My parents owned six books between them. Two of those were Bibles and the third was a concordance to the Old and New Testaments. The fourth was The House At Pooh Corner. The fifth，The Chatterbox Annual 1923 and the sixth, Malory’s Morte d’Artliur.
I found it necessary to smuggle books in and of the house and I cannot claim too much for the provision of an outside toilet when there is no room of one’s own. It was on the toilet that I first read Freud and D. H. Lawrence, and perhaps that was the best place, after all. We kept a rubber torch hung on the cistern, and I had to divide my money from a Saturday job, between buying books and buying batteries. My mother knew exactly how long her Ever Readys would last if used only to illuminate the hap that separated the toilet paper from its .
Once I had tucked the book back down my knickers to get it indoors again, I find somewhere to hide it, and anyone with a single bed, standard size, and paperbacks, standard size, will discover that seventy seven can be accommodated per layer under the mattress. But as my collection grew, I began to worry that my mother might notice that her daughter’s bed was rising visibly. One day she did. She burned everything.
I had been brought up to memorize very long Bible passages, and when I left home and was supporting myself so that I could continue my education, I fought off loneliness and fear by reciting. In the funeral parlor I whispered Donne to the embalming fluids and Marvell to the corpses. Later, I found that Tennyson’ s ‘Lady of Shalott’ had a soothing, because rhythmic, effect on the mentally disturbed. Among the disturbed I numbered myself at that time.
The healing power of art is not a rhetorical fantasy. Fighting to keep language, language became my sanity and my strength. It still is, and I know of no pain that art cannot assuage. For some, music, for some, pictures, for me, primarily, poetry, whether found in poems or in prose, cuts through noise and hurt, opens the wound to clean it, and then gradually teaches it to heal itself. Wounds need to be taught to heal themselves.
The psyche and the spirit do not share the instinct of damaged body. Healing is automatically triggered nor is danger usually avoided. Since we put ourselves in the way of hurt it seems logical to put ourselves in the way of healing. Art has more work to do than ever before but it can do that work. In a self-destructive society like our own, it is unsurprising that art as a healing force is despised.
For myself, when I returned to my to my borrowed room night after night, and there were my books, I felt relief and exuberance, not hardship and exhaustion. I intended to avoid the fate of Jude the Obscure, although a reading of that book was a useful warning. What I wanted did not belong to me by right and whilst it could not be refused tome in quite same way, we still have subtle punishments for anyone who insists on what they are and what they want. Walled inside the little space marked out for by family and class, it was the limitless world of imagination that it possible for me to scale the sheer face of other people’s assumptions. Inside books there is perfect space and it is that space which allows the reader to escape from the problems of gravity.