Sunday, February 25, 2007

"The only way to read"

I was lucky – there was a whole wall in Accrington Public Library in the 1960s called “Literature”, so I just worked my way through it, in tandem with the wall called “History”. After that, I began to follow my own eccentricities, which is really the only way to read. I have a few simple rules – buy new poetry and plays, skim them and immediately donate the flotsam to Oxfam. Stand in the bookshop and check the new novels: if they have no language skills or ambition for the form, leave them for somebody else to waste money on.

Then – and this is the fun bit – proceed to a section of the bookshop in which you think you have no interest, and buy something that catches your eye. I have just been reading Captain Cook’s Journals, which made me read Robinson Crusoe again, which made me think about island narratives, and has run me towards Boswell and Johnson in the Hebrides, Marianne Wiggins’s wonderful novel John Dollar and to Diana Souhami’s award-winning Selkirk’s Island, which made me order Coconut Chaos, her new book on Pitcairn.

For me, this is the way to read and reread books. I don’t want to be told that if I liked XI could read Y, or that people who bought A also bought B.Reading is not a place to be one of a crowd, it is the place to be yourself.

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Learn more about Jeanette Winterson's books.

--Marshal Zeringue