This Christmas I received a very special present from my husband. After 23 years I guess he knows a thing or two about how to get me excited and he knows just the man to do it. He also knew, as we must all surely know by now, that this was an austerity Christmas. A time to reuse, recyle and act with restraint. And so, armed with a limited budget and a detailed knowledge of his artsy doc wife’s weaknesses, he found himself in one of London’s second hand bookstores.
Like so many shops this Christmas it was quieter than usual but nevertheless offered up its treasures to those who came in search. And so, whilst other wives were unpacking shiny new sweet-smelling parcels, I found myself unpacking a decidedly musky recyled gift that I suspect had had numerous other owners. I refer of course to the first edition copy of Emil Zola’s novel Paris, first published in English in 1898, the front cover of which is lovingly reproduced with this blog. For that-love-is surely what one feels for a favourite author. An intense, passionate, smouldering passion that will not be sated, that races to the finish only to yearn for more, to begin again.
I first found Zola some 30 years ago when I needed a post Hardy fix and I’d recommend him to anyone who already loves Hardy’s gritty realism. We lost track of each other for a few years- years dominated by sleepless hospital nights followed by sleepless child filled nights-and then rediscovered each other some twenty years later at a time when I first began to savour the pleasure of rereading past loves. The pleasures are reassuringly familiar and yet offer surprising new insights. There’s nothing to pay and everything to gain. And for anyone who wants to try and understand what on earth is going on in the world at the moment then Zola’s novel Money wouldn’t be a bad place to start.
So go on all you artsy docs, crack out that case of books. Fnd out how you and your beloved ones have matured. My guess is that you won’t be disappointed. And, if you’re not the jealous type, why not tell me about the literary men and women in your lives. What it is about them that makes you keep going back for more? Open your heart, your secret’s are safe with me. Trust me: I’m an artsy doc.
This artsy docs blog posting was first published on doc2doc, the BMJ’s social networking site for doctors, on 28th December 2008.