January 31, 2016

the year in books: january

I am very happy to be joining in again this year with Laura (from Circle of Pine Trees blog), for her project, The Year in Books. My january re-read of The Lost Carving, a journey to the heart of making by David Esterly was time really well spent for me.


For any creative person, or anyone interested in creativity in others, this is a fascinating read about a master craftsman, and his experience of making. Ceramicist, Edmund de Waal, describes it as a 'strange and wonderful book, simultaneously a meditation on the nature of making and a reflection on time. It is riveting.' David Esterly is a genius woodcarver and was given the responsibility to restore the famous Grinling Gibbons woodcarvings at Hampton Court Palace after they were ruined in a devastating fire in some of the rooms there in the 1980s. Whilst this is partly a description of that intense year of work in his life, it is also far more than that - it explores the process of making, the real life experience of a quest to make well, the pain of self doubt and creative anxiety and the road to creative excellence. So much to ponder and think about, if you love making or are intrigued about human creative endeavour I think you will relish this honest and beautifully written book. I loved the following passage where he describes how a period of intense making and endeavour sharpens his appreciation of everything around him, (but there are so many others I could have chosen):

'I grew closer to the writers and painters in our acquaintance. Our conversations had a new zest to them. And I grew closer to writers and painters long dead. I seeemed to be perceiving all the arts in a more inwared way. I started hearing music with more than my ears. Even movies seemed more interesting.

The same was happening with things that weren't made by man. Glistening moss, a smudge of sunlight on a faraway hill, leaves streaming tin the wind, the thousand little things that give passing pleasure to everyone now stopped me in my tracks. Carving had pressed some celestial Enhance button. Now that I was trying to add to it, I was haunted by the beauty of the world... It was as if the old dream were true, that some single Platonic form of beauty flowed through the human and natural world. And gave a camaraderie to those who chase after it, whose hands produce it and eyes are attuned to it. You didn't need to be doing it for a living either. It's one of the best reasons for taking up the arts as an amateur: to hone your senses. Make their bevels finer, so that you can get a better angle on the beauty of the world.'

Isn't that final sentence just perfection? It leapt out of the page at me, and has been arcing around my mind ever since. I love it when writers can do that, make you see something you half knew so much more keenly, and really feel the depth of it.

I am hoping to read two books in February, On Chesil Beach by Ian Mcewan and The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon (all the others doing The Year in Books project are reading along with this one). Are you reading any good books at the moment, I'd love your recommendations please? x