Saturday, November 29, 2008

unexpected, angels, books

Posted by Picasa I nearly didn't bother to photograph this bottle stuck in a hedge. But I rather like the way it turned out.

When I enter the train, there is a conversation in progress between a young woman and a middle aged man, which keeps me entertained all the way to London. He is writing a homily (there is some discussion about whether this is the right word) to be given at a funeral on the following day. A picture of the deceased emerges in episodes as he describes him. She is the daughter of a clergyman and talks a bit about her father. The homily-giver has an open pad on the table in front of him, on which he is drafting his homily. As he talks about the deceased, he tries out various phrases on her."He wasn't a particularly religious man," he says as he write the words, "but he lived his faith. He lived his faith, that was the sort of man he was." They begin to talk about angels. What sex are angels? " he asks. "Androgynous," she says, Then comes an anecdote about some angels in a nativity play, one of whom had "a wing which needed a bit of attention". "'Your wing needs a bit of attention', that's the sort of thing he would say. Or Christmas is coming you're going to have a lot to do". The young woman leaves the train at the next station and the homily-giver is left to go over his notes. I am not, it seems, the only person who has been listening to this conversation. As the train draws into the terminal, the man sitting directly opposite me takes a book called, I think, "Living after Death" from his brief case, writes something on the inside cover, introduces himself and presents the book to the homily-giver. As I leave the train the homily-giver, in saying thank you, explains again about the homily he is preparing.

I have been thinking about the stack of -books begun and half read, unread, intended to be read - which Lucy Kempton describes in her blog, Box Elder. I imagine a lot of people have similar book towers. I know I do. I can see mine as I type. I have a friend who reads everything she reads from beginning to end -The collected poems of Shelley, The whole of Dante, The Odyssey. Nothing she begins is unfinished. I admire he application but cannot hope to emulate it. I have long given up any thought of reading Montaigne's essays or The Thousand and One Nights, which form a solid foundation for my own skyscraper, from beginning to end. But so much do I like books that I don't feel guilty if I never finish them. I console myself with the thought that to dip into them is better than never to open them at all. And besides it gives me pleasure to look at the books, as it gave me pleasure to look at the photo of Lucy's stack and to consider the items there that are familiar to me.


Dave King said...

Wonderful story about the homily-writer. I could picture it as i read. It would makean excellent beginning to anovel or a short story.

Zhoen said...


I think it's having worked in a library shelving books, and nearly being done in by book-avalanches. Much as I enjoy reading, I have no trouble abandoning a book I've stopped caring about.

Roderick Robinson said...

Beaten to the draw by Zhoen with eulogy. I've always questioned the aptness of the word on these occasions. The equivalent of saying: I'm going to sin by omission in talking about the dear deceased. But the conclusion must be: You get a better class of passenger on south-eastern trains.

Books in piles and in lists. Perhaps fifty years ago Somerset Maugham did a piece in The Sunday Times called Ten Novels and Their Authors. I set out to read them but can I remember them? Tom Jones, Le Pere Goriot, Moby Dick - no, I'm resorting to Google - David Copperfield, Pride and Prejudice, The Brothers Karamazov, War and Peace, Wuthering Heights, Madame Bovary, Le Rouge et le Noir. No great surprises but his premise was that if ten book lovers each produced ten titles, WSM's choice would be found in the subsequent list of a hundred.

I was going to add that I read them all but there is one defaulter. Three separate goes, once getting as far as page 150, but I never managed Karamazov. If anyone knows the secret I'd appreciate guidance.

Unknown said...

Pity you were not all there. We could have contributed to the eulogy he was writing and you could have put him right about "homily" defined by the Oxford Dictionary as a "tedious moral discourse".

Among the books I have begun several times but never finished is Moby Dick.

Lucy said...

That was a wonderful little micro-drama on the train.

Glad you enjoyed the bookstack. I forgot to add a selection of Emerson's essays that has been floating up and downstairs for a while now. Years ago my brother-in-law was very pleased with a copy of Emerson from the 19th century he's found in an antiquarian bookshop. He later realised that many of the pages remained uncut. Whether he ever ended up reading them himself I don't know.

Lucas said...

This photo of a UFO is remarkable for its precision and proximity. Its next stop will no doubt be the desert featured in the aerial photograph of most recent post.