Episode 48: Sarah Salway prescribes Kenneth White’s WINTER WOOD & INTELLECTUAL GATHERING

You don’t need another self-help book (apart from this one, perhaps?). It’s good to know though that you, me, Sarah Salway and David Foster Wallace still buy them.  (I only include DFW as a sanctioning-device. If DFW digs something, doesn’t that make it less of a guilty secret? Notable exception: suicide.)

I still wince a little at the memory of buying a copy of Paul McKenna’s I Can Mend Your Broken Heart in a shopping mall, and catching the bookseller’s eye as I handed across my purchase for scanning. For some reason I then engaged him in a conversation (!?) about McKenna’s collection of tricks and “techniques” for papering over the cracks of the leaky heart, when  I really just wanted to skedaddle away with it in a brown paper bag. Let me save you a bob or two by saying that Paul McKenna cannot mend your broken heart, nor make you smarter, happier, richer, thinner, stop worrying, or give you instant confidence. Which is not to say he doesn’t offer a certain amount of solace and skilful action in his pages. But we want more than that don’t we? I find that “more” in shared reading. In a couple of minutes I’m switching off the computer and setting off for the second day of The Reader Organisation’s  conference on reading and well-being.

Editing the podcast you’re just about to hear, I was reminded again and again, what this means in practice. If proof be needed as to the pleasure and vivification of well-being that a couple of well-chosen poems read aloud and then discussed over a cup of tea and some macaroons can bring, this is all the proof I need.

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