Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Truth in Books

If you're planning to read The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai, it may be best to skip this entry. Even though the end is hinted at at the beginning, the end isn't as vague, and it's what I quote from at length here because it imparts the truth about what books can do:

"Because what it's come down to, after that whole messy spring, that whole tortured summer, all the time since, is this: I no longer believe I can save people. I've tried, and I've failed, and while I'm sure there are people out in the world with that particular gift, I'm not one of them. I make too much of a mess of things. But books, on the other hand: I do still believe that books can save you.

I believed that Ian Drake would get his books, as surely as any addict will get his drug. He would bribe his babysitter, he'd sneak out of the house at night and smash the library window. He'd sell his own guinea pig for book money. He would read under his tented comforter with a penlight. He'd hollow out his mattress and fill it with paperbacks. They could lock him in the house, but they could never convince him that the world wasn't a bigger place than that. They'd wonder why they couldn't break him. They'd wonder why he smiled when they sent him to his room.

I knew that books could save him because I knew they had so far, and because I knew the people books had saved. They were college professors and actors and scientists and poets. They got to college and sat on dorm floors drinking coffee, amazed they'd finally found their soul mates. They always dressed a little out of season. Their names were enshrined on the pink cards in the pockets of all the forgotten hardbacks in every library basement in America. If the librarians were lazy enough or nostalgic enough or smart enough, those names would stay there forever."

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