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The Globe and Mail

Adrienne Clarkson's higher literary pursuits

Adrienne Clarkson reads Keith Richards' memoirs in the business class section of a passenger jet at Pearson Airport in Toronto.

Kevin Van Paassen/The Globe and Mail

The best place for me to read is the womb-like pod in Air Canada's business class on long-distance flights: Whether I'm going to Vancouver or to Europe, I have a new lease on life from reading in this total isolation.

I feel I'm enclosed in a private world: The lighting can be directed over the book as well as overhead. There are no telephones, no e-mails. I love the ambient sound of the airplane. It tells me that I'm going somewhere.

And it is insulation and protection from the outside world. I can read an entire book on a trip to or from Europe and I can read two small books going to and from Vancouver.

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When John Ralston Saul and I went to the Far East twice this year for his International PEN presidency activities in Tokyo and Seoul, we each read a couple of Korean and Japanese novels and traded them. This gave us the feeling we had already arrived even before we arrived.

Reading in this atmosphere with people padding through whom you don't know and who don't generally want to disturb your peace and quiet when they see you plunged into the essays of Michel de Montaigne in French. This is not generally a conversation starter. But if it happens to be, that person will be extremely interesting and I will want to talk to them.

Next trip - I'll be alone with Keith Richards, reading his Life. Just me and Keef! Disturb me if you dare.

Adrienne Clarkson is a former governor-general of Canada.

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