Not every Sunday afternoon lies as wide open as this one.
I made an effort to keep it that way as Marc and I discussed our last Sunday of the year.
As a result I have the chance to steep myself in a good author’s writing for the next couple of hours. How wonderful to watch an author like Anne Enright craft her thoughts! How she thinks out the world of her characters is the thing I have most enjoyed in my steady progress through The Gathering, her novel that won this year’s Booker Prize. I do not share her Irish identity nor know her Irish landscape intimately, but this is an author who lets me inside, and I feel welcomed there.
It may be apparent that I also have the chance this afternoon to write. And if I write, I have an eye for my potential reader – you. Sometimes a reader considers the things I say and write, she mulls over them, in a comment she may acknowledge where they make sense to her and where she needs clarification – most importantly, she communicates that what I am saying matters to her. She takes it seriously. She takes me seriously. When someone does that for another, there grows a bond that may not be taken lightly.
Have you noticed how something comforting happens when we open a package of books that arrives in the mail? New or old, the books are each the promise of a conversation that will begin when we set aside time to take an author seriously. The words with which each author formulated his or her thoughts, maybe on a quiet Sunday afternoon much like this one, are the offer to be a partner in a conversation. No one else may ever know what that conversation sounds like or means. A few of us enjoy talking and writing about our reading, but most of our reading remains completely private, almost intimately silent. That bond I mentioned earlier? It shows up in those hours of reading the words of someone we may not ever meet in the flesh.
I realize afresh that the chance to talk at length, in depth, as friends is something by which I set store. Two people at the ends of a sofa, facing one another, legs tucked under us, all of it in the service of a conversation, our minds meetings, our eyes catching how the other responds, when and whether he smiles, how he gets quiet when a consideration hits home and he covers his mouth with his hand, maybe looks away for a second, then looks back at the other, hand still on his lips, until he moves his hand over and makes contact.
Image from Powells Books