Earworms, those songs that drill down into your brain and just won’t go away. Today I have had a little birdhouse in my soul and in an attempt to move it on to a birdhouse elsewhere I put on this . Old I know, but I do know more of the words and I like the philosophy. Now I have a free electric birdhouse flying free in my mind. Not a great result.
However, it did get me thinking about the book that becomes the bee in my bonnet. Is it possible for bits of books to worm their way into your mind and take over for days at a time? I don’t mean quotes, they are too specific. That is the equivalent of knowing all the words and being able to sing the entire song from beginning to end complete with instrumentals. No, I mean a visual of a scene that lodges just behind your eyes and occasionally blurs your sight.
One of my first wordworms was from Noel Streatfield’s autobiography A Vicarage Family . The scene at the end of the book when John comes home from the war and meets Victoria in the garden. The death of innocence. It was the beginning of my fascination with World War One. From the military strategies (I read Clausewitz On War in my early twenties, followed rapidly by The Seven Pillars of Wisdom ) to the personal testimonies both published and in the stacks at the Imperial War Museum and National Army Museum.
This was followed by Render Unto Kaiser. I don’t imagine anyone outside South Africa has read this. I went to work in The Transkei in 1981, I was 18. I was naive and full of hope and optimism. I left full of hope and optimism but it was tempered by reality, by poverty, by death and by a realism that my white, middle class, western ideals were not necessarily appropriate nor shared. The book holds the distinction of being the only one banned by the Matanzima brothers. Hardly surprising, it is an eloquent expose of a puppet regime.
The next was The Poisonwood Bible , to be honest the entire book reverberates around my head on a regular basis. I think I bang on about it probably rather too much. It is my favourite book, my desert island book. It is both a tragedy and a beacon of hope. I reread it on a regular basis. I cannot let it go and it won’t let me go.
There is clearly a war/suppression theme going on for the final wordworm comes from River of Time by Jon Swain. If the First World War fascinated me then the Indochina wars gripped me. I watched every film (both good and awful), read every book, devoured every documentary and can still remember watching the news reports as a child as my father patiently explained who everyone was. The chapter when he leaves his girlfriend to return to Phnom Penh knowing he cannot stay away is both heartbreaking and at the same time, for me an idealistic young girl who wanted to change the world – downright bloody fantastic.
So now I look at my own book (s). Is there anything there that could worm its way into a reader’s mind for life? Timesmudger – sadly not. Dorothy, well there I hope there is. She is in my mind all the time. I can’t shift the bugger. But will she hold the same power over anyone else?