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The Pequod
Dr Alistair Brown
Associate lecturer in English Literature; researching video games and literature

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Through exploring the psychopathology of Capgras syndrome, in which a patient mistakes a loved one for an imposter, The Echo Maker offers a sustained meditation on the ways in which we project our own problems onto other people. As a reflection on the mysteries of consciousness, the novel offers some interesting if not especially new insights into the fuzzy boundaries between scientific and literary interpretations of the mind. Read more

Reading at Night

Pressed flower-like between linen leaves
day slows lean and long to
that tempo of beat-matched breathing.

You perch on the edge,
Toning to rest
Taming the night.
Both pressed and impressionable,
My day is hours and years younger than yours.

We share the same space between page and voice -
Mind slowing, mind making voice -
Your voice, my ears, our thoughts.

Mine fervid, unrestrained by convention,
Yours, intelligent, forgetting how to imagine
And in me remembering how it was to forget.

Curled comma-like I watch your fingers curl the page
Or play the page’s pattern on the ceiling.

Then the leaves snap
And the resistant tug-back of the leaves
Turns me.
It is your breath which fires me.
Face open, that gesture, and
I am reading thoughts now.

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About This Poem

Though I find it impossible to answer that typical party question of what my favourite book is, I always maintain that the most important book I ever read, or will ever read, was Michelle Magorian's Goodnight Mr. Tom. It is the moment I identify as being when I realised that books could provide more than the simple and optimistic resolutions of fairy tales or adventure stories. It was my first experience of the ambiguities of literature, and it moved me to tears.

I say I read it but if I remember rightly it was read to me by my Dad. If I am convinced about the significance of the book itself, I am even more certain of the importance of the way it was received. Dad, always busy at work and at home, would drop everything at a certain hour every night to read to me (until I was about eight or nine, when he would instead take a trip to the library every Saturday and return with an armful of books for me to devour myself over the coming week). The stories of Hiawatha, King Arthur, The Hobbit, and Goodnight Mr. Tom all came to me through the spoken voice. It was this experience of connection, the intimate society of the book and the reader, the word and the voice and the imagination playing together, that emphasised, as Goodnight Mr. Tom did even further, the potential of literature to act not only as a form of escape from this world, but to resonate within it, changing my structures of thought such that today, when I lie in bed or when I am at my desk practicing my profession of literary studies, I can only look back on those moments as vitally significant. It is this connection between past and present, between book and voice and mind, that I wanted to express in this poem, in a tone very different, but not paradoxically so, from the somewhat dismissive one of the previous poem about literary art.

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This page was published on June 15, 2008 | Keywords: reading, bedtime, night, love

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