That’s what I want to recount: The cruelty and exquisiteness of life


I have a problem. (Well, I have a lot of problems but I’m only going to talk about one of them tonight.)

I buy a lot of books. A lot.

And the worst part of this problem is that I’m secretly proud of it. When buying books is your problem and you love bookstores and print and good books and the silent awe you feel while walking into a good, quiet and lovely public place; the whole experience of it… the closeness of the shelves, the rows and rows of stories and information. The feel of a crisp new hardcover as you open it up and read in the inside jacket, the weight of it as you place it in your bag.

Or the way people move in a bookstore, like they’re lost and confused, looking for something yet perfectly at ease in their search at the same time.

Or the children who come in tugging on hands, dragging their parents to those large flat books in the back section with all the stuffed animals and colors and books on the floor.

When you love the dogs outside, the posters inside, the tables and the recommendations section, the bookmarks, the workers–the old men with friendly smiles, middle-aged woman with kind smiles and smudged glasses, or the young literary men with nervous ticks and a word and a book for everything.

When you love the rows of titles, the different colors and the aesthetics of all those different type-faces all lined up and next to each other.

When you love it when something jumps out at you–a blurb, a quote, a cover or a name.

When you love bookstores. And books. And you know you will always, always, buy your books in real, wonderful magic (yes, magic, I said it, magic) places for as long as you possibly can…when you know all this…

Well then, it’s really rather easy to justify every one of your purchases isn’t it? Because really you’re just supporting one of the things you love most.

So ya, I’ve bought a lot of books lately. It makes me happy. And I’ve spent a lot of money and I don’t regret it.

Here are a few of the things I supported recently…

The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

He looked at the autumn sky. Somewhere above, beyond, far off, was the sun. Somewhere it was the month of April on the planet Mars, a yellow month with a blue sky. Somewhere above, the rockets burned down to civilize a beautifully dead planet. The sound of their screaming passage was muffled by this dim, sound-proofed world, this ancient autumn world.

The Seas, a novel by Samantha Hunt

The problem I have with authority isn’t because I’m particularly wild, but the idea of supervision. I know the way I see the world is more super than a policeman that charges me $55 for a U-turn in a dead intersection. If they asked him what he saw he’d say, “a car, a light, a solid line.” That’s not super vision. But ask me what I saw. From here he looks like, Head, brick. Head, brick. Headbrick, headbrickheadbrick.

The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood

And so she’s stuck doing a cloak-and-dagger number without a cloak. Relying on her face alone, its guile. She’s had enough practice by now, in smoothness, coolness, blankness. A lifting of both eyebrows, the candid, transparent stare of a double-agent. A face of pure water. It’s not the lying that counts, it’s evading the necessity for it. Rendering all questions foolish in advance.

The Vintage Book of Latin American Stories edited by Carlos Fuentes and Julio Ortega

I’ve lived for many years on my own, as a solitary woman in this huge house, a cruel and exquisite life. That’s what I want to recount: The cruelty and exquisiteness of life in the provinces. I’m going to speak about all those things that are normally hushed up, what you think about and what you feel when you don’t think. I want to tell about all the things that have been building up in a provincial soul, things that have been polished, nurtured and practiced without other people suspecting. You may think that I’m too stupid to try to relate this story which you already know but which, I’m sure, you don’t know properly. You simply don’t pay any heed to the river and its courses, the pealing of bells, nor the yells. You haven’t always tried to understand what they mean, all together in the world, these inexplicable things, terrible things, sweet things. You haven’t had to give up what they call a normal life in order to follow the trail of something you don’t understand, in order to be faithful to it. You didn’t fight day and night to make sense of certain words: to have a destiny. I do have a destiny, but it isn’t mine. I have to live life according to the destinies of others. I am the guardian of what is forbidden, of what cannot be explained, of what brings shame, and I have to stay here to guard it, so that it doesn’t get out, but also so that it should exist. so that it should exist and a balance should be achieved. So that it shouldn’t get out and harm others. 

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Ender sat on his bed with his desk on his knees. It was private study time, and Ender was doing Free Play. It was a shifting, crazy kind of game in which the school computer kept bringing up new things, building a maze that you could explore. You could go back to events that you liked, for a while; if you left one alone too long it disappeared and something else took its place. Sometimes they were funny things. Sometimes exciting ones, and he head to be quick to stay alive. He had lots of deaths, but that was OK, games were like that, you died a lot until you got the hang of it.

The Crossing by Cormac McCarthy 

The boy turned and spat into the dirt. He could feel the wolf lean against his leg. He said that the tracks of the wolf had led out of Mexico. He said the wolf knew nothing of boundaries. The young don nodded as if in agreement but what he said was that whatever the wolf knew or did not know was irrelevant and that if the wolf had crossed that boundary it was perhaps so much the worse for the wolf but the boundary stood without regard.


2 thoughts on “That’s what I want to recount: The cruelty and exquisiteness of life

  1. Don’t scare me like that with your first line! That’s all that showed up on FB. And you don’t have a problem–that’s a wonderful gift for your soul. =) (And I’m proud that you bought Blind Assassin.)

  2. Ha, sorry! I didn’t mean to worry you. I thought you’d be proud that I finally picked up The Blind Assassin. It’s funny how many of my purchases are recommendations friends made to me a long long time ago. You see a book on the shelf and think, “Oh, so and so loves that one,” and then in the bag it goes. :

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