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Saturday, November 21, 2015

Tegan Bennett Daylight on Joan London

 
When I remember being a child and reading, I think first of sunlight, which I was always manoeuvring to be partly, though not wholly, in. This sunlight is always linked to quiet, to stillness. The sense of movement around me, but happening at a distance – my mother talking on the telephone (her voice louder as she strayed to the very end of the cord), or my sister using her sewing machine – the sort of movement that envelops you but allows you to be alone. The psychotherapist and writer Adam Phillips, referring to D. W. Winnicott’s essay ‘The Capacity to be Alone’ (1958), says that ‘the goal for the child is to be alone in the presence of the mother. For a long time this has seemed to me to be the single best definition of reading’.

Perhaps the best definition of good writing is the kind that recreates this safe aloneness, this suspended awareness of the self, this being lost but at the same time attached. We adult readers can go a long time between books that have this effect, and still be entertained and even inspired by what we read. But if we are lucky, every few years a book or a writer will appear that brings this sense back – a book that makes us feel as though that stillness in the centre of movement has been both captured and, in the act of reading, reproduced.
 

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