To introduce our pick of summer books, satirist Craig Brown tries—really tries—to recall some of his all-time favouritesby Craig Brown / July 23, 2009 / Leave a comment
Published in August 2009 issue of Prospect Magazine
What happens to books after we have read them? Where do they go? Do they drain from our memories like water down a plug-hole? I have heard it argued that there’s no point reading any book at all because a year later you’ll only be able to remember what you could read on the blurb for nothing.
It’s an observation that carries a depressing echo of truth. The moment I finish a book, my memory ejects the names and professions of the main characters, their relation to one another and their causes for celebration or complaint—all those areas which those pushy blurbs are generally so eager to reveal. A year on, all that remains of a novel is a vague atmosphere, and maybe one or two random scenes. But perhaps this doesn’t matter: pleasure in reading must surely lie in the moment-to-moment experience, not in passing an exam on all its details in the years to come.
A year on, what remains of a work of non-fiction? If last year you read a 500-page biography of President Nixon and this year all you remember is that he was an American president with the middle initial M who was involved in some sort of a scandal, then the weeks you spent slogging through the book must surely have been wasted.