I’m reading The Child that Books Built: A life in reading by Francis Spufford.

He begins the book by describing his addiction to stories and to reading. He was astonished that although Smaug, the dragon in The Hobbit, hurtled through his mind, it didn’t show to outsiders. He would sneak into bookstores and read books bit by bit and walk out carefully, full of the latest story:

“Other people can’t see what so permeates me, I accept that, but why can’t they? It fills me. The imbalance between what’s felt and what shows means I carry the sensory load of fiction like a secret….while I’m still freshly distended with my cargo of images, while I’m a fish tank with a new shoal in me, with one aspect of myself I enjoy the power of being different behind my unbetraying face. If I hung about stoned in front of a police station, solemn on the outside and spiraling chemically within…I wouldn’t be getting a different buzz.”

Books don’t mesermize me like this anymore. But I remember it. I remember inhabiting a story so intensely that the Smaugs of my books seemed in danger of breaking into the real world at moment.


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