I recently read Nina Simone's Gum by Warren Ellis. I enjoyed it profoundly. Like the best books, it told me as many things about myself as it told of the teller and the tale. As I learnt about Warren and his journey with the chewed gum he rescued from Nina Simone's post-concert piano, it provoked me to think deeply about all sorts of past experiences, people and feelings.
I felt my life-long internal conflict between collecting and possessional anti-sentimentality, that not rages but peters perpetually, stoked.My daughter is a born collector. Of everything, every scrap of nothing. I love it. This book made me realise that the value is never the object, it's in it being chosen by her. The intangible emotions now stored in an unremarkable pebble that can only really be unlocked and felt by me. The pebble, the scrap, becomes a conduit for the emotional bond between us. And this, of course, is how Nina's gum works, too.
The book also seemed to validate a lifetime of following the shadows of serendipity, of trusting whims enough to be guided by them. Of seeing the connections in our lives, with other people and the things we use and create. And the beauty of these connections and how items, collaboration and individual expertise and knowledge combine with imagination to foster bonds and increase the emotional, even spiritual, resonance in all directions.
I don't hold many, if any, in higher regard to Nina Simone and her work, but although I knew some of Warren Ellis' work with Nick Cave, this book led me to listen to his band The Dirty Three. I'm now immersed in their LP Horse Stories, and it somehow feels right that I've only just found these songs, despite the album being over twenty years old. And so here is sketch of Warren Ellis. I wanted his hands to somehow be prominent. They felt important in the story, of the gum and also his life. Read the book and consider what is precious and why.