Friday, December 07, 2007

Wind in the Willows

Writer friends have two books they tell me they return to, often for an annual read - Anna Karenina and Wind in the Willows.
It's an odd match, like opposites attracting. I've just read Wind in the Willows on the train up to London from Plymouth, some of England's finest countryside a suitable backdrop. It's wonderfully genial, Toad truly one of the finest characters in literature, utterly irrepressible as he puffs himself up into conceit all the time. The book is a homage to friendship. Most thrilling to me was the electric current that passed through Mole when he scented his small home after a long time away. It is a sublime passage of longing. The book has a splendid evocation of Pan too (I wonder if Kenneth Grahame had read E. M. Forster's 'A Story of a Panic', featuring Pan, from 1905, 3 years before his own book).
Grahame goes on to pin down the curative powers of writing. Rat has been dragged back from a dream in which he was set to voyage around the world. Mole seeks to restore him:

'It's quite a long time since you did any poetry,' he remarked, 'You might have a try at it this evening,instead of--well, brooding over things so much. I've an idea that you'll feel a lot better when you've got something jotted down--if it's only just rhymes.'
The Rat pushed the paper away from him wearily, but the discreet Mole took occasion to leave the room, and when he peeped in again some time later, the Rat was absorbed and deaf to the world; alternately scribbling and sucking the top of his pen. It is true that he sucked a good deal more than he scribbled; but it was joy to the Mole to know that the cure had at least begun.

I can quite see joining those friends and coming back to Wind in the Willows on a regular basis. Who knows, I might even give Anna Karenina another whirl soon.


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