Reading With Alice
Alice: Mummy, can I read to you?
(Strangely, she never shows any interest in reading to me unless it's after bed time.)
Kate: Okay, but just for a little while.
Alice: Can we read that Picture book?
(A recently acquired copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray, see below.)
Kate: Yes, but it's got lots of hard words, so I'll have to help you.
(She hates being helped. Together we look at the first paragraph and I pick out the troublesome words in advance -- studio, odour, stirred, amidst, delicate, perfume -- so she can read the whole paragraph with hardly a hitch. She launches into the second paragraph and I help her out when she stumbles.)
Alice: From the corner of the divan...
Kate: Like a couch.
Alice: ... of Persian saddle-bags on which he lay was lying, smoking, as was his custom, innumerable...
Kate: What might you smoke?
Alice: Cigars? cigarettes, Lord Henry Wotton could just catch the gleam of the honey-sweet and honey-coloured blossoms of a laburnum...
Kate: Remember there was a laburnum tree in The Family From One End Street? In the village, with golden flowers?
Alice: (striking a pose) Does it look like this? Or like this?
Kate: I don't know. Keep reading.
Alice: ... whose tremulous branches seemed hardly able to bear the burden of a beauty so flame-like as theirs... (huge yawn)
Kate: Let's just finish this sentence, okay?
Alice: Okay... and now and then the fantastic shadows of birds in flight flitted across the long tussore...
Kate: I have no idea what that is.
Alice: ... tussore-silk... Is this still the same sentence?... curtains that were stretched in front of the huge window, producing a kind of moment...momentary Japanese... When is this sentence going to end? (suddenly suspicious) Is this an elaborate plan to make me read the whole book?
Kate: Nearly there, I can see a full stop coming up. Keep going!
Alice: ... effect, and making him think of those pallid jade-faced painters of Tokio who, through the medium of an art that is necessarily immobile, seek? to convey the sense of swiftness and motion. Oh my God. Why did he write such long sentences??
(pause) Can you read to me now?