Something Echoes…

Oates

 

…in the way she describes her early years, in her vast magical relationship with Happy Chicken; in her secret travels out in the woods, under the bridge, past places and by people that are dangerous for young girls.  Nobody has told her not to go, and so she walks and walks, and the mystery swirls close but doesn’t touch her.

…in the family secrets that no one ever utters, until years later–a lifetime later, really–when her father says, surprised, “Of course I told you that.”  Gunshots, abandonment and loss.  Oh yes; I hear echoes there, and in…

…the circumstances, the finely tooled financial finagling, the scarcity and thrift.  Clothes that are for special; clothes that are worn until they’re worn down.  The lovely clothes lovingly sewn by tired, callused hands.  The rocking treadle of the sewing machine ‘chachunkas’ in my mind, a rhythmic accompaniment to creative sacrifice.

The moving up, into the high school, into a new crowd, away from the family, the discovery of brains, the surprising acceptance in higher circles, the never-quite-leaving what grounded her and shaped her.  Firm roots.  Firm roots. Firm roots.

I loved reading Joyce Carol Oates’ The Lost Landscape: A Writer’s Coming of Age.  It taught and it echoed and it pulled something forth. A memory of my fifth grade year, teased into consciousness by the reading–no similarity to the author’s experience, but something in the build-up and the let-down, something in the quirk of human character and the recognition that nothing so good was ever going to last for all that very long.

Oh, well.

Some books shoot words into your psyche, skim the words over the heaving surface of your thought, send them out to sink in deep dark moving waters.  They stay with us, those words.  They surface at the oddest times.

And some books don’t speak at all, to me; the words creep up to a firmly closed door, wheedling, but never learning the passcode. The door staying firmly shut, the words give up.  They crawl away.

But other books–their words shoot straight into a muscle and demand action.  Now YOU tell it, they say, and those are the best books, the ones that are not monologues, the ones that foment discussion of the furthest, typing kind.

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