” There are good books, indifferent books, and bad books. Amongst the good books some are honest, inspiring, moving, prophetic and improving. But in my language there is another category: there are Ah! Books. This is one of them. Ah! Books are those which induce a fundamental change in the reader’s consciousness. They widen his sensibility in such a way that he is able to look upon familiar things as though he is seeing and understanding them for the first time. Ah! Books are galvanic. They touch the nerve centre of the whole being so that the reader receives an almost palpable physical shock. A tremor of excited perception ripples through the person.
Ah! Books don’t come all that often, at least not my way. Andre Malraux’s The Psychology of Art was one of them. It was published just after the war. It was too expensive to buy but I located a copy of this luminous book in the Manchester Art Gallery; and i had to make several journeys by motor-cycle, often through sleet and snow until I had finished it. From time to time I wanted to get up on the table to proclaim its truth to all around me, or slap my next-desk neighbour over the back and say, ‘There you are; just get hold of that!’ Once I nearly did but just in time I noticed he was reading a text on the structure of plastics. By now, of course, I know that some people can get as much aesthetic pleasure out of contemplating the formula for a long molecule as others do from beholding a mural by Piero della Francesca. Technologists have their Ah! Moments too!
Ah! Books give you sentences which you can roll around in the mind, throw in the air, catch, tease out, analyse. But in whatever way you handle them, they widen your vision. For they are essentially Idea-creating, in the sense that Coleridge meant when he described the Idea as containing future thought - as opposed to the Epigram which encapsulates past thought. Ah! Books give the impression that you are opening a new account, not closing an old one down.”
Vernon Sproxton, introduction for Fynn’s ‘Mister God, This is Anna’