There’s a book on my to-read shelf — I say shelf, it’s more of a cubby hole, two rows deep with books and a couple more wedged in across in the top. Some are slender volumes of non-fiction, essays on the pains of modern life. There’s a big fat autobiography, not something I normally read but the subject interests me. There’s a hardback or two but the majority of them are mass-market fiction paperbacks, snapped up in the heady days of Waterstones’ 3 for 2. The hidden row, not hiding so much as unseen thanks to the compulsory double stacking that happens on all my bookshelves, are reference books, how-to-write-a-novel-with-exercises, grammars, dictionaries and other paraphernalia of the budding novelist.
Back to the book. THE book. The one I started off with. From my usual spot on the sofa I can’t read the title, and to be honest there are so many that I’ve forgotten what awaits me. But there it goes again, catching my eye. There’s some foil trim on the spine. Just a flash at the top and two shapes, stars perhaps. In this overcast, dim light of an early autumn afternoon it shines out. It’s probably a deep turquoise blue when not reflecting the light, my brain tells me, but out of the corner of your eye, when you’re not really looking, it’s the phosporescent green of the hands on an old alarm clock. I’m sure it’s that, the memory of the slim crescent moon that used to shine out at me during the long, dark nights of my childhood that means today I will choose to read this book next.
And yet, reading the book will stop the glow. The book will sit on a bedside table, or perch on the arm of the sofa, or be tucked into my handbag — all places where the light won’t catch it in quite the same way and my childhood alarm clock will be left to settle back into the murky depths of memory.
Perhaps I’ll read the autobiography next instead.