Telltale: Reading, Writing, Remembering by Carmel Bird
When I was a child one of my favourite books was titled Help! I’m a Prisoner in the Library. The premise being you are thrillingly stuck, surrounded by bookshelves, where reading is the only option available to you – heaven, really. Carmel Bird’s book holds the same principle, except instead of the library, it’s her home, and lockdowns during Covid times are what keep her restricted to her shelves. Telltale is Bird’s memoir of sorts, told through her collection. This premise allows her to shift from her childhood to now, to create bridges through diverse titles and to identify what titles have influenced her and why.
Bird spends time reflecting on stories that have changed in meaning. She says, whereas the telling of history changes and different details come to light, fiction on paper is frozen in its own shape. But ‘frozen’ fiction still allows the reader to ponder who they were when they first navigated the words. With this idea as one of her foundations, Bird welcomes us readers to witness the evolution of her writing influences.
Telltale is the perfect read for anyone who considers themselves a reader, who visits a home and ponders what a bookshelf says about the inhabitant, or who has sniffed an old book, or kept one safe. It’s for anyone who still has vivid memories of what they were reading at pivotal times in their life, and for those who have followed this fine poet of a writer through her previously published works and thoughts. It is a reader’s book in the very literal sense. It is a book that is meant to be savoured and considered, and it will influence you to pick up your grandparent’s copy of Dickens, or a battered childhood copy of Brer Rabbit, and ruminate how everything changes over time – except, of course, for the joy of reading.