Letters of Life

On Reading, Books, and Kim Basinger


I am such a slow reader these days that I wish I were Kim Basinger.

To be exact, when she played My Stepmother Is An Alien (1988).

There’s this scene in the movie where she runs her fingertips over the spines of books over Dan Aykroyd’s fireplace. She pauses, fingertips over a Shakespeare anthology and after a few seconds, gives a deep sigh, as if hearing in her mind a musical sonnet.

She pauses again over the spine of actress Shirley MacLaine’s Out On A Limb (1986), an autobiography of her spiritual journey into New Age. Kim Basinger lets out a derisive, high-pitched laugh. Editorializing aside, this is how I wish I could get through books these days; running my fingers over book spines.

I read a Peter S Beagle novel and while it is page upon page of brilliant, truthful prose (of adventures on the road intertwined with insights on friendship and sketches of encounters with strangers).

He describes the cold and vulnerability travelling on his little scooter on the open highway when spring is not yet come.

The miles strain by on the speedometer. . . No cars pass me in either direction; the only signs of life are cattle grazing a long way off, barely visible in the mist. I stare at them with real, venomous envy, for they seem not to mind the wind at all. There is only one spot in me that is as warm and placid as those cattle, and that is the part that knows quite surely that I will always be cold, that there will always be a wind hunting through me, and that I will always be hurrying before the coming darkness in search of a place that is not there. One other thing about paranoia. It’s warm. It’s never warm enough, but it’s warm. — Peter S Beagle, I See By My Outift (1964)

When I get up and put this book down to get dressed to go out, or do stuff around the house, I look at another book lying on the window seat neglected and wonder when I’ll ever finish Karen Blixen’s Out of Africa.¬†The Serengeti is slowly fading from my mind.

There’s a queue of books, one which I have to read with a notebook present and a pen in hand. Another has to do with how the brain learns. This is assuming my own doesn’t keel over first.

Then there’s Vogue magazine, whose sleek photography, styling, fashion and trends I mustn’t neglect. I just wish the print wasn’t so small. I feel stupid thumbing through the glossy pages and not being able to read anything in there.

In a library we are surrounded by many hundreds of dear friends imprisoned by an enchanter in paper and leathern boxes. -Ralph Waldo Emerson, writer and philosopher (1803-1882)

Wouldn’t it be magical and appropriate to set these dear friends free with a twirl of the fingers? We all liked Kim Basinger, despite what we read about her tumultous private life, because in the movies, she’s beautiful and smart and funny and lights up the whole screen in the dark.

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