Monday, November 29, 2010

Peace in Paperback

If you catch me and I don't escape you...
I would probably read a lot more books if I didn't love to re-read books. When I try to decide what to read next, I stand in front of my bookcase, head tilted. My hands float involuntarily up to the spines on the shelf. This one worn, this one ruffled at the bottom from being dipped too many times in the bathwater. My fingers run along the top edges, getting caught up in the bookmarks of half-finished reads. Maybe I'll return to this one or that one. Maybe I'll start something new -- one I got for my birthday this year or last year, something I picked up from the used book store on vacation.

I contemplate. But more times than not, my hand grabs something I've read before. My mind refused to take on the impossible unknown in the stead of the magnificent known. These words will be more than enough. I know they will.

Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged,
Missing me one place search another,
I stop somewhere waiting for you
I've been re-reading Middle Age: A Romance by the ever incredible, ever amazing, ever human (and superbly so) Joyce Carol Oates.

The amazing thing about books is that they never change; but reading them multiple times over the years, you always see something different. Books hold up a mirror to your own changes. There are two books for which this is especially true for me -- Middle Age: A Romance and A Girl Could Stand Up. Both are books about unique friendships between a boy and a girl. Before I made the friendship that would change how I looked at every friendship, both those before and after. Between the first time I read them and now, reading one again, having read the other again, I see how important these books are.
"Marina understood that Adam had many friends, and he was a man who enjoyed plying them with sudden sharp questions. It was known that Adam's interests were impassioned but curiously impersonal You would never get to know the man intimately. But you might get to know yourself."
Have you ever read a sentence in a book so familiar, you think it's been written about yourself? Get the feeling that somewhere out there, you're just a character in someone else's novel. This whole beautiful wild infuriating world, built and created just for you?
Books can be spooky like that. Can catch your breath up in the back of your throat. Are you breathing? Do you want to be? It's like a conversation with someone who understands you more than you thought possible. Like reading your own thoughts written down in a diary and sent back in time, de-identified or classified for your protection.

If you catch me and if I don't escape you...
Without even trying, I found the Adam Behrendt to my Marina Troy, the Raoul Person to my Elray Mayhew. The things I first found beautiful, infurating about those relationships, I find here. I read the lines and I am reading about myself.

There is peace in paperback, in reading lines to a story that is about you. One you didn't have to bother to write, because it's right there. Waiting to be discovered. Or re-discovered, as the case may be.


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