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want to or have to

published: 2011-10-04

I was putting books in my cupboard and trying to organize them in some way. The problem being: my books are hard to organize. I read books the way I watch films, in no particular order and with no specific aim. I can enjoy Cunningham as much as Coetzee, and no that doesn’t mean I’ve read all of their books, nor will I ever pretend to have.
There’s a lot of books I’m supposed to have read, and this concerns mainly Dutch literature books. It’s very typical of my culture to think in terms of “supposed to” as opposed to “want to.” The million dollar question obviously being, how do I manage to write a “supposed to read” book? When I prefer to write like I read: want to.
Anyway. I scanned my cupboard looking for books I had read way before the thought even dawned on me that I might be a writer. There was only one book left: Mosquito Coast by Paul Theroux. It was soft and tattered and smelling old and dust-like. Where had all my other books gone, I wondered? Vanished, thrown away with the passing of time and my moving from country to country. Did I remember any of them? Mosquito Coast for example, what is it about? Something about an island and savages. I decided I must reread it, because somehow I remember that being the best book I ever read.

I suppose that sums up middle-aged life really, doesn’t it? Reliving things we already did but have forgotten about and then to do so consciously this time. Not necessarily because we want to, but because we feel we have to. Fall in love consciously. Party consciously. Eat consciously, hell even sleep consciously. And friendships, make friendships consciously.

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