Reading about Knud Rasmussen on the Tube
A good book will, of course, close its tentacles around you and suck you into a parallel universe. There is, nevertheless, something great about maintaining the connection between the fictional world set out on the pages and the ‘real’ world in which the reading takes place.
In my personal experience, it was while travelling in Turkey that I started marvelling over Orhan Pamuk’s books, namely ‘The New Life‘, which is all about movement, twists and turns in small town Turkey. The sublime architecture of my ‘old’ university in Aarhus formed the backdrop of most of Svend Aage Madsen‘s detours into the realm of magic. Javier Marias described the farcical nature of Oxford so well that the book itself became almost too predictable (or was it the other way round?).
In short, to me the best books are not necessarily self-contained universes, rather they are merely pointers to or reminders of personal spaces and experiences.
All the nonsense above is just a long-winded introduction to another mechanism for enhancing the reading experience: seeking out contexts that are completely contrary to the settings described in the book.
I recently finished reading the biography of Denmark’s greatest Arctic explorer, Knud Rasmussen. The vast desolate spaces of Greenland took on even greater depths in the depths of the London Tube, close to bursting with 8.15am commuters during an involuntary, non-permanent marriage with public transport whilst I got my bike fixed.
Giles Coren has something to say about books and places, too.