Saturday, May 24, 2008

The Grove, reverie, book search

I mention the Grove frequently here. For those who don't know it, this is a recent snapshot. It was taken on a wet day, when only I was there to enjoy it. This prominent grove of trees on the hill known as Mount Sion, was given to the people, who live in the neighbourhood by the Earl of Buckingham in 1702 " to be preserved for a Grove for the use of Inhabitants and lodgers of the premises ... to walk and the trees there growing preserved for shade and not any of them to be cutt down nor any building to be erected."

I like the word reverie and what it describes. It has been on my mind recently because I realize that it is the pleasant state, which I have been entering recently when I feel that I am still asleep though I am sufficiently awake to be conscious of the sun coming in at the edges of the blinds, of bird song, the occasional passing car and other sounds of awakening. All kinds of thoughts and images come and go in my head but remain longer there than those of dreams. Marcel Proust, I realize, describes something similar in the opening chapter of In Search of Lost Time. And my reveries seem sometimes to join forces with his.

My neighbour, Michael tells me that he has seen a copy of F W J Hemmings critical biography of Emile Zola in Oxfam. I am on my way out, and, in a hurry to take advantage of his tip, I make a detour via the Oxfam bookshop in Chapel Place. It is not there, and it dawns on me that he must have meant the Oxfam charity shop in Mount Pleasant. It is not there either, at least I can't see it among the other biographies on the shelf labelled Biographies. By this time, I desire this book out of all proportion to its value. Though my interest in Zola, which has mounted in the last few years, as I have pleasurably worked my way through the Rougon Maquart series of novels, has in fact made it required reading. This was yesterday. Today he tells me which of the two Oxfams he had meant. "I couldn't see it among the biographies, " I say. "It was on the shelf marked Classics," he says. On my way up Mount Pleasant this morning, I eventually lay hands on it. It is a worn Oxford University Press paper back, quite intensively used and underlined to prove it. But I think I shall come to value it not only for its content but for its pursuit and eventual capture.
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