For the last 3 years I have had the pleasure of serving on the Reader’s Services Team. As my rotation comes to an end, and I reflect on my time with you, I also am left thinking of those titles I reflect upon most often. These books are not necessarily my favorites, but books where a particular character or passage make a lasting impression that I frequently summon to mind.
In Here I Am the author, Jonathan Safran Foer, writes of loss and the passing of last moments. The father in Here I am looks at his sons and considers that “No child knows when he last calls his mother ‘Mama.’ No small boy knows when the book has closed on the last bedtime story that will ever be read to him. No boy knows when the water drains from the last bath he will ever take with his brother.”
The concept of not knowing when something is the last time resonates with me. Many life events we expect. Remember your last day of high school. This is the last time I will go to my locker, eat in the cafeteria and so on. But, often you don’t realize when the last time was until much later.
Often, when I am pondering something, I channel Francie, the main character in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Whenever I say or think “I wonder”, I picture young Francie. Francie regularly begins or ends her thoughts with “I wonder.” In her diary she writes, on Dec. 15, “Today I enter my teens. What will the year bring forth? I wonder.”
The experience of sharing something wonderful with someone and they are not impressed can be very disappointing. I raved about the beauty of Mount Rainier to a visitor who countered with “It’s nice.” said in a rather bland voice. I immediately thought of John Steinbeck and his disappointment over Charley’s reaction to the redwoods. In Travels with Charley, John Steinbeck describes his expectations for his poodle Charley’s first encounter with the California redwoods.
“‘Look, Charley. It’s the tree of all trees. It’s the end of the Quest.’ Charley got a sneezing fit, as all dogs do when the nose is elevated too high. I felt the rage and hatred one has toward non-appreciators, toward those who through ignorance destroy a treasured plan. I dragged him to the trunk and rubbed his nose against it. He looked coldly at me and forgave me and sauntered away to a hazelnut bush.”
My final two choices are a toss up. Rarely does a day go by that either of these quotes can’t be conjured up in response to life in general.
“So It Goes,” the often repeated refrain from Slaughterhouse Five, kind of says it all. Everyday life happens and you have to deal with it. Thank you Kurt Vonnegut for giving us a mantra to get by on.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams has many indispensable life lessons. The most familiar quote being “Don’t panic.” Judging by the amount of “Don’t panic” merchandise, I am not the only fan. Science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke has said that Douglas Adams’ use of don’t panic was perhaps the best advice that could be given to humanity.
What book holds your words of wisdom?
Is there a quote or concept that resonates with you?