Books are like songs and smells. They evoke memories of rooms, faces, voices, quick visions of little scenes in our own lives.
I’m not talking about the books we write, but the ones we’ve read. The ones we hold onto. The ones that pile up, collect dust, slip out of mind for years at a time.
And then we move, or–God forbid—clean, or wonder what should go in the yard sale, and wham! There it is. An old love found again.
I look around my office at the shelves.
The Far Lands by James Norman Hall—Suddenly I’m propped on my bed pillows on James Avenue in Minneapolis, algebra homework pushed aside. A historical fiction of the first migrations from Asia to the Hawaiian islands. Someone had left it at the high school lost and found. I read it twice that year alone.
I’ve been carrying around Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow since I lived in that walkup around the corner from the el in Chicago. It’s one of the few old scifi books I’ve read more than once and when I pulled it out of the moving box a month ago, a paperback brown with age, I promised myself I’d read it again. When you Google Leigh Brackett you get a long list of the movies she worked on as well as the books. She was versatile, brilliant, great.
Ginger Man. Catch-22. same apartment with its tiny back porch bedroom. The apartment where I lost my heart and my virginity to two different people.
The Doomsters by Ross Macdonald. One of those writers who, along with Christie, drew me into the genre. I’m sitting on that awful brown couch in my furnished rental near Lincoln Park, thinking I would like to write something like that someday.
Journey to A Woman, by Ann Bannon. The Well of Loneliness. Same place. A pair of black kittens climbing the drapes.
I pick up an Anne Tyler book and I’m sitting on my deck in Fairfax, California. I look up from the book and I see Mount Tamalpais.
Elmore Leonard brings back the little house in Oakland. My living room. A philodendron plant hanging a foot from my head that banged into the wall when a small earthquake hit. The same room, hit by a much bigger quake, and the yortzite candle I had just brought home from my mother’s funeral, a month before, flew off the top of the Franklin stove and shattered.
Maybe someone just picked up one of my books and remembers a warm day at the beach, a date that ended in love, a house where she felt safe, a day when she was happy. And yes, I’m writing this on Valentine’s day.
Filed under: Shelley Singer |