Tuesday, November 16, 2010



We are told that Life Is Short.  Trouble is, we never believe that when we’re young.  It seems inevitable that we shall take no notice of the evaporation of time until many, many grains of sand have tumbled down in the hourglass.  But there comes a day for all of us when we notice that the catalog of our options, once so voluminous, seems to have been edited down to novella size.  No, I won’t dance the lead in The Nutcracker now, and you probably won’t pilot a rocket to Mars.  Those possibilities are past, at least for most of us.  And although it’s no secret that I love to travel, I am well aware of the multitude of vistas I shall never see.  So many seaside rooms in which I shall never sleep, doorways I shall never enter, corners I shall never turn.  It’s true enough, life is too short to pack it all in. 
 But my passport might as well be stamped on every single page, for I have tickets in my possession that are capable of transporting me anywhere I choose to wander, at anytime of the day or night.  For I am a reader, and books are my tickets to the myriad of places, and times, I shall never otherwise visit.  Through them I listen to mysterious voices and gaze into exotic eyes.  I sail turbulent seas and dine with poets and rogues.  I wander strange cities dressed all in blue, all the while filling my luggage with enough souvenirs to last a lifetime.  Such is the power of words.

Knowledge is a river that flows, swiftly, through our lives.  We stare down into the dark current, searching for our reflection, but all we see are words.  And it is of no benefit to simply watch them rush by.  Indeed, if we choose to sit on the grassy bank for too long, it may well transform into a bog just as deadly to the imagination as Grimpen Mire was to life and limb, leaving us forever stuck in the dim light of incuriousity.  No, far better to grab a ticket and cannonball in.  For there are places we shall never visit, people we shall never meet, knowledge we shall never attain if we don't read.

I adore all sorts of books, but my favourites are those in which the current of language washes over me, leaving behind insight and heart knowledge I couldn’t possibly articulate.  In the hands of wizards such as Virginia Woolf, Edith Wharton, or Anne Michaels, words can crack open a soul and give us a glimpse into truth impossible to find elsewhere. When Mrs. Dalloway walks through London on that morning in June, I feel what she’s feeling deep down in my bones.  That pendulum in her soul that swings betwixt wonder and despair is recognizable to me.  What a Lark!  What a Plunge!  Indeed.

I recently finished another book that explores the inner workings of the soul better than any archaeologist could.  Tinkers by Paul Harding hasn’t gotten very much attention, even though it recently, and deservedly, won the Pulitzer prize.  The story of a dying clockmaker, it is a novel in which nothing much happens, but through Mr. Harding's  brilliant use of the English language, we are taken on a journey through the human soul that is as lovely as it is rare.  There are sentences here that I read over and over, just to wallow in the beauty of the words.   

Now that Christmas is fast upon us, I am busy compiling my annual list of books to consider for presents.  I’ll share that list here soon, but in the meantime, are there any tickets to wondrous places that sit on your own bookshelves?  Do share, won’t you?


  1. Love your post and I just shared today! The book won't be out until spring if I remember correctly but from the way it was described, it will be one in which to look forward.

  2. Another beautiful post - thank you.

  3. ...beautiful post..i love to read that book "1000 Places To See Before You Die"..sometimes i lay in bed and read it....and dream....

    sending love today,
    kary and teddy

  4. A delightful post Pamela :)
    I do rather like the sound of "Tinkers" both for its clockmaker subject matter and its title :)

    As for transporting tales I've enjoyed - well there are so many of course, but I do so love Tove Jansson and her Summer and Winter books, which are quiet and wise and send you to a tiny Finnish Island and the conversations of a little girl and her grandmother and fishing nets and blue.

    And Kerstin Ekman's "The Forest of Hours" in which a troll like creature from the dark Scandinavian forests watches the lives and eras of many humans pass by in his long long life, and has to learn to be amongst them in all their changing ways...

    I'm reading "The Chymical Wedding" by Lindsay Clarke at the moment....

  5. I adore all your postings
    Much love and many blessings

  6. "Tinkers" is on my to-read list, and I am interested to see what other recommendations your commenters may have. I have so many favorite books, let's see... Have you read "Little, Big" by John Crowley? How about "Let the Great World Spin" by Colum McCan, or "Shadow of the Wind" by Carlos Zafon? "The Balkan Trilogy" by Olivia Manning?

  7. Oh, yes, books, books, books. My favorite is A Lady's Life in the Rockie Mountains (one I chose randomly from a shelf at a library long ago and since bought), anything by Dickens - his words and descriptions are amazing. I was shocked and delighted by how well the BOOKs of both Frankenstein (Mary Shelley) and Dracula were written - oh, my. I gave a book as a Christmas present to a friend long ago; she was aghast as she had never thought of a book as a present! How sad - and she has changed over the years, I am glad to say. I will check my library (which is new and gorgeous) for Tinkers.

  8. My Christmas list of books is taking shape nicely too Pamela.
    Your post rang a familiar bell for me - I am just as eager an arm chair traveller as I am a real traveller - the same goes for cooking and for gardening. And I can lose myself in a really good novel so that the world goes on without me. Aren't we lucky?

  9. Beautiful post as always Pamela ~ your write so well!
    I love the painting "Tickets" it has such a warmth about it ~ I'm wondering who the artist is?
    Enjoy a lovely week
    xx Dianne

  10. Love your posts as always. Reading has been tops on my list of things to do since I was very young.
    I remember asking my parents for books for Christmas.
    Mother thought that was an unusual request.

  11. Dear Pamela, How true this posting is and how much it resonates with my own thoughts. One can certainly live without travelling the world....as a nervous wreck in an aeroplane I have long since realised that there are many destinations never to be visited in reality.....but I could not bear to think of a world without books.

    I am, as you may imagine, always fascinated by novels which have some link with Eastern Europe and Russia and, for that reason I have high hopes of the new novel by Helen Dunmore - The Betrayal.

  12. This is my first visit here (through synchronizing's
    porta) and I had to stop and read the whole of this post.

    I am sitting writing in a room with book-lined walls; books are my best friends and the journey's they take me on are beyond rubies.

    I will never be a displaced person while I have books to feel at home in.

  13. so true pamela, my thoughts of late...all dreams will not be fulfilled. your words in describing getting older was magical.

    preferring non-fiction, a book that i love, not for a keen writing style but purely the story, is
    'a scandalous life; the biography of jane digby.
    setting mid to late victorian era. indeed scandalous for that era, ms digby, a british aristocrat, lived a wild ride of a life, some of which would remain questionable today. i admire her bravery and sense of adventure. a woman born in the wrong era and the consequences.

  14. Wonderful post, Pamela.

    My current ticket to ride has been back, once again, to England and a trio of Helene Hanff books, the best being 84 Charing Cross Road.

    I've a wonderful tome called "At Home With Books, How Booklovers Live with and Care for Their Libraries". It is big and full of wonderful libraries, most of them personal, and I pull on a blanket and sit with a cup of tea and pour through the pages in absolute bliss.

  15. I could not live my life without books!
    My list is so long and would go forever but I post regularly about the ones that really grab my attention.
    My out and out favourite this year was the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society which no doubt every one has read...don't know how I missed it for so long.
    My ticket to ride also encompasses all the wonderful blogs I now follow from all over the world but yours in particular takes me to a very special place where I can curl up and revel in your capabilities with the English language, so thank you Pamela. I don't always comment but I faithfully follow you and Edward everywhere!

  16. One of my favourite reads and 'tickets' as you so eloquently describe is' 'A Suitable Boy' by Vikram Seth. I try and read it every couple of years and search for the nuances that I may have missed on my first readings......As ever a lovely post Pamela.
    I fear our postcards are lost so I shall hunt for more and try again...I am very disappointed because they were lovely ones...c'est la vie....and the Royal Mail....funny, I took them to London because I didn't trust the French post! xv

  17. Pamela, unbeknownst to me you wrote a post which covers a similar subject...we must have had similar thoughts!( Today in my House and Living part)

    I have a list of books lined up:
    Paula Byrne's 'Perdita',
    Kate Morton's 'The Distant Hours',
    Deborah Mitford's 'Wait for me',
    Antonia Fraser's 'Must You Go?'

    This and some other, design related books, then the ones from my book club, well this will get me through the winter...

    Lately I also look often at Etsy and eBay and marvel at people's creativity and all the beautiful things I love to look at! It's like a huge open museum to me... And sometimes I can even acquire a thing or two!
    From tea caddies and plates I collect to gifts for friends...
    Thanks for a wonderful post!
    Will put your book on my list!

  18. At the moment, I'm riding through Pillars of the Earth...love going way back in time...

  19. Tinkers is now offically on my list. Thank you!

  20. Thank You for the recommendation. It is no on my Christmas List! And, I think, I have been good, too :)

  21. I can't imagine a life without books......I would propose another Pulitzer Prize Winner - Wallace Stegner's "Angle Of Repose". Looking forward to reading "Tinkers". Thanks Pamela

  22. As a child my favorite Christmas gift to receive was a book...and this is still true. There is no greater gift to receive or give...

  23. I'm ashamed to admit I don't read a lot of books, but I do enjoy your writing...if you wrote a book I'd read it! I'm glad I found your blog..it's a real treat!

  24. Pamela I love your writing and that image! I can feel the fabric in my hands.

    Books have always taken me away into a world of wonder.


    Art by Karena

  25. Oh lovely post about my favorite subject too! I'm forced to 'armchair travel' just now and I couldn't survive without my books! Almost finished Helen Bevington's, 'The World and The Bo Tree'. All about her world travels.

  26. Hi Pamela, it's Friko again.
    Thank you for coming to my poetry blog and leaving a comment.

    Would you do me a favour and tell me if that was the blog you came to directly from my comment on your blog?

    My main blog is Friko's Musings and I would like to know which of the two the comments returns access.
    I would be grateful for clarification.
    Thank you.

  27. Oh goodness - ENDLESS tickets.. these days, because of my long commute twice a week, they sit on CD's in the library. I go through many audio books. The most recent that I adore is "The Blood of Flowers", by Anita Amirrezvani. An INTENSE but profoundly moving tale of a young woman forced to find her way in 17th century Persia. There are beautiful folk tales woven in and the audio book narrator has an incredibly sensual voice. Its not an easy tale, but soooo worth the travel. And much about rug knotting and design.

  28. all so true - have added this book to my list :)

  29. Vita Sackvill West's Twelve Days is wonderful.

  30. Loved this post.
    My current 'tickets'
    are Olivia Manning's Balkan Trilogy, Tahir Shah's In Arabian Nights and
    Farewell Leicester Square by Betty Miller.

    The BEST book I read this year was The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal. It had everything --family history, history in general, art, love, beautiful austere writing.
    Last year's tops was THE PRIORY by Dorothy Whipple.
    Gosh, how miserable I would be without books.
    I think you are blog friends with BeeDrunken. We are always on the same page about books.

  31. Hi Pamela...I adore your phrase, "heart knowledge". Yes, Mrs. Dalloway has the same affect on me! It's funny, I just posted something about my tremendous admiration for books. There are so many I could name. Isak Dinesen, Jane Austen, Edith Wharton, Truman Capote...too many!

    I had heard of "Tinkers" but didn't know much about it. I just put it on my Amazon.com wishlist. Thanks for the suggestion...This post was just wonderful!


  32. Beautiful post Pamela, can't wait for your book choices, I have one for you; it's a biography/memoir: 'There's Rosemary There's Rue' by Winifred Fortescue. First published in 1939. You may already have it but if you don't I think you would enjoy it. Is that an Delphin Enjolras? I love his work.

  33. Coincidence? I am smack in the middle of Tinkers....thought provoking and a beautiful read. I am so glad to know we are both stung by the reading bee!

  34. A lovely post: I particularly like the picture of the woman reading by the fireside. What luxury to have an open fire in your bedroom.

  35. Pam, every time you write like this it makes me want to grab a book, lock the door and spend hours turning one page after another. This post reminded me of the beauty of a book that takes you places. Better yet, those books that can change your life. Tinkers sounds perfect. I can't wait to see what you have on the rest of your list :))

    Best wishes...

    Jeanne xx

  36. On another "travel" subject, I got your comment today, and you are going to love Morooco and the Peacock Pavilions! My time there was amazing!
    xoxo, Tiffany

  37. My bookshelves are overflowing of old favourites from long ago, like eating comfort food for the soul. New books my darling daughter force feeds me on like a Mt.Martin's goose.

    Whenever clouds crowd around my head, I immerse myself in being elsewhere.

    If I want to have my emotions stirred into turmoil, I go to Tolstoy or Pasternak, for delicious characterisation Georgette Hayer, to totally wallow in depression, there are always the plays of Cechov or Ibsen. Can't think of anything recent at the moment.

  38. I hope you don't mind, but I posted your link on my FB. I love reading your posts and can't imagine all the people that are missing them so I wanted to share YOU with my friends.

  39. Such beautifully written words.
    I am just re reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte love the Yorkshire wild moors but then I come from an old Yorkshire family!! All the Bronte sisters books,Jane Austin.
    John Betjeman he is a goldmine of nostalgia on English heritage,his Trains 7 Buttered Toast delightful.

    2 books on my Christmas wish list Nelson Mandela's 'Conversations with Myself' + 'The Life Of Roald Dahl' by Donald Sturrock.Ida

  40. You always have the most beautiful posts... we recommend "Three Cups of Tea" to anybody who hasn't already read it. You will not be disappointed!


  41. Your melancholia surprised me until I saw the source in Tinkers. I started reading it in summer and had to put it down. It was beautifully written but not right for the beach. Thanks for reminding me to pick it up again now that the days are growing shorter. It will be perfect by the fire with time to savor it.

    I’m putting together a similar list of gift books and will post it next week on my blog, in time for the Thanksgiving weekend holiday shopping spree.

  42. I have picked up Tinkers quite a few times and always set it back down. I am looking for some soul food this weekend, so thank you for the great recommendation, I will read it.
    Wishing you a beautiful weekend.


I love to read your comments! Each and every one! Though I'm always reading your comments, I may not respond in the comment section. If you want to write me directly, you may do so at pamela@pamelaterry.net. Thank you for reading!