I have been identifying with Benny the young main character of Ozeki’s The Book of Form and Emptiness. Benny hears voices. Not just any voices but the voices of any inanimate thing nearby. It has struck me that this is slightly similar to being an introvert. Or at least it reminds me of my own introverted reactions to life.
I am overly sensitive and struggle with too much input in the silliest situations. I let my mind race over the many possibilities of what is happening around me. It’s not that different from hearing voices from objects.
As Benny says “People don’t come naturally to me, and I’ve had to study and practice, like when you’re first learning to read and have to sound out the syllables. I have to learn people phonetically and then memorize them by rote.”
In Benny’s life objects like the toy animals in the kid shrink’s office talk to him. They actually shriek and talk about the many sad children who have played with them. Benny gets busted after arguing with a pair of scissors (Benny silently, the scissors in a snarling voice that only Benny can hear). The scissors are telling Benny to stab his teacher. He struggles and ends up stabbing himself. After that he is in a Pediatric Psych ward for a while.
Later in the story, Benny finds comfort in spending time at the library. The books in the library are quiet as are all the objects in the library. There is a hush over everything because of the nature of the place. Benny begins to read books and finds them comforting and interesting. Do you see where I’m going with this?
I think I have mentioned here that one of the characters in the story is the actual book you are reading. The Book has a voice and explains stuff from time to time. Early on, the Book explains what matters:
“That’s what books are for, after all, to tell you your stories, to hold them and keep them safe between our covers for as long as we are able. We do our best to bring you pleasure and sustain your belief in the gravity of being human. We are care about your feelings and believe in you completely. But here’s another question: Has it ever occurred to you that books have feelings, too?”
So the Library and the Book and books that Benny turns to are all a source of solace and coherence to him.
This is extremely satisfying to me.
During our recent chat about books, Jeremy Daum (my son-in-law) recommended The Death Penalty by Stuart Banner. I immediately requested it on interlibrary loan. Jeremy whose profession means needing to know about things like American Death penalty said that this book had shaped his thinking. I notice that Banner teaches at Washing U where Jeremy earned his J.D. Next time I see him, I’m going to ask if he knew this guy. I read in it today.
Hugh Trevor Roper’s Men and Events: Historical Essays was also waiting on my library hold shelf. Trevor Roper is a writer I have read and enjoyed over the years. I recently read an review of this book by Jacques Barzun and wanted to take a look at it. It looks like fun.
Then for some reason I decided to start another Zora Neale Hurston novel.
I have these gorgeous Library of America volumes of her work. Moses, Man of the Mountain was the next novel in this collection so I started reading in it. It reminds me a bit of Thomas Mann’s Joseph and His Brothers. I plan to read them as well. But probably not soon. Hurston rocks.
I keep hearkening back to what the financial advisor said to me about hoarding books. Jeremy Daum suggested it would have been a good time to invoke an elegant Miss Manners reaction and pretend not to understand what she was talking about. I wish I had thought of that. Instead I nodded my head sheepishly thinking Benny thoughts about not connecting with people.
Sometimes I feel like Eileen and I living in hiding here in Holland.
I texted Rev Jen about trying to hire someone to move my harpsichord and marimba. Nothing from her yet and nothing from the Buildings and Grounds guy I texted last Saturday. However, I’m pretty sure I can get someone to move these for me.
Lately it’s been Bach on the piano. I love the English suites especially. It’s not a bad thing to be living and hiding in Holland.