I’m in the middle of reading Richard Glover’s book, “George Clooney’s Haircut – and Other Cries for Help”, and I’m really enjoying it. Richard has this gift for finding the hilarious and the ridiculous in everyday life.
For example, in response to the oft-repeated advice to “live in the present”, he pointed out that remembering the past and anticipating the future are often more enjoyable than the present:
In recollection you can strip away everything that stood in the way: your sore feet, the couple talking loudly behind you, the queue for admission. Memory pares down the moment to its essence. The same is true of the birth of a child, a kiss, a bushwalk. As memory, the experience is at its most pure, intense and unencumbered.
On a later chapter, which is my favourite so far, he muses about what makes people who love to read, love reading. Is it only people with unhappy childhoods or unfortunate circumstances who are driven to find escape in books? (There’s a shorter version of this chapter in Richard’s SMH column here.) He made this spot-on observation (emphasis mine):
Reading offers a universe that doesn’t revolve around us – our problems, our vanities and our fears. In Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina, there’s a scene when Anna’s child has been taken away by the husband she spurned. She’s heartbroken and wants to tell her lover, Vronsky, about how terrible she feels. She pauses, worried about the look of disdain she knows will pass over Vronsky’s face should she unburden herself. Once she’s seen that dismissive look, she’ll find it impossible to love him. And so she says nothing.
By this stage in the story, she’s a character we don’t even like; yet the reader is overwhelmed with sympathy. You feel like cradling Anna in your arms. In that one scene – it’s only a few lines of text – we understand the extent of what she has given up; how little she will receive in return; and – here’s the painful bit – that she knows all this herself.
This is what fiction does, encouraging us to see the world through the eyes of someone else; in Anna’s case, a person from a different country and century. It’s a masterclass in empathy.
Totally agree. I’ll read on with great anticipation of more gems like these :)