Wednesday, 1 April 2009

More reading: so many ways

I was walking with others on an island in the Hebrides, aged sixteen or so, the rain came down, we sheltered in a croft with an open door, empty except for some green Penguins on a shelf – I read the whole of The Postman Always Rings Twice, emerged to a sky washed and clear. That was a great read. C. K. Williams has a lovely sequence of reading poems. In the first a man is changing a car wheel on an icy road – ‘Cars slip and skid a yard away from him, the flimsy jack is desperately, precariously balanced, / and meanwhile, when he goes to the trunk to get the spare, a page of old newspaper catches his attention / and he pauses, rubbing his hands together, shoulders hunched, for a full half minute, reading.’ In the last a father gives his year-old son Le Monde ‘to play with in his stroller and the baby does / just what you’d expect: grabs it, holds it out in front of him, stares importantly at it, / makes dramatic sounds of declamation, great pronouncements of analytic probity . . . then tears it, pulls a page in half, pulls the half in quarters, shoves a hearty shred in his mouth – / a delicious editorial on unemployment and recession, a tasty jeu de mots on government ineptitude . . .’

The above book (Penguin, 1971) comprises 66 black-and-white uncaptioned photographs by Kertesz of people reading: on trains and roofs, in streets and gardens and beds and libraries, every one of them lost to the world. Ideal subjects for a photographer: the subjects are still, and without a jot of self-consciousness.

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