Susan Sontag book

The Central Library was selling off vast numbers of books today, and Ioana and I filled both my bike panniers and a rucksack with books. As if we don’t have enough books! I guess they’re good insulation: might save on heating bills. On book we bought is a volume of Susan Sontag essays. The first time I read Sontag was in the kitchen/living room of the youth hostel on the island of Iona. It pissed it down with rain one day, and blew a gale, so we sat in and read some books from the bookshelf. I read Sontag’s book on the depiction of pain in photography, without finishing it. Outside the picture windows was the sea, grey as goose down, and, on the machair a few tens of metres away was a group of whimbrels, poking their long, curved beaks into the soft ground. Inside, it was cosy, with a cup of tea never beyond reach. (The room is clad with wood from dismantled whisky vats). It’s funny that the thought of an American essayist can unfailingly bring up memories of the pleasure of that particular reading (the atmosphere of Iona, the tea, the drizzle, the whimbrels, the undulating machair, the maddening corncrake); and that that pleasure can make me anticipate the pleasure of reading the book I just bought. As if pleasure, like bank interest, or flexi-time, can be carried-forward and invested for the future.

[Written 22 October 2009]


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