I’ve recently read two books in which the line between the reader, the author and the book have been blurred. The first was ‘Riccardino’ the final book in the Montalbano series by Andrea Camilleri, where the intertwining of writer and protagonist was a device to allow the author to finally kill off his creation. The second was ‘The book of form and emptiness’ by Ruth Ozeki, an amazing book which weaves together the stories of the characters and the book itself.
How I picked these books, in both cases, has been down to the Lit and Phil library in Newcastle. I’ve mentioned the place a few times now, it’s a cornucopia of literature. I started by going into the library and picking a few backs seemingly at random. I don’t really know what attracted me to them. Perhaps it was the cover, though some have been very plain, or perhaps it was the title of the book or an author I knew.
Since then I have gone wherever the books have taken me, following series such as Camilleri’s Montalban, or specific publishers such as Persephone, individual authors such as those I have read before, like Doris Lessing or ones I have never read before such as Nevile Shute. I have even picked up books mentioned in other books including ‘Tattoo’ by Manuel Vázquez Montalbán or ‘Mademoiselle de Maupin’ by Théophile Gautier while at other times I have just picked up a book that I have seen on the shelf. There is so much amazing literature out there.
One of the themes of Ozeki’s book was the mystical power of books over the author and the reader and I am left wondering whether I actually chose these books at all. Perhaps they had a bigger say in what I picked up than I imagined. With all the choice in all the world, why did I make those selections? Could it be that I am being led on some journey of self discovery and enlightenment? Did I really make a choice at all?
Like the wand chooses the wizard, could it be that the book chooses the reader?