Alongside a Narrative

Joys of the day

Joys of the day

27 September 2013
4:00 pm

Edinburgh

T. —

Some morning listening included towards the end of this letter — I love this song anyway, but James makes it great, and the beautiful interplay of light and narrative makes it even better.

Do you know about the “Marshmallow Test” that came out of Stanford in the 1960s and 1970s? It has become a well-recited discussion of restraint and success, specifically about delaying gratification.

Here is a great illustration of the experiment (I love the reactive faces of children):

It makes me think about how I purge on books sometimes — consuming books whole, in their entirety. Especially if it’s the first time I’ve read them. Just sweeping through the whole thing in one fury of concentration.

But I’m also thinking of the books that I have had to ration for myself. The self-restraint it takes to put the book down, to step away, to muse over, to consider and to wait. How it stretches out the story and the experience of reading.

This happens with letters that people write me. I want to read them all in one go, but I’ve found that if I ration them out — if I practice self-restraint — then I can end up both reading their letter and writing back to them. It’s a kind of response alongside a narrative, a way that can open letters up into being conversations enacted on paper (which the best letters are). I got two packages today — a wonderful book from my Aunt Katie: Art Made From Books, and a notebook of letters from MacKenzie! I’m trying to ration out both of them, for their own reasons.

*

*

It is a fleece blanket — cup of tea — soft music — long book — kind of day.

Andrew asked what I wanted to do this weekend, then said he was actually excited to get some drawing and design work done. I told him I was looking forward to catching up with my Coursera homework =).

Good morning,
M

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