What does a man with a fracture do when he has no rear window or telescope?
There are readers who neglect their work, families and food in order to finish a suspenseful chapter. I belong in that camp. Saar came home from work one winter evening long ago to find only one light on and my head bent over “The Moonstone”. “What's for dinner?” he asked. I looked up bug-eyed and said: “I'm reading a Wilkie Collins novel, and I can't put it down.” He meekly went to put some rice on. Saar himself belongs to the other camp. He reads books when he has the time, when there are no articles to be edited, no younger writers to be horse-whispered, and no old pals on the other end of the phone. He likes his literature at the end of a 10-foot pole, and generally reads news, reportage, writing manuals, essays on journalism, and books about mind, memory and language.
But once in a while he gets a proper break that gives him the time to read literature. Two decades ago it was a hairline fracture on his wrist. Saar travelled by chartered bus to the INS building on Parliament Street for a month-and-a-half, and he often got a seat on account of his plaster cast. So he read on his long commute. Back then, most of the books in our house were borrowed from the library. I was on an Anthony Burgess marathon, so that is what Saar had to hand. He read “A Clockwork Orange”, “The Doctor Is Sick”, “The Pianoplayers” and one of the Enderby books. Then he moved on to Alexander Solzhenitsyn's “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovitch” and William Golding's “Pincher Martin”. Halfway through “Lord of the Flies”, the wrist healed, and Parliament was into a new session, so Saar set aside his reading.
Now Saar has a fractured foot. We're in a new century now, and he can't escape his cell phone or laptop, but a break is a break. From our present much larger collection of books, he first picked out an old favourite, Roy Peter Clark's “Writing Tools”, to read while waiting for the doctor to look at his foot. Then came “The Glamour of Grammar”. Our shelves are thick with such books (“Usage and Abusage”, “Sin and Syntax”, “Lapsing into a Comma”), but Saar is now gingerly dipping his toe in literature again.
I have put some interesting things in his way, now that he can't escape by way of a brisk walk. He liked Marjane Satrapi's wicked-sexy “Embroideries” and her more sombre “Persepolis”, both about the life of women in Teheran, though he is not likely to overdo the women's lit thing.
Still, when I left my “Pride and Prejudice” out one day, having just got to where Mr. Bennet first calls on Mr. Bingley, Saar picked it up, “to see what all the fuss is about”. Why tussle over a book I have read 30 times, and will read 30 times more? I meekly went to put the rice on.