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Extra resources for A Passion for Books
One or two of the Book Society books have achieved an enduring reputation Patrick Leigh Fermor's The Violins of St. Jacques, for example but many of the others, by authors like Rumer Godden, John Masters and R. C. Hutchinson (still going long after the war), have faded into that gentle obscurity which overtakes middlebrow bestsellers. All of them seemed unreadable to me then, but not because of any precocious critical discrimination; I suspected them of being trumpery stuff before I had read a word, partly because the subscription to the Book Society was a generous Christmas present from my uncle Frank, who was thought to have no literary taste.
Eliot's 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock' than I am in the fact that so many of the phrases from that poem have stuck in my mind for more than forty years. From an Isaac Bashevis Singer story, I recall the earlock of a yeshiva student, flapping in the wind; I remember the little finger of Father Sergius, in Tolstoy's story of that name, twirling in the air after he has chopped it off in his struggle to hold sensuality at bay; I remember the hero of one of Henry Miller's novels - one of the Tropics - making love standing u p in a hallway in Paris w h e n a coin drops from his companion's purse and the Miller narrator remarks to himself, T made a mental note to pick it u p later'; in Owen Chadwick's Britain and the Vatican during the Second World War, I already suspect that, in the years to come, I shall only recall the diary entry of the British envoy to the Vatican, D'Arcy Osborne, who, unable to leave the Vatican while Italy was at war with England, noted: T reached the grave conclusion during the mass that I am nothing but a pencilled marginal note in the Book of Life.
If we attempt visually to imagine Wordsworth's experience today we shall probably find ourselves 'remembering' some pastoral scene - perhaps an advertisement - beautifully created on the TV screen, now installed among our involuntary collection of associated memories as a piece of virtual reality. The whole problem of technological and visual 'overlay' is a fascinating one, though it may be a painful one for the print addict and the bookworm, whose 'mind's eye', or 'inward eye', is trained on another kind of image than the visual.