The Ten thousand doors of January

I read it because a copy was in a photograph. The subject of the photograph was so fascinating I fear others would think me weird for noticing it or caring, but I notice details. There is no Wikipedia page for it, no reviews in The Guardian or the New York Times.

I feel I should have grown out of fantasy adventure novels, now I am middle-aged- I felt similarly when I went to University- and imagined I despised it. I condescended to reading it. And, any book worth publishing contains off-cuts of the wisdom of the author:

“I wondered how long it would take before I stopped discovering these petty little laws that’d governed my life, and whether I would only reveal them by breaking them.”

This week I took a brick from the great edifice of my self-contempt and used it in the fragile construction of my self-respect. Numbing out is not ridiculous and disgusting, it is self-protection the best way I know. Numbing out was breaking the rules in a permissible way, one of my hacks to get round the rules. If numbing out is admirable rather than grudgingly acceptable it may cease to be necessary.

Knowing that, I said to Quakers that I had a joy I could hardly articulate, and days later one told me my words had stuck with her. She had translated them, to mean the joy she feels when she enters nonduality, and I am happy that my words have meaning I did not intend. Someone admired my imagery, of the brick transferred from contempt to acceptance, and a retired builder told me of his career, the possibilities in the merchants’ neat parcels of bricks and timber.

In the novel, I love the way the women are stronger than the men- the bad and the good. Some of the danger comes from men’s weakness, and some from their evil, which arises from their desire to control. I love the idea of making things happen by writing them: “wordworking” is magic. Of course it is: we change the world by imagining and articulating how it might be better.

There are doors between worlds, through which magic and danger come. The attempt to make the world ordered and reasonable, against the anarchy of the doors, is the source of threat in the drama, through which great wrong comes, but is made relatable even if I cannot condone it.

I know I should be reasonable and controlled, and this winsome story of the blessings of freedom tempts me. The darkness and wonder of the world is beyond my comprehension and I could not control it, and my control of myself is breaking down. Thank God. The author Alix E. Harrow becomes yet another blessing on me.

I love the words “you both”, and fear them, for you might be embarrassed. I imagine you drily correcting a misapprehension. I would be sad you were put to the trouble. But you said that, and people noticed my confused delight. And you told me to say “I love you”, in a roundabout, deniable way- read a poem, so I read that one.

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