Draw your circle

The Penguin Book Of The British Short Story (volume 2) is a heavy tome. With 708 pages of prose plus an introduction and author biographies it was some job to hold in the bath. I apologies if the thought of me in the bath has put you off whatever it was you were doing but reading in the tub, for me, is one of life’s pleasures.

I borrowed the book from the Lit and Phil primarily to read a Doris Lessing story but when I got there I found that I had already read it in another collection. In fact there were a few of the tales that I had read before though I guess that that is inevitable in my long reading career. Not to mind as there were plenty of others to get my teeth into. After all, it was a heavy tome.

All books have something to say, something to take away and this time it was from ‘The Embassy of Cambodia’ by Zadie smith, a story of London’s underclass and modern slavery. In it, the antagonist asks herself ’Surely there is something to be said for drawing a circle around our attention and remaining within that circle. But how large should this circle be?’

These words encapsulate my own dilemma, not that I have anything in common with the heroine of the story. Life seems to be a constant battle between trying to get on with the stuff within my circle and all the interesting things that are going on outside it. Drawing the line between what you can get on with and what you should leave alone is hard work, especially as a Gemini. The social butterfly in me always wants to taste the nectar in the next flower. The next big thing is always a temptation away.

There are so many interesting things in life. How do you choose how big a circle to draw? It’s like thinking of those top five lists as in NIck Hornby’s ‘High Fidelity’. You always have to leave things out and you always think of other things you should have included, sometimes weeks later.

The sentence has stuck in my mind and not just mine. The editor included it as a quote on the back cover of the book. It clearly resonated with them too.

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