I remember that I stood on the library steps holding my books and looking for a minute at the soft hinted green in the branches against the sky and wishing, as I always did, that I could walk home across the sky instead of through the village.
But I do go in for books. I love to own books. Though I read few books twice, I have filled every shelf in my house with books, have had more shelves made and filled those too. My books surround me like a cocoon. When I run my finger along the backs of my books they feel like the ribcage of an old familiar lover. Visit my shelves and you will learn much about me.
What better occupation, really, than to spend the evening at the fireside with a book, with the wind beating on the windows and the lamp burning bright. Haven’t you ever happened to come across in a book some vague notion that you’ve had, some obscure idea that returns from afar and that seems to express completely your most subtle feelings?
In its silence, a book is a challenge: it can’t lull you with surging music or deafen you with screeching laugh tracks or fire gunshots in your living room; you have to listen to it in your head. A book won’t move your eyes for you the way images on a screen do. It won’t move your mind unless you give it your mind, or your heart unless you put your heart in it. It won’t do the work for you. To read a story well is to follow it, to act it, to feel it, to become it—everything short of writing it, in fact. Reading is not “interactive” with a set of rules or options, as games are; reading is actual collaboration with the writer’s mind. No wonder not everybody is up to it.
He thinks my compulsive reading and writing is “work” and he doesn’t much quiz me on it; I’m not about to tell him that I am, just like Anna and Emma, an adulteress. My books are my secret lovers, the friends I run to to get away from the daily drudgeries of life, to try out something new, and yes, to get away, for a few hours, from him. He doesn’t need to know that my books are the affairs I do not have.
I wandered through the stacks, running my hands along the spines of the books on the shelves, they reminded me of cultured or opinionated guests at a wonderful party, whispering to each other.
Some people read for instruction, which is praiseworthy, and some for pleasure, which is innocent, but not a few read from habit, and I suppose that this is neither innocent nor praiseworthy. Of that lamentable company am I. Conversation after a time bores me, games tire me and my own thoughts, which we are told are the unfailing resource of a sensible man, have a tendency to run dry. Then I fly to my book as the opium-smoker to his pipe.
Donna Lethal’s debut is an authentic, can’t-put-it-down page-turner, an astonishing first-time work about growing up in Lowell, Massachusetts (Jack Kerouac’s home town) in the 1970s. With a stern ex-nun for a mother, a rascally bookie for a dad and a brother behind bars as often as not, Donna’s purgatory years in Lowell make for unforgettable reading. Her book is peopled with a rogues’ gallery of memorable local personalities, most hovering on the edge of small time crime, alcoholism, drug abuse and general oblivion. Funny and melancholic, sweet and brutal, it is everything a family memoir should be, a vivid flashback of haunting and hilarious memories arriving unbidden in the consciousness. Unlike some compulsive reads that evaporate after you’ve finished them, MILK OF AMNESIA’s images will stay with you, making you laugh or tear up at unexpected moments.