Franz Kafka said, “we ought to read only books that bite and sting us.” What’s the last thing you read that bit and stung you?
by John Yeo
I was helping out at a church book sale in our church hall in an effort to raise money for the church. Hundreds of books were arranged on the tables on a massive variety of interesting subjects. I couldn't help browsing through the wide variety of books for sale and two volumes almost leapt off the table into my minds eye.
The first and probably the most likely candidate for the bite and sting would be a volume of copies of a series of fifteenth century letters written to and from the Norfolk members of the Paston family. I have heard of this family before and we have come into contact with many references to members of the Paston family in our travels around Norfolk. I began leafing through this book and I could see almost at once that I had encountered another very interesting historical family, that will hold my interest for a long time to come. I have always been fascinated by this historical period of English history and I will follow this up on-line at home.
Most of these letters appear to be from Margaret Paston to her husband John, a lawyer who spent a lot of time in London, leaving Margaret his wife to run their estates.
The other book that fascinated me was a large paperback comprising over 1200 pages of very small print entitled "Dickens", by an author I had vaguely heard of before Peter Ackroyd. This book really jumped at me to administer the aforementioned bite or sting, as I have read and enjoyed almost all of Charles Dickens published work. I began to leaf through this huge volume and the more I read, the more interested I became. I have always had a very sketchy knowledge of Dickens background and I suddenly realised I was holding an almost definitive comprehensive description of his life.
In an odd sort of a way this was fate at work again as I was thinking the other day that it would be a very good idea to read the life stories of some of the more celebrated authors to get an idea of the dedication and the sheer hard work that is involved in producing great literature.
My thoughts then were to instantly buy both books and take them home to study and devour at my leisure. I sat and continued to think, the more I pondered on my next action the more entangled the process of whether to buy or not became. I realised the Paston letters would almost certainly be available on-line and I would have access to delve into them at my leisure. The biography of Charles Dickens by Peter Ackroyd however would almost certainly not be free so if I were to buy one of them the choice was obvious. Then I began to wonder when I would get the time to read either of them, with my spare time taken up at the moment with so many other projects.
Margaret came to the rescue with the answer to this and suggested I would find time to read this immense book when we next go away on holiday.
I purchased the biography of Charles Dickens and brought that home for a future very long interesting read.
I logged in after a while when we got back home and I discovered there is an enormous amount of information relating to the Paston family of Norfolk, online and many examples of the interesting letters are available.
As I predicted to myself earlier, time will always be a valuable factor and my time-management will always be a very important aspect of any decision I take in the future.
The two books I casually leafed through have led to a very great deal of thought and I am now the owner of a book that is a very intriguing prospective read, comprising 1200 pages of very small type. I have read a very interesting review of this book in "The London Review of Books" today, on-line and that has wetted my appetite to read it. I was unable to read the complete article without signing up to subscribe to the magazine, and what I was able to read convinced me I have made a very good choice.
Copyright © Written by John Yeo ~ All rights reserved