What Can You Give Me?

Do you ever open a novel and hear the words?  You know, those rare books that cannot be read quietly inside your head?  The words spring off the page.

I love finding these books.

I have a handful of favorites and, no matter how many times I reread them, they never get old.  The words always take on a life of their own.

I may not even like the story, but I am in love with how it sounds.

Try Alice Greenway, for instance.  A perfect example.

What can you give me?
Can you give me a back alley, a smoke-filled temple where white-hooded mourners burn offerings and wail for the dead?  The single chime of a high-pitched temple bell?  The knocking of a wooden fish?
Can you give me hot rain, mould-streaked walls, a sharpness that creeps into my clothes, infests my books?  The smells of dried oysters, clove hair oil, tiger balm, joss burning to Kuan Yin in the back room of a Chinese amah?  The feverish shriek of cicadas, the cry of black-eared kites?  The translucent green of sun shining through elephant leaves?
Can you give me a handful of coloured silk?  An empty pack of cigarettes?  A tape recorder?  Narrow, stepped streets, balconies hung with shop signs, laundry strung on bamboo poles, rattan birdcages?  A ripened pomelo split open?  The chalky bone of cuttlefish?
Can you give me my father's hand in mine, Frankie's in the other?  The take everything and go away?
Because if you can't, it's not enough.  And if you can, I might leave anyhow.  I'll head for cover.  Disappear in jungles of triple canopy.

Or Whitney Otto, from my favorite novel:

You could say I was having trouble linking the two.
I wished for history to be vital, alive with the occasional quirk of human nature (a little 'seriojovial'); I imagined someone saying to me, Finn, what ever gave you the idea that history was any sort of living thing?  Really.  Isn't that expectation just the least bit contradictory?
Then Sam asked me to marry him.
It seemed to me a good idea.
Yet it somehow led me back to my educational concern, which was how to mesh halves into a whole, only in this case it was how to make a successful link of unmarried to married, man to woman, the merging of the roads before us.  When Heathcliff ran away from Wuthering Heights, he left Cathy wild and sad, howling into the moors, I am Heathcliff, as if their love were so powerful, their souls so seamlessly mated, that no division existed for them, save the corporeal (though I tend to believe they got 'together' at least once), which is of little consequence in the presence of the spirit.
All of which leaves me wondering, astonished, and a little put off.  How does one accomplish such a fusion of selves?  And, if the affection is that strong, how does one avoid it, leaving a little room for the person you once were?

 { read something out loud today }


1 comment:

  1. I too love books that come alive as I'm reading them......I am the sort of person that while reading I have the whole movie reel thing going on in my head....I have every scene playing in my mind while reading....it makes reading so much more enjoyable...


( hippies always welcome )