Thursday, August 29, 2013
What is beauty?
Have I mentioned how emotionally exhausting shelving in fiction can be? The books come flying out at me. They overload my curiosity which is wild and does better in calmer places. And I have no resistance to these books. They are all humming and burning with life. I don't even need to read them for half their content to leap out of the books and flood my emotions. The teen librarian over lunch asks me if I'm reading anything good. A nice question, but I don't know. I'm reading six books at home, five books at the Library, four books just while I'm shelving. They're piled up, I can't remember their names three minutes after putting them down. They're all good I guess. If I had to I could track most of them down and prepare a fervent evaluative speech for them, but it doesn't matter, not really. Most of them I only finish by a kind of accident because that also doesn't matter. The whole book or a paragraph or a synopsis is nearly the same to me. And anyway, I am shelving up here. I can't sit around reading these books through. A book seizes my attention and I can give it a minute; the cover, the quotes, the first paragraph, the last, but it's all way more than enough. It's all piercingly vivid. The book floods me with story and perspective and possibility. I stand dazed. I place the book carefully and stare blindly at the bindings, my mind reeling until I can shelve again. And I do, until the next exotic marvel of a volume seizes me by my very heart, pulls me in and breathes one brief, nearly toxic gust of pure magic into my face. My soul sprawls, too small for a world made like this, for the seething wonder of literature. "What is beauty but the beginning of a terror we can barely endure." Rilke said. He should know, just look at that sentence. Jesus.