My next work of prose (after the green book) is a book about the consolations of literature. A sort of cross between Anne Fadiman’s Ex Libris and Alain de Botton’s The Consolations of Philosophy, my book, Reading Slowly at the End of Time is, in my mind, a tongue-in-cheek self help book for living the right life and doing the right things in an age when we may be running out of time to work that out. My argument will be, of course, that everything one needs to know about love, say, and the journey of sorrow, and the restoration of hope, one learns by reading books. To read is to take part, much more intensely than it might seem, in a conversation about who one is, and what the world really is, and what it might be if one could be more like one’s best self more of the time—the self one is as a reader. My book’s going to try to argue that far more of the magic books work on us happens through the telling (and our listening) than through the story. The real narrative of the best books is not the story they purport to tell but the way a good reader is changed into someone much more truly like themselves than they were before they picked up the book.
But Reading Slowly is, of course, also a wonderful excuse for me to reread and be changed all over again by my favourite books—novels, fables, poems, memoirs, the works. I haven’t yet decided what all of them are. The hardest part will be leaving most of them out.
I plan to work on this book over the next couple of years. Faster, if a publisher gets interested.