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.