A single book can spark interest in many others

I commend the National Library Board (NLB) on its effort to encourage reading as a habit among Singaporeans of all ages through the Read! Fest.

While the target is obviously those who have not acquired reading as an interest and those who have lost it, the campaign, in fact, also helps deepen the interest of avid readers.

This was the case at a book talk about Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited at the Central Library on Sunday.

Facilitator Paul FitzPatrick deftly elicited the views of the audience about the novel's absorbing story.

The discussion was drawn into the areas of Roman Catholicism, aristocracy, hedonistic lifestyles, bisexuality and homosexuality, World War I, alcoholism and self-destruction.

Such is the broad richness of the tapestry of a single book.

The postscript to the talk may relate to the NLB's objective to spark curiosity about literature.

It may lead readers to explore the significance of "Acre" and "Jerusalem" for the small red flame described in the final paragraph of the book.

Readers may want to read The Great Gatsby to establish the cross-Atlantic comparison about a decadent lifestyle.

They would also be amazed to learn that the narrator's Brideshead experience resembles Waugh's real-life relationship with the Lygons family. Was there such a Camelot as Brideshead? Seeking the answer would lead readers to discover yet another book - Jane Mulvagh's Madresfield: The Real Brideshead.

Indeed, a book has a life of its own.

Yeo Hock Yew

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 08, 2016, with the headline 'A single book can spark interest in many others'. Print Edition | Subscribe