Wednesday, May 12, 2010

on finding kindred books and getting lost in them.

"I couldn't help thinking that if I, by pure chance, had found a whole universe in a single unknown book, buried in that endless necropolis, tens of thousands more would remain unexplored, forgotten forever. I felt myself surrounded by millions of abandoned pages, by worlds and souls without an owner sinking in an ocean of darkness, while the world that throbbed outside the library seemed to be losing its memory, day after day, unknowingly, feeling all the wiser the more it forgot." 

For this post, I opted not to go into coming of age, falling in love, the making of villains or a well developed mystery.  I opted not to study characters. Rather, this post is more of a space to catalogue some of my favorite parts of a recent favorite book. 

For quite a few months, I looked at The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon every time I went into a bookstore. The back blurb promises a historical setting and a mystery (a literary genre I have recently remembered that I love, though my ability to log incredible hours with CSI, The Closer, Law and Order, Lie to Me and Bones should have been the first clue) among other things you'll read about below.   But since I currently have no less than 20 in my apartment that I haven't read, I obviously have no business buying new books.  My lucky day occurred when two of my high level readers actually requested that I buy it for my classroom library. Done. And read it immediately.  Sorry kiddos.

Some books are a commitment: you go into reading knowing it's going to be work, but worth it.
Other books are entertaining. Others offer new perspectives. And some are kindred. 

Usually I reserve the work kindred who the few souls in the world who love the same things I love, whose hearts break over the same things in the world, who derive joy from the same pastimes. But while reading The Shadow of the Wind, I realized that books can be kindred, too: stories that hold so many loves of my life within its pages that it is impossible to put down and tragic when it ends.  

Why this book is kindred:

1. It takes places in Barcelona.  Sigh. That city stole my heart last August and I loved that I could picture all of the streets, that I understood references to Las Ramblas, Els Quatre Gats and Tibidabo (sigh).  I love that the characters lived in the neighborhood where I stayed.  ("This city is a sorceress, you know, Daniel? It gets under your skin and steals your soul without you knowing it," page 480.)

2. This is the first line: "I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time."

3. It is a book about people who love books: "Bea says that the art of reading slowly dying, that it's an intimate ritual, that a book is a mirror that offers us only what we already carry inside us, that when we read, we do it with all our heart and mind, and great readers are becoming more scarce by the day." 

"Every book, every volume you see here, has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens."

4. It is a book about a book that changes people: "Once, in my father's bookshop, I heard a regular customer say that few things leave a deeper mark on a reader than the first book that finds its way into his heart. Those first images, the echo of words we think we have left behind, accompany us throughout our lives and sculpt a palace in our memory to which, sooner or later—no matter how many books we read, how many worlds we discover, or how much we learn or forget—we will return."

So. I hope that you find a book so worthy of getting lost in.  And if your name is Alison Covey, you should probably visit your local library right away and borrow this particular book right away.  

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