter about the weirdness of it all, which made me think the book was going to be cynical, but emphatically, it is not that. Winterson’s book is about a fight for survival but she’s an only child, and there’s only one real centre of consciousness, which – as the world it describes wants to destroy it –  must, for survival’s sake, stand outside.

That makes a difference. A Song for Issy Bradley is a family story, and it is partly about the interconnections of love within a struggling family. As Tolstoy tells us, all unhappy families are unhappy in their own way. These people may be members of a sect we don’t know much about, which at first makes them look pretty different, but they are eventually just people like us, and the ways in which the tragedy they live through plays out across and through their individual and collective consciousness is what makes the novel compelling. It’s not about Mormons, so much as a book about emotional aftermath and ongoing life.

Phil and I took turns to read this aloud. There were times where one or both of us were moved to tears, and the reading became utterly compelling. There were some parts that felt painfully close to the bone – scenes in the hospital and the undertakers, an incident that might be a rape. This was not a light read. But, as in life, there are moments of glorious hilarity which will get you through, to say nothing of playground football, Mr Rimmer’s Pioneer Wagon and the exceptionally wonderful teenage party scene which worryingly begins ‘no one had touched Zippy since Issy died.’ There are also moments of deep, sensible realism, such as this, where Jacob, aged 7, realises that humans have to learn to bear pain,

He wanted to tell Dad a story in the car but he wasn’t brave enough. The story is true, at least that’s what Sister Anderson said. It’s about one of the apostles who kept rabbits when he was a little boy. One day, when the apostle was seven, his favourite rabbit escaped. He looked for the rabbit but he couldn’t find it. Then he said a prayer and immediately a picture came into his mind and he went to the exact spot he had imagined and found the rabbit. This showed that Heavenly Father responds to the small, simple prayers of everyone.

Jacob thinks about the rabbit story and what Dad said about answers to prayers in the car. There should be stories where the answer is no. There should be stories where children pray for lost rabbits that never turn up and then people might get used to it an know what to do next: he doesn’t know.

A Song for Issy Bradley is one such story – there is a great big ‘no’ at its centre, where ‘death closes all.’

And yet, that great gaping hole can be combatted by the powerful ‘yes’ of ordinary, real life, those ‘little, nameless acts of kindness and of love’ as Wordsworth called them: trying to love each other and living on through it, so that finally we are not merely surviving, but also, sometimes, singing. Thank you, Carys.

Something like a prayer flag

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I was twenty-four years old, a punky, anarchistic, radical feminist when Margaret Thatcher was elected in 1979. I still feel in my body the outraged dismay I suffered when she stood on the steps of Downing Street quoting St Francis:

‘Where there is discord, may we bring harmony. Where there is error, may we bring truth. Where there is doubt, may we bring faith. And where there is despair, may we bring hope.’

‘Liar!’ I shouted at someone’s telly (we didn’t have one: the poster ‘Women! Do Not Let These Men into Your Head’ gave us TV-free headspace and one of the great slogans of 1970’s feminism).

Talk about a divided nation:  I did not know one person who had voted Tory. We didn’t know it at that moment but we had eighteen years of Thatcherism ahead of us. I was forty-two when Labour came back to power.

Well, someone must live in the bad times, as George Eliot said, and, as she writes at the end of Middlemarch;

There is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it.

Of course, what’s done at Westminster, largely out of our control, affects us. But individual actions determine the nature of the world at least as much as, and sometimes more than, national political life.

ClzokYAWYAAZES4.jpgHow wonderful now to see a Muslim Mayor addressing the London crowd at Pride 2016

In 1979, I’d have bet money that this photo could never happen. This change has been brought about in part by legislation, in part by individual deeds. The making of Danny Abse’s 1967 law mattered hugely to men whose lives had been needlessly blighted by their ‘illegal’ sexuality, but the cultural revolution I lived through in the 1970s was built by brave individuals literally coming out and holding hands and dancing in very unfriendly streets.

As George Eliot writes;

We insignificant people with our daily words and acts are preparing the lives of many Dorotheas, some of which may present a far sadder sacrifice than that of the Dorothea whose story we know.

It is hard for us, whatever our political stance, to have impact on the big battles at Westminster, but ‘our daily words and acts’ have massive implications for everyone we meet. They give us direct power to change lives as Dorothea Brooke does in Middlemarch;

The effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

 

Some readings for hard times

This one is not easy, but worth having in your armoury for extremely frightening times.

My galley, chargèd with forgetfulness,
Thorough sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
‘Tween rock and rock; and eke mine en’my, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness;
And every owre a thought in readiness,
As though that death were light in such a case.
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
Of forced sighs and trusty fearfulness.
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain,
Hath done the weared cords great hinderance;
Wreathèd with error and eke with ignorance.
The stars be hid that led me to this pain;
Drownèd is Reason that should me comfort,
And I remain despairing of the port.

Sir Thomas Wyatt

Maybe to counteract the above feeling, you need this good advice from Iris Murdoch’s weird and wonderful Metaphysics as a Guide to Morals. I found this when I was living through a particularly hard decade in my personal life. She talks about having a mental collection of good things you can turn to in bad times – poems or memories, a child’s nativity play, the devotion of your dog. Then she quotes the Bible;

Whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Epistle to the Philippians 4:8

Struggling with the fallout from a terrible experience, and pitted against dishonesty and corruption, these words hit me like a freight train. I used to recite them like a mantra to make myself believe in truth, honesty, justice, purity, virtue. They were a sort of prayer flag to release a good thought into the world.

As the chaos unfolds, and our public life goes into free fall, I’m writing out those great words again to remind myself: ‘think on these things.’

 

 

 

What’s literature for?

In which my brain is likened, hopefully, to a compost heap

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I’ve done events with Reader Patron, Frank Cottrell Boyce, in which he’s  spoken about being read to at Primary School. Sister Bernadette –  was that her name, Frank?  – would read to the class, and nothing was required: no response, no book review, no list of wow words. Just enjoy, just let it in. Frank’s argument is that readers and writers need composting time.

I’m hoping that’s what has been happening to me for the last ten years or so: life, stories, people, thoughts, books – all going in and composting down.

I’ve been on sabbatical during June. I’m having a month away from my day job at The Reader, which I founded in 1997 with the publication of the first issue of The Reader magazine. It was a part-timish love-of-my-life in the early days; I was still teaching English Literature in the Department of Continuing Education at the University of LiverpooI. And I had family responsibilities and time to do other things: walking with Angie, gardening, cooking, sewing, music.

But by  2006 The Reader was calling for every atom of energetic attention I could give, and that call has been sounding every day for  the last ten years.

Garden: rack and ruin.

Cello: no practice for  seven years.

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My last quilt, A Bookcase For Frances and Drummond’s Wedding,  was two, or was it three?, years late, and as far as cooking,  we mainly live on steamed salmon and broccoli these days.

I’ve had holidays, but they have been, emphatically, holidays, absolute downtime to spend with my husband and family.

This sabbatical is different. It isn’t  just a rest, though blissfully it is that, but I’m also doing some hard graft, digging into the compost heap, unearthing memories, casting my mind  back over the last two decades and seeing which questions need asking.

I’m trying to think about the gap between what literature is for and how we teach people to study  literature.

I’ve been asking myself why, around 1996-7, did I began to feel I needed to do something to get great books out of the university and into the hands of people who needed them?

‘You need it,’as Mike said, in the first ever shared reading group, ‘but you don’t know you need it’.

Before that, I’ve remembered,  during A levels and at University, what I loved about books and reading rarely happened in a class and was never spoken about. We used a completely different language – form, character, syntax, authorial voice and so on (I did my degree just before literary theory, with its even more specialised languages, hit town…).

There seemed no way to talk about  the lacerating white-hot  personal meaning I actually experienced when literature was doing its most powerful work for me. S why, when so much of my reading life could not find a place in formal study, did formal study  still feel, most of the time, worth doing?

So here’s a couple of  questions I’d like some tweet-sized  help with…please tweet me at @readerjanedavis or use the hashtags ,  and RT my request if you can.

  1. What is literature for?  #whatslitfor

  2.  What is the study of literature for?  #whystudylit

 

Or, as ever, leave your responses as comments here.