The Poems of Ossian
Jane Coutts, the author of The Books and the Sea:
The Poems of Ossian was the hardest of all the stories to write, because, for the most part, it is my own tale, the pangs I cannot help but feel when I see a book abandoned, or hurt, or forgotten because its words have become unfashionable. Sometimes books are made to take the blame for someone else’s mistakes or because people’s values change or because someone influential did not like the author or what they had to say.
I have a friend who once made a beautiful book about the lives of bicycles, and everyone who read it cried a little for the ones which were forgotten, or hurt, or had lost their wheels and could no longer be ridden. Books, too, have lives of their own, and they can, I am sure, be hurt.
There are the ones the collectors do not even try to read because their spine is broken, or the ones people are afraid to look at because someone might see them. There are books which have been left in empty, damp houses and their pages have stuck together, so people gloss over them for other things, and dismiss them with words which should never be used to describe books. And then there are the ones which are never published because they are sleeping in the mind of someone who cannot find the words to make people understand.
One day, though, when the book has nearly given up hope, someone who knows how to read it will pick it up, and the book and reader will coax each other back to life.
This story is for all the books, and for all the stories which will not be told but will equally not lie down. It is for all the booksellers who take care of them until the right person comes along.
The little book of Ossian sits by my bed today, amongst the very special ones, and has been with me in all the places I have travelled and lived and had things to come to terms with.
“Oince we wrestled on Malmor….”