Sigh. I don’t know if it’s the time of year, or my frame of mind, but I’m currently wracked with book nostalgia.
Book nostalgia, in case you’ve never experienced it, is a sentimental longing for books previously read. Those books that speak to the soul, for various reasons. Familiar books. Comforting books. Books about certain themes, or with a certain style or tone to them. My book nostalgia has arrived with the spring and I am deeply in the grip of it.
It began with the beautiful light, which made me think of The Enchanted April. ‘It’s almost April,‘ I thought. ‘I must read it again. I always read it in April.‘
I do not always read it in April, but it felt true.
And with my mind enraptured with wisteria and castles, the wonder if Italy in the spring, I also found myself urgently desiring to re-read The Enchantment of Lily Dahl, because like castles and wisteria, it’s an enchanting book. Enchanting but strange, like a twisted but compulsive dream.
And then I started thinking of The Body Artist and the compulsive, obsessive, attention to detail. The way the whole book reads like a dance, but a cold dance. A dance of clinical precision.
I think about Pessoa’s Book of Disquiet, with its melancholy, its saudade, its beautiful, soul-ripping beauty. Which is so like mono no aware – the melancholy beauty of things passing – which Cees Nooteboom uses so beautifully in his brief novella Mokusei another book I’ve been thinking about on and off for days.
And I think I am yearning for books which I know are somehow rapturous, transcendent, which will lift me out of the everything else – the mundanity, insanity, of Brexit, of Donald Trump, of ‘Russian interference’, of ‘fake news’ and depressing real news, of tragedy and racism and mass murder, of knife crime, of the missing and the sad and the desperately poor, of our ruined world, choked in plastic.
Nostalgia is a disease because it carries us away from what is real into a world in which everything is comfortable and comforting, even the uncomfortable and the discomforting, because it is familiar.
Then again, the new is not necessarily better and there is much to be said for those books which stir the soul in a way which is sure, which speaks to something of our experience that remains true whilst all else seems to be shifting and unsure.
Maybe it is just the weather. I wonder. Does anyone else suffer from book nostalgia? Which books do you crave?