I want it, but not yet
Clair Wills reviews Claire-Louise Bennett's Checkout 19 in the London Review of Books.
“Claire-Louise Bennett is unpacking her library. Yes, she is. The books are not yet on the shelves. In fact, she doesn’t really have any shelves (she prefers to let the books pile up around her, a habit that gets her into trouble with at least one boorish lover). She has moved so often over the years that half her books are lost, having been packed into boxes and left in unremembered attics. Nonetheless she is considering how she will order her collection, along with the memories it harbours. Bennett – or her narrator – is just as interested in the outside of her books as the inside. It’s not just that the covers (austere, gold-embossed, ugly like the cover of Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, or lovely like the cover of a biography of Virginia Woolf) offer clues to genre and style; it’s not just that they recall us to the bookshops, the bedsits, the libraries, the schoolrooms and the towns where we first read them, and the friends who first recommended them. It’s the promise they offer. Bennett seems almost to prefer the unopened book, its potential undimmed. As a child she would take home with her as many books as she could borrow from the local library, only to feel defeated by the force of what they might contain.”