Sheila, books ARE everything.


I believe, no, I am certain that stories, books come to you when you most need them. They gravitate towards the people whose lives are desperate to be filled up with their knowledge.

When I turned 20 and was being dramatic, feeling like time was shoving me from behind into an ‘adulthood’ that I was both glaringly unready for and excited about coming into, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath came and immersed me in the absurd life and mind of the protagonist. She too had just turned 20. It was my coming of age book.

When I needed help accepting a new addition to my family, A Short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka came and wagged its finger in my face. It sat me down and lectured in an extremely entertaining way about time, generations, aging, fickleness, love and the way babies change everything.

The time I was going crazy about identity, Nervous Conditions by Tsitsi Dangarembga showed up. At the time, I was asking myself questions like: Which of my many personalities is the real ME? What kind of Acholi girl can’t speak her language?  Etc. Tsi Tsi gave the issue of identity a vicious hit on the head for me and I have never stopped being grateful.

And now, Norwegian wood by Haruki Murakami has shown up when I need it the most. It has touched on absolutely everything: A life numbing death, madness as a result, pain, emptiness, pure unadulterated sorrow and a newly bald girl has just appeared in the plot. J.  (To be accurate, Midori has a crew cut. I’m calling her bald to add a little perspective. My dreadlocks fell a little below my neck. Haruki describes her pre-cut hair as long and pony-tailed, so crew-cut is to her as bald is to me) and many other things.

It annoys me that all of Watanabe’s thoughts on death are so similar to the ones I’ve been having, all of them except for: the only reason I can push on, laugh, giggle, gossip about boys, curse, have crushes, write is because my eyes have been opened to my own mortality. It’s now clear to me that my Ma didn’t go because she’d done something horrible to the world or committed a shameful, damning sin but because it is our lot to die. Death stands hand in hand with inevitability and together, they wait for us to make our way to them.

I read the Life of Pi by Yann Martel when my opinions on religion needed serious broadening. At the time, I was quite ignorant of different beliefs. It also threw in much about sloths, zoos and humanity than I’m still trying to digest.

Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides? It’s a gem. Pick it up.

People have said to me, “There’s more to life than books, Mildred.” I say sit down and think, really think about the nonsense that has just jerked out of your mouth. And then lie down in despair and kick yourself in the colon.

They have said, “Mildred you are wrong. Books are great but are not better than people”. Sheila, yes they are.

They have said, “I’m not really that big a reader”. I silently marvel at the ability of these ones to blaspheme and acknowledge such a big flaw so bravely. They scare me, because if they have ably filled their lives with other things that are not books, what am I missing?

I want to disappear into a great, enchanting, book with the kind of impeccable writing that numbs your appetite and makes you want to just shudder to death in an ecstasy of enjoyment. I want a story that will enfold me in a strings-fully-attached relationship; one that will convince me that if it weren’t for its author, my mind would be grey. Do you have any recommendations? Please put them in the comment section.

 

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15 thoughts on “Sheila, books ARE everything.

  1. Reading pieces like this reminds me of why I fell in love with you. You keep reading, and you keep pushing other people to read. We’ll make reading “cool” in Kampala yet.

    But your call for book suggestions is too vague, lover. Be more specific so we can make better suggestions. Thanks. 🙂

  2. You are right about the everythingness of books. A book (albeit one that I have ignored most of the year) took me through the strangest weekend of my life and is going to take me some way through the aftermath. Do you think books are magical? Do we have some innate ability to reach out and pick exactly that book that we need or whatever? Or do we project our intense feeling onto whatever material we have at that point and call it profound? I think I pick magic. Or something. Anyway, this made me think of you. A Murakami book to look forward to. http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/11/04/haruki-murakami-1q84-review-of-japanese-novelist-s-latest.html

    • Els, are you on facebook? Yes? Please look up a group called “A Place Where I Can Discuss Books With People Who (Hopefully) Get It” and request an invite. You’re our people. 🙂

    • Its beautiful the way books take you THROUGH. Take your hand, chaperone. I think its all of the three, but eh. How strongly would you have to project your situation onto a book for it’s themes to practically fit themselves to your life? How much would that suffering/joy have to be?

      Words are magical <3.

      I don't know if its still happening, but you can read the whole first chapter of 1Q84 on Murakami's fb page. I remember almost dying of joy when Charlene told me. I never got to reading it though. Thanks for the link!

  3. Books can be better than people, I agree and then don’t. Books and their stories that grip you so much arise from someone’s imagination and the experiences of the characters. Books are great but real life is so much better…I might be biased because the state of my head right now but yeah…

    I am currently reading Memoirs of a Geisha. I’d recommend it.

    • Without books, I’d be a sniveling hermit inhabiting one of Kampala’s sewers. I swear. But I see what you mean. It’s better to live and live aggressively than to constantly escape to somebody else’s (imaginary) world. Unfortunately, I don’t know how to do that.

      So thanks for the recommendation! I saw it at Fareeds a few weeks ago. I’ll go this evening and check.

  4. ….Books and words are everything. They are immortal. They don’t up& leave or fail to show or…just go away. Words are the reason any form of sanity still exists within me, after all the turmoil that’s my life still refuses to calm down.
    Books are better than people.
    That is all.

  5. I would most definitely recommend Redeeming Love… My all time fav.

    When it first thrust itself into my hands, I upturned my nose to it… Then 1 year later, it was back and I hung onto every word…

  6. I read this post and subscribed to the blog, first because I love how you write, but mostly because I loved reading nervous conditions 🙂
    If you like non-fiction you should definitely try Ake:The Years of Childhood and Tomorrow You Must Set Forth at Dawn. Wole Soyinka.
    If you like fiction, maybe The God of Small Things, Half of a Yellow Sun, The Hitchhikers Guide to The Galaxy, The Dark Materials Trilogy, The Power of One…sigh. I could go oooonnnn and onnnnn but that wouldn’t be very wise 🙂
    love the blog, and thanks for giving me new book ideas….

    • I have read everything on your fiction list apart from the Dark Materials Trilogy. We seem to have a big fat happy similarity in our book tastes. Please come back and go on 🙂

      I’m very happy that you like the blog.
      😀

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