Paper Please

Once more Marías has accompanied me into the late hours of the night, into my bed where my body takes its own nocturnal rest.  It is where I clutch his book close to my eyes as I fall deeply into the world of his characters trials and tribulations.  Having now finished my second novel by him (this one being Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me) and having read a book of his short stories, I am keen to dig ever deeper into his works of literature.

There is something captivating about the written word and the paper page, something that cannot be captured electronically.  It’s the simple collected elegance of a person’s thoughts, pressed onto the paper for all times sake until either the page crumbles or the book is burnt.  The book represents, for me, one of the fundamental pillars of humanity’s humanity, one of its real achievements in expression and deliberation.  As such, and accordingly, my room is covered in them, each surface littered with books on anatomy, literature, travel accounts and histories.  It is into books that I disappear into most nights, where I am immersed for longer than a movie, more deeply than a painting.

“You’re right about one thing though: I won’t forget those hours you talked about.  There are certain things that we should be told about immediately so that we do not, for a single second, walk about the world believing something that is utterly mistaken, when the world has utterly changed became of them.  It is simply unacceptable to think that everything is carrying on as it was, when, in fact, everything is different, turned upside down, and it’s true that, afterwards, the time we spent in error becomes unbearable to us.  How stupid I was, we think, and yet we shouldn’t find that so very painful.”

– From Tomorrow in the Battle Think on Me, by Javier Marías (published in 1994).

Foreseen Future

I recently returned to the city where I initially discovered the beautiful works of literature that Javier Marías produces.  As such it was a fitting place to come to the conclusion of Marías novel A Heart So White, a powerful and moving mediation on time and families, bonds and relationships.  If you find yourself browsing a bookstore and have never read any of his works before I heartily recommend you take a look and discover this moving writer.

As the train pulled out of the station and I left the city once more, I could only look towards my next journey, and to my next literary discovery, with joy as I thought of the power of the novel format to both move and inform the reader simultaneously.  Although my hometown now lacks bookshops I have a deep hope that one will return one day, perhaps in the not too distant future.

“…I realized that I found it very difficult to think about her and utterly impossible to think about the future, which is one of the greatest inconceivable pleasures known to anyone, if not the daily salvation of us all; to allow oneself to think vague thoughts, to let one’s thoughts drift over what will or might happen, to wonder without too much exactitude or intensity what will become of us tomorrow or in five year’s  time, to wonder about things we cannot foresee.”

A Heart So White, by Javier Marías.

Short Scenes

I love delving into new authors without really having much or any knowledge of their work or style.  Recently, on a trip to Newcastle, I had a bit of time to kill so I popped into a bookstore and browsed the shelves.  On one of the shelves I found When I Was Mortal, a recently published short story collection by Javier Marías.  I had heard of his name, indeed had looked at his novels before, but I had never read any of his work.  The front cover grabbed my attention with the beautiful photograph of the crow, elegant yet not too understated.


I am fast becoming a fan of short story collections and folk tales.  Vonnegut showed me the way and Márquez taught me the value of them, Marías is now enticing me to know more.  The short story is a wonderful form, one that is much maligned in the modern printing world.  Of course how could it not be?  Where once it was a mainstay in helping the author to produce work and maintain an income whilst working on novels, it is now rare for authors to be able to earn a living from short stories as a sole main income.  Only stable authors have collections of short stories out in the shops.

Of course this is largely due to the internet and the relatively dying off of short story magazines in recent decades.  But where there is a will there is a way.  New independent magazines are appearing all the time online and in hard copy, and you can contribute to them, as I have done.  The Paperbook Collective is one such example: full of photography, poetry, reviews, short stories and short scenes.  I also got wind that another friend is looking to set up an interactive online magazine full of music, photography, poems, short pieces and essays.  It is something I look forward to contributing to.  Even now as I type ideas fizz and pop into my head, short scenes stolen from real life or dreamt up in fantasy.

In the meantime I heading back to the world of Mariás.  Keep on writing, keep on dreaming.  (But, perhaps most importantly for me, I must keep on editing!).