Busman’s Holiday

(Please dir­ect com­plaints about typos to the Italian even­ing air.)

I real­ized, when the suit­case was finally packed, that I had big plans for my hol­i­day. Books — loads of them. A pleth­ora, a glut, a ver­it­able book­berg in my poor, groan­ing suit­case. As a writer, one of life’s ongo­ing pan­ics centres around the num­ber of good books out there; how, sweet how, can I hope to pro­duce good prose if I havenÃÂ??t read the best in suf­fi­cient quant­ity to have my skull bul­ging in a suit­case-like man­ner?

My know­ledge of lit­er­at­ure gives ‘patchy’ a bad name. I haven’t read ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ although I’ve read ‘Great Expectations’. ‘War and Peace’ goes unread, but I’m half-way through ‘Anna Karenina’. I’ve macheted my way into deep­est ‘Ancient Evenings’ and ‘The Naked and the Dead’ but I’m wor­ried that ‘Harlot’s Ghost’ might injure my foot if I drop it, so that remains unbought.

Now, of course, I have two glor­i­ous weeks of ‘hol­i­day’ in which to cor­rect a life­time of read­ing enjoy­able junk.

To Ravenna, I am accom­pan­ied by Bragg’s ‘The Adventure of English’ (fin­ished, you hear me, fin­ished!), which is a thor­ough and often oddly-phrased work that charts the course of the Good Ship English around the world. Bragg is an enthu­si­ast­ic dilet­tante and suc­ceeds where oth­ers — Bryson, for example, with his irrit­at­ing ‘Mother Tongue’ — have failed. Money and time well-spent. Next up is Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’, but the book­mark refuses to travel through this one, don’t look at me. After that, Kuhn’s ‘Structure of Scientific Revolutions’, which I’ve already skipped to. It prom­ises to be an inter­est­ing and import­ant read; more cred­it for the bank of exper­i­ence.

Part of me won­ders wheth­er this race (which will remain unwon on the day I, regret­tably, die) is worth the spiked shoes. Is a writer a func­tion of his read­ing, in the way that an organism’s body is a func­tion of its diet? Or is the writer great­er than the sum of his parts? I think already we know the answer to this one, friends and neigh­bours. It’s nature and nur­ture all over again. Whatever the per­cent­age either way, the answer to this one is simple: stay in the race, keep read­ing, and keep writ­ing.

Author: Ian Hocking

Writer and psychologist.

One thought on “Busman’s Holiday”

  1. You are what you read? Merely reflects your interest if you ask me. I read books that I find inter­est­ing. Plain, yet simple. I write what con­sumes me. My every fleat­ing thought that passes by. But the only ones that make it to print are the ones I can catch!
    Your book sounds inter­est­ing to me.

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