It is time to introduce Georges Poulet, a man who is very important to me. It was his essay 'The Phenomenology of Reading' that lit a fire under me and helped me to decide what it was that I wanted to write about, what was important to me. This essay is a beautiful, passionate celebration of the pleasures of reading, of the book as an object full of possibility. I am working a lot on the boundaries that we cross when we read, about the relationship between our interior and exterior worlds, and for me there is no better starting place than with Georges. (He is Georges to me now, in that way that writers who change you become great friends.) There is nothing I can say that will better explain the joy of reading his work, than by giving space to some of them here. Of books he writes, "made of paper and ink, they lie where they are put, until the moment some one shows an interest in them. They wait. Are they aware that an act of man might suddenly transform their existence? They appear to be lit up with that hope. Read me, they seem to say. I find it hard to resist their appeal. No, books are not just objects among others."
Another of my favourite sections from the essay begins like this:
"take a book and you will find it offering, opening itself. It is this openness of the book which I find so moving. A book is not shut in by its contours, is not walled-up as in a fortress. It asks nothing better than to exist outside itself, or to let you exist in it. In short, the extraordinary fact in the case of a book is the falling away of the barriers between you and it. You are inside it; it is inside you; there is no longer either outside or inside."
I love everything about this, and how it speaks to my experience of reading, and of that very particular joy. Hopefully I have linked to the full article on Jstor up at the top so if you have access I'd recommend reading the whole thing.