As I’ve previously posted here April has so far proved to have been a Month of Random Reading, positioned as it is between a March of Readathons and a May of Fantasy.
But, as is the way of things, my choice of reading has unwittingly pointed me in the direction of books that bear some relationships with each other, however slight. Those relationships have reminded me quite a bit of the art of interlace.
Interlace has had a long pedigree. From the ancient crafts of carpet weaving with which the Middle East has had a long association to the so-called carpet pages of medieval Celtic illuminated manuscripts interlace is found in many cultures. The visual interweaving of strands is common in many northern European contexts, such as Viking longship prows and Norwegian stave churches, Anglo-Saxon enamel ornaments and Dark Age high crosses in Ireland and Wales.
Interlace techniques cross over into other arts, however, notably narrative: look up ‘narrative interlace in Beowulf‘ online and you will see what I mean. But it can also occur with texts that have no obvious connection with each other.
Katy Mahood’s Entanglement (reviewed here) has, above all, a suggestive title in this respect. Simultaneously it’s about entanglement as a concept in quantum physics and as a description of how, unbeknown to us, our paths can cross with strangers who later become acquaintances (and more).
Metaphorical paths weaving in and out of our lives also manifested in Christopher Priest’s The Adjacent (review here) though in this SF novel these occur across what we must guess are related multiverses. Reading these two titles back to back was at times a curious experience.
Mackenzie Crook’s The Midvale Sprites (reviewed here) was, indirectly, about chance encounters and crossed paths, though they were more to do with the author’s other work than with the novel. In particular, Crook’s tv series The Detectorists (which he wrote, directed and starred in) drew much of its subtle humour from what the viewer but not the protagonists could see — hidden treasure and signicant finds beneath their feet or above their heads, their field-walking criss-crossing the hidden trails of history.
We come now to James O’Brien’s observations in How to be Right: the extracts from phone-in listeners to his talk show demonstrated how disparate subjects (Brexit, feminism, Trump, immigration or LGBT issues, for example) were intermingled in the minds of some misguided listeners or were likely to attract a similar confused or angry response from that audience.
I’ve just finished Lucy Mangan’s Bookworm (subtitled A memoir of childhood reading) and, given the difference in our ages, choice of fiction available and subject interests, there was a fair overlap both in what we each read at similar ages and what I was reading to my own children at a similar time. From what I’ve read in reviews of this memoir it’s clear that it’s spoken to untold thousands of a shared love of solitary reading, multitudes whose lives will never cross but who will share similar emotions over individual titles or genres.
I’m also concurrently reading a few other titles, notably Robertson Davies’ Fifth Business and Charlotte Brontë’s Shirley (which I have been struggling through for a couple or more months). Actually what the Davies novel and Claire Harman’s biography Charlotte Brontë: a Life share so far is a languid yet readable examination of lives lived mostly among those who don’t share a passion for the written word or understand the importance of the inner life for one’s sanity and relative wellbeing. Yet both lives have characteristics that are recognised by readers who may never meet but who totally get the self-sufficiency that bookishness can bring.
I’ve talked often enough about how books read consecutively or simultaneously can strangely inform each other. In many ways it’s those interweavings, entanglements, interlace or what-have-you that bring as much wonder and joy as each book on its own brings.
Is this the case with you? Do you find that books speak to each other, or share unexpected links, strands or themes?
Today is Charlotte Brontë‘s birthday (203 years old!) so I feel a bit bad about neglecting her. But April 23rd marks the presumed birth of Shakespeare, and also marks Will’s and fellow author Cervantes‘ death date (though Spain and England followed different calendars at the time.
As UNESCO, inspired by this apparent coincidence, declared April 23rd the International Day of the Book I shall be posting—oh so appropriately—a review of Lucy Mangan’s book, mentioned above.