Good Books Are Like Good Friends

I can't adequately introduce Eliane Pohl. She's one of my most important and favorite friends. I've known her for decades now, lovely decades. And while she's lived far from me for far too long, she's still close to my heart. Eliane is an avid reader. A smart reader too. A mutual friend of ours once said of her: "She knows something about everything." It seemed selfish not to share her insight with all of you since I trust her thoughts...about books, about friendships, about life, and most all things great and small. —Tracy

“She measured time in pages. Half an hour, to her, meant ten pages read, or fourteen, depending on the size of the type, and when you think of time in this way there isn’t time for anything else.” 

In Denmark, where I live, winter doesn’t cover us gently, with crisp days and fluttering snow. We are pitched directly from luxuriously long summer days into a damp, windy, gloomy darkness that hangs on fiercely until April. It is the time for fires, for soft blankets, for comfort food. It is the time for reading. A good book is like a good friend – it entertains us, provides insight and advice, broadens our perspective, and hones our empathy. When we find one that we really relate to, we return to it again and again for comfort and guidance. So, there’s something magical when two worlds collide, and we end up with a good book about good friends. 

Last winter, I finally dove into the magnificent four-volume ode to friendship that is the Neapolitan Novels by Elena Ferrante. If you haven’t read them, do. They are fantastic. But when I finally came up for air in February, I found that instead of being tired of thinking about what a good friendship is and means, I wanted more. I consider it fate, not coincidence, that Zadie Smith’s fifth novel, Swing Time, was published at the right moment to fill that desire.

Since she published her first novel, White Teeth, at the annoying age of 25, Zadie Smith has written countless essays and four more novels, in which she plays with form and language, always creating characters that seem real and whole. People you would swear you have met. Swing Time is no exception. The book focuses on an unnamed narrator and her friendships with Tracy, her working-class childhood friend in London; and Aimee, the international popstar she eventually works for. Like all Zadie Smith novels, it touches on race and culture, inequality and class, but it does so without ever being preachy or pedantic. It gave me a chance to spend the last, bitter days of winter luxuriating in relationships on paper that reminded me of the wonderful friends I have around the world. 

What a great way to spend time.

Posted by Eliane Pohl