The Joys of Spring (Reading)

Decline and Fall

What I wouldn't give for an original penguin copy

Today is the 1st of March and it has been a glorious one at that; mild and sunny with blue skies and a beautiful sunrise. It is days like today which make me forget all about the dismal weather we Brits experience for 90% of the year and have a positive effect on me. There has to be some sort of scientific link between good weather and optimism! For me, 2012 has been a year for reading. There is nothing I like better than to arrange myself on my bed, head propped up by two pillows with a hot chocolate in one hand and a novel in the other, but more often than not this isn’t a reality for me. Reading, although a joy, is unfortunately not my top priority and always seems to get pushed down the day’s agenda until I’m far too tired to be able to enjoy anything I might read and all I want to do is sleep.

This year, it will be different. Reading is educational, enjoyable and an escape into as many different worlds as there are novels in the world. In 2008 I began keeping a record of every single book I read – the title, the author and my starting and finishing dates and when I totted up the total number of works I had completed in the course of four years I was actually a little disappointed to see that I had actually only managed to finish a rather measly total of 56 books. That’s an average of 14 books per year – just over one per month. It’s true that I go through periods that are more fruitful reading-wise than others – I can guarantee I’ll have gotten through one book per week in the summer when I have little else to worry about other than whether I’ve lathered myself with enough sunblock or when high tide is – but that isn’t an excuse for me to neglect my bookshelf. After all; reading is something I gain such pleasure from and learn so much from.

My current favourite author is the brilliant Evelyn Waugh. I was recommended and leant A Handful of Dust in the last week of December, and the next time I saw the lender (mid-January) I returned the novel having completed it and with a fulfilment that can only be felt when one has experienced a novel of such clever writing, intriguing sentences and subtle humour as Waugh’s chapters exude. The novel, set between the wars in Belgravia and a Stately Home in Warwickshire is the story of social graces (or lack of) in a time when the people you associated with mattered more than your own character, and acquaintances were forged merely out of a lack of need or inclination to do anything except hold parties or host country weekends.

It is Waugh’s clever irony that leaves readers such as myself eager to learn the outcome of such a tale without caring about the situation of any of the novel’s characters and feeling an intense dislike for the meaningless nature of their lives. Fickle is the word I would use to describe the lives of those persons of the upper classes depicted in what has to be one of the most intelligently written novels of the 20th century. I can heartily recommend it. My second Waugh novel, the rather lighter and far more humorous Decline and Fall is just as sophisticated without being arrogant and contains such comic moments that I have found myself garnering disparaging looks if I am guilty of a sudden outburst of laughter upon reading one of Waugh’s hilarious, one line sentences.

The upshot of this post is that I want to make myself make time to read more often. After all, I hope one day to be writing articles or novels which other people take time out of their busy lives from to sit down and enjoy. Reading is such a simple pleasure and one which I do not feel I have been alone in side-lining from my schedule in favour of other tasks which are deemed ‘more important’. The text on the right hand side of this post reads “I pledge to read the printed word”. And I do. And I will always.