Library of Eden

Pears – oil painting by Victoria Accardi 2009

2 days ago I left the library triumphantly- I had returned all my borrowed books! My step was lighter as I walked out into the sunshine with nary the threat of a looming due date spasmodically  interrupting my thoughts. Today – I have five books out. Here’s how it happens:
In naked innocence I drove to the library to meet my son. He was not there, he was on the green playing ultimate frisbee but, “Can I please give [him] 1/2 hour.”  I have eggs in the car, but okay – I tell him 10 min.

I went upstairs to sit in one of the comfortable chairs and took out my own book, Women in Love. I swear I did not look at the books displayed on tables and counters as I walked up, because – I don’t need another book to read. I know that. But there as I sat down, I could not help but notice, on a low table placed directly in my line of vision, a display of the library’s canon of Carlos Fuentes. Oh no. He died last week while I was in South Carolina; my aunt and uncle noted his passing as they had met him and remembered him fondly. They put that (amongst 1000) seed in my head, the seed of writers to read. I’m  just going to look at the titles, I tell myself. Oh, there’s a book of essays, just a quick peek at the titles of the essays. The book Myself with Others begins with an essay titled How I Started to Write. I am resolute: I’ll only just read this one….

“The French equate intelligence with rational discourse, the Russians with intense soul-searching. For a Mexican, intelligence is inseperable from maliciousness – in this, as in many other things, we are quite Italian: fuberia, roguish slyness, and the cult of appearances, la bella figura, are Italiante traits present everywhere in Latin America: Rome, more than Madrid, is our spiritual capital in this sense.

For me, as a child, the Untied States seemed a world where intelligence was equated with energy, zest, enthusiasm.”

It is a brief but fascinating telling of his early years; the influence of different countries and writers on his formation as a man and as a writer. His sense of humor pervades in descriptions of all sorts:  explaining his decision to write in Spanish,
The English language, after all, did not need another writer. The English language has always been alive and kicking, and if it ever becomes drowsy, there will always be an Irishman…”  
talking about his friend writer Alfonso Reyes,
He liked to quote Goethe: Write at dawn, skim the cream of the day, then you can study crystals, intrique at court, and make love to your kitchen maid.” 

But it is what he has to say about language and literature that is most impressive and moving,
Like bread and love, language is shared with others. And human beings share a tradition. There is no creation without tradition. No one creates from nothing.” 

Women in Love sat on my lap as I read the essay. It’s not my fault after all that there is so much to read, sweet fruits of literature that call out to me begging to be tasted. Chagrined, I checked the book out. I should probably stay away from the library, temptress that she is.

“We have not finished thinking, imagining, acting. It is still possible to know the world; we are unfinished men and women.”

Carlos Fuentes  1928-2012


4 responses to “Library of Eden

  1. I like the idea that there is always an Irishman to enliven the English language. Whenever I look at lists of literary prizes, there is always an impressive number of non English people. Much of this is due to the legacy of Empire/Commonwealth. To many, English was seen as a safe language, one not tainted by class and creed – I am thinking in particular of India/Pakistan etc. So to many, it has a historical prestige and independence separate from its own unique qualities.

  2. I tell you, sometimes it’s been easier for me to buy a book — because I’ve had so much going I’ve checked the last two books out from the library three times because I’ve had no time to read — it adds a stress factor. I relate to the light feeling that you get after returning books.

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