Kian found it easy, three years after leaving this city, to rebuild it virtually inside his head. He could imagine a walk from the government housing complex in which he lived, taking the well-groomed pathway that ran between blocks of flats like a crack between paving slabs, out onto the road outside, then following the grey pillars of the subway line to the nearest station where he would board, and watch each stop go past him like the page of a photo album until he reached his destination. The effect was like gaming on a console: everything was photo-perfect but crisply defined, a little too clean to be quite real. And here there were no monsters to fight, no obstacles to overcome, only the slow unwinding of the ground beneath his feet. Each time he imagined a journey, he thought of a different destination, and eventually arrived without effort, without incident.’

– ‘September Ghosts’, in Heaven Has Eyes by Philip Holden

Reader’s Advice

What would it be like to be a secondary school literature student again? When that thought crossed my mind, I briefly thought about whether I might have anything useful to tell the younger me.

The first idea was simply, ‘Be a good reader.’ This seemed a clear and simple enough behest – yet a challenging enough one – for someone apt to over-analysis.

The second idea seemed more dangerous. I was tempted to tell me, ‘Think about what reader each text demands.’ It is at once so easy to get wrong, yet so automatic for us to do, and so crucial to any experience of ‘getting it’. But I also liked how it contained the potentially productive problem of figuring out how to be one of the many ‘good readers’ it is possible to be, and perhaps even how to be several at once. (I guess I still think there’s value in trying.)

Just a thought – in this case, actually, about what one could or should be thinking about…