Reading books to my daughter revives my appetite for expression. Like someone visiting old haunts after an absence I read books that I have read before, books that I love, and when I do I find them changed: they give the impression of having contained all along everything that I have gone away to learn. I begin to find them everywhere, in pages that I thought familiar: prophecies of what was to come, pictures of the very place in which I now stand, and yet which I look on with no spark of recognition. I wonder how I could have read so much and learned so little. I have stared at these words like the pots and pans, the hoarded gold of a previous civilization, immured in museum glass. Could it be true that one has to experience in order to understand? I have always denied this idea, and yet of motherhood, for me at least, it seems to be the case. I read as if I were reading letters from the dead, letters addressed to me but long unopened; as if by reading I were bringing back the vanished past, living it again as I would like to live every day of my life again, perfectly and without misunderstanding.
18 July 2008
From Rachel Cusk's A Life's Work: On Becoming a Mother (see Literary Mama for an excellent review):