Friday, April 29, 2011

Last Saturday morning, I was at Kinokuniya at the Literature Section. Seeing as it was still early, the place was virtually empty, save for a few people browsing.

I suddenly recalled those Saturday afternoons more than ten years ago, spent in the children's section with my sister, poring over books like Malory Towers and The Naughtiest Girl and St Clare's and The Magic Faraway Tree, while our parents went shopping. Those few hours were magical, something we looked forward to every single week. We'd sit in the corner quietly, so immersed in our own private worlds that we shut out everything, ignoring the kids who ran about playing hide and seek or the toddlers curled up in their prams whining or the frazzled parents trying to read a story to their children. It was just us and our books.And then in secondary school, I don't know why but I stopped going to bookstores altogether, and went to libraries instead. Somehow it just wasn't the same. But in college, I got to rediscover the joys of spending time in Kino again.

I trawled through the shelves, surrounded by rows and rows of books, and I felt I could stay inside this place forever. Idly, I ran my fingertips over the spines, and randomly picked up a book, weighing the thickness of it in my hands, then carefully opening it and inhaling the scent of crisp new paper, and I thought, ' This is what it is to be happy'.

I looked at the cover again. The book was called ' The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath'. My eyes fell upon the words, and then I found myself holding my breath and not quite knowing why. To quote the author herself, from The Bell Jar, ' Everything she said was like a secret voice speaking straight out of my own bones' , and ' I wanted to crawl in between those black lines of print...and go to sleep'. For a long time, I had been struggling to give a voice to the thoughts and feelings that had been floating hazily about in my head but no matter how hard I tried to put it down, it all came out as an incoherent jumble, haphazardly strung together. And there it was, so accurately articulated out and penned down so lyrically and eloquently.

Quickly, I thumbed through the book, stumbling through it, flipping page after page after page, trying to take in as much as possible. Certain phrases, sentences, images leaped out at me, and I took it all in hungrily, rolling the words around on my tongue, clinging on to the remnants of words like they were physical sustenance, a form of spiritual nourishment. It was a privilege to have an glimpse into the inner workings of the mind of the great Sylvia Plath, and be given the intimate details of her life story.

So this is how I ended up buying my own copy of the following two books

Some quotes that struck me so far:

" I love people. Everybody. I love them, I think, as a stamp collector loves his collection. Every story, every incident, every bit of conversation is raw material for me. My love's not impersonal yet now wholly subjective either. I would like to be everyone, a cripple, a dying man, a whore, and then come back to write about my thoughts, my emotions as that person. But I am not omniscient. I have to live my life, and it is the only one I'll ever have. And you cannot regard your own life with objective curiosity all the time..."

" With me, the present is forever, and forever is always shifting, flowing, melting. This second is life. And when it is gone it is dead. But you can't start over with each new second. You have to judge by what is dead. It's like quicksand...hopeless from the start. A story, a picture can renew sensation a little, but not enough, not enough. Nothing is real except the present and already, I feel the weight of centuries smothering me. Some girl a hundred years once lived as I do. And she is dead. I am the present, but I know I, too, will pass. The high moment, burning flash, come and are gone, continuous quicksand. And I don't want to die."

" God, but life is loneliness, despite all the opiates, despite the shrill tinsel gaiety of ' parties' with no purpose, despite the false grinning faces we all wear. And when at last you find someone to whom you feel you can pour out your soul, you stop in shock at the words you utter- they are so rusty, so ugly, so meaningless and feeble from being kept in the small cramped dark inside you so long. Yes there is joy, fulfillment and companionship- but the loneliness of the soul in it's appalling self-consciousness, is horrible and overpowering-"

"Click-click. Clip-Clip. Tick-tick. Snip-snip.. And it goes on and on. I could smash the measured clicking sound that haunts me-draining away life, and dreams, and idle reveries. Hard, sharp ticks. I hate them. Measuring through infinite space, cogs and wheels. Can you understand? Somone, somewhere, can you understand me a little, love me a little? For all my despair, for all my ideals, for all that- I love life. But it is hard, and I have so much-so very much to learn-"

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