Reading The Blue Clerk, 111

“Verso 28”

You are taught that the pleasure of a good book—a good book—abides in return. Every time you read it, they say, you find something else, a point where your imagination is halted, and expanded. It is not that you find “something new,” as the language has it, but that the points of halt and wonder multiply.

That is what they say.

I return to all books for the pleasure of skimming, to feel surrounded by something familiar. And, perhaps, at times, something stops me.

I mean this: I do not want to think of reading as mining and extraction, as slicing deeper and deeper into a word to find the marrow that will ignite my imagination this time.

The ground smelled like ploughed earth outside the Robarts Library and the clerk thought of the books inside and how, collected there in stacks, they have returned to their original selves as trees and earth, and how difficult it must be for them to be wrenched open again and again to be read even as they are returning, reaching through each other and the concrete boat around them.

When it rains, there is petrichor, the scent with which the earth is seduced by the rain and that, in turn, seduces us, at the meeting of earth and rain. We crave—I crave—petrichor. The scent as well as the wet. Cracks in the ground, where dry has nurtured seed, seal when it rains, cradling seed differently.

Is this analogy?

That to read is to return to something like the familiarity of petrichor, a seduction between word and sense, imagination and flesh. A book is opened. A chapter read.

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