I misread War and Peace as War and Peach,
a side-effect of reaching middle age
(and being absent-minded with regard
to the whereabouts of my reading glasses).
I pick the book up, and, with outstretched arm,
begin to read. I’ve always been quite wary
of books known for their length; if measurement’s
the thing, the word we’re looking for is weight.
A weighty tome, as if the words convey
gravitas, when, in truth, they’re code for ‘few
people – if any – ever read this book.’
But back to War and Peace. Part One (it reads):
War. Part Two: Peach. Wait – peach? I go and find
my glasses, return to the book, and read
the title once again. Yes: War and Peach.
I’m curious to know how this one goes.
I dredge through lots of bloody death and torment,
exhaust my patience, and decide to skip
to Part Two: Peach. The brevity is startling:
‘The war was over; everything was peachy.’
That’s it. One sentence. Nothing more. I scan
my shelves and pick another book, at random.
Cress of the D’Urbevilles, the tragic tale
about a naïve piece of cress who ends up
inside an egg mayonnaise sandwich at
a roadside café adjacent to Stonehenge.
I close my eyes and run my hand along
the spines of unseen books. I stop and pull
one out, open my eyes, and find that I
am holding Fromage to Catalonia,
George Orwell’s personal account of bringing
cheddar and brie to the Spanish Civil War.
Below, I find The Complete Works of Shakespeare.
The book falls open at a much-read play,
Much Ado About Stuffing. I daren’t look.
Instead, I read some lines from A Midsummer
Ice-Cream. And now it’s everywhere I look:
Plate Expectations sits alongside Fried
and Prejudice, while Nineteen Eighty Flour,
Wuthering Bites, Jane Pear, Evelyn Waugh’s Scoop!
(rum and raisin edition), Tinker, Tailor,
Soldier, Pie and Madame Bovrilly have
all found a place. Professor Stephen Hawkings’
A Brief History of Lime proves to be quite
impossible; I hadn’t known that citrus
fruits were so difficult to understand
and I abandon reading after page
seven. I look at all the books I have
and contemplate the unexpected mysteries of life.