And so it comes to pass – the move to downstairs living is complete (give or take a lick of paint – on the walls, not me), all the junk is junked, my new website is published, I have a nicely organised ‘to do’ list, my car is replaced, and I have Quoth the Raven casting his ceramic eye over me as I sit at my (new) desk,
All is well with the world. Every item has its place and more importantly everything is in its place. Now all I need to do is sleep for about a week.
I put off sitting here to write this until I had completed all the little jobs that had been mounting up as the move took shape – on the grounds that having something to look forward to would ensure that fitting a new front door bell (and agreeing with my wife which chime to select), putting Death on Binky in his place, gathering up all the scattered tools I’ve been using every evening this last week, setting out my collection of ‘books that inspired me…’ on one of the new shelves (which, by the way, are still attached to the wall), and buying the lick of paint (35 quid a lick…) did not seem quite such onerous tasks.
Naturally, now I’m finally able to sit here and type, my mind is so frazzled I can barely focus, I must remember to offer a small sacrifice to the auto-correct function at sun-rise.
Talking of which (sun-rises, not fried nerves), I was going to scribble a few words about how we should all be looking forward to the days to come. Nothing specific (in my case anyway) but a more general look at how having some goals for the coming days can help all round abilities. For a few weeks now I’ve been in ‘spring mode’ – setting myself targets and organising my life in general – and I’m rather surprised at what I have been able to achieve despite my MS-related limitations.
The change of living arrangements has been the most ‘drastic’ of all of the things that I have been busily organising – and achieving – and to be honest, at first it seemed to me like some sort of ‘surrender’ to my condition. As the days have passed, though, and I have arranged the new rooms to my taste, I have come to view the change of elevation as a massive chance to get things sorted out to my own preferences.
The result is a living space that is full of the things that my diminished mobility allows me – sounds, visions, books, wall-prints, gadgets, whisky… all the things that are important to me these days (not that whisky should be though of as an ‘important’ thing. Vital, maybe, but not important.
One of the things I have undertaken which has been most enchanting has been liberating the twenty books from my old library of titles that have in some way or another been most important or meaningful to me at various points in my life (and no, none of them are written in Ogham script). It was one of the little organisational ‘exercises’ I set myself – an idea that I had for one of the shelves which I thought might be entertaining. And it certainly has been.
For the record, here are some of the titles…
The Light Fantastic – the Terry Pratchett book that got me hooked on 30 years of laughs from that author whose death few weeks ago left me feeling so sad. And whose works are littered all over my new living space (shaped a little like an ‘L’).
The Rats – a James Herbert novel set near where I grew up, and my first taste of the horror genre. It began a real admiration of his work and hooked the then teenage me almost as much as females did.
The Wasp Factory – my introduction to the amazing Iain Banks and the first book to truly shock me with its amazing – and yet horribly believable – twist in the denouement.
First Among Sequels – the book that confirmed to me that Jasper Fforde could do it again and again and again – make me laugh and make my brain try to turn itself inside out.
The Secret Lemonade Drinker – Guy Bellamy’s proof to me that fiction could be as funny and as sad as life ever is.
The Day of the Triffids – My first ‘grown up’ book and one that proved to me, through John Wyndham’s words, that a story in a book need not have a conclusive ending.
Twilight Eyes – Dean Koontz’s lesson in how we should not view what we perceive to be normal as something safe (or even normal itself when you see beneath the surface).
Carrie – the first work of an American author that appealed to me despite the distance between our cultures – and how, as Stephen King so neatly demonstrates, stories can include references to the familiar.
Resurrection Dreams – a true horror by Richard Layman that introduced me to more extreme mental violence. Simply creepy from cover to cover.
Quite Ugly One Morning – the first of Christopher Brookmyre’s thrillers I read, and which brought dark humour to the genre for me.
Paddy Clarke, Ha Ha Ha – Roddy Doyle’s delightful ‘real-life’ drama which was, I’m amazed to say, included in some secondary school courses, despite the very ‘natural’ language some of the characters employ (all f*^”ing true).
Let’s Go Play at the Adams – Mendal Johnson’s eerie horror which taught me that children can be even more frightening than many adults.
Magic – the first book I read as a result of seeing the film adaptation first. The film scared me a little (who isn’t creeped out by ‘traditional’ ventriloquists’ dummies?) – but William Golding’s book was even creepier.
The Gun Seller – Proof that a great comedic mind really can write a thoroughly entertaining book – Hugh Laurie is more than Doctor House, the Prince Regent or half of Fry & Laurie,
Lord Foul’s Bane – the first in Stephen Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant series, and the first ‘fantasy’ tale that got me really thinking (and learning), and transporting me to an incredible land.
Something Wicked This Way Comes – Ray Bradbury’s creepy tale that had me constantly thinking back to my own childhood.
Books of Blood – my introduction to the extreme horror of Clive Barker in a series of tales that are both horrific and fascinating – car-crash fiction at its very best.
Rancid Aluminium – James Hawes quite brilliant thriller-cum-real-life fiction that is steeped in the darkest humour.
American Gods – the first book that had me reading non-stop from dawn to the following dawn and one that confirmed to me that Neil Gaiman has the most amazing imagination.
Roofworld – a book by the brilliant Christopher Fowler that nearly cost me a tooth after an incident with a lamp-post in London where I was working at the time I read this first. You need to read it to understand why…
So there you have it, the twenty that made it onto the ‘shelf of literary meaning’. An eclectic mix, and one that will probably change over time (as in over the next week or two, never mind beyond). It was hard enough narrowing the list down to those particular choices – now please, please, please, don’t ask me to choose the absolutely most meaningful one. Or three. Or five. Or nineteen…
I might just re-read one of them soon, though. If I can ever choose which one, that is…