It’s Lit with Lindsay: Remembrance of things past

March Haul Pt. 3:

  • “They and We Will Get in Trouble for This” — Anna Moschovakis
  • “Forty Rooms” — Olga Grushkin
    (new books, ordered online)
  • “Remembrance of Things Past” — Marcel Proust
    (an old friend, reread over the break — a book I remember lurking around in elementary school. The cover was so beautiful I’d picked it up from time to time, hoping to get acquainted with the text. But the syntax was too difficult for me, who, at the time I was most attracted to reading it, was still devoted to Beverly Cleary.)
  • “My Life” — Lyn Hejinian
    (another old friend, though more recently old — read during my freshman year in college, when I was very new to reading poetry)

Hey there, friends! I’m writing this fresh out of spring break, sunny and well-rested with only minimal storminess on the horizon — isn’t that the most wonderful part of spring break? After the frantic academic blizzard right before it, there’s a lovely, restful lull.

I’m grappling with some minimal regret that I’m not a character in “Arrested Development,” getting the traditional spring break cocktail made in my mouth at Senor Tadpole’s. But I did get to go home and read books all day with my dog in his favorite sunny patches — it was heavenly.

I think, though, that my memory’s beginning to heather over. Before my arrival, I’d been so distant from home — both physically and mentally — that my homecoming was really discombobulating and strange. My house was only vaguely familiar. Entering the garden, where I had spent a lot of time in high school growing peonies and basil, felt more akin to the sensation of hearing a half-forgotten song than to that of returning to a familiar haunt. But the feeling dissolved after I spent some time playing with my pup, getting used to the look of the new fridge  (why are new models of fridges always decked out like spaceships, in gleaming chrome?) and thumbing through the pages of books I had read or simply lived with in my early childhood: old friends.

Coincidentally, a lot of what I’ve been reading recently thinks about childhood (which may have made me more susceptible to this sort of mid-midlife crisis — see footnote 1 — over childhood books). And the texts in this update’s haul in particular all talk about childhood with such tenderness it really slashes away at your heart, though the pain itself becomes soothing. These books create a wound, then spread a balm on it. Readers, I don’t know about you, but it’s so hard for me to look back on the past with compassion. And it’s a bit disappointing to realize that by now, my memories have already begun to dim! Such is life.

But, thankfully, books are patient and carry memory like old friends. In part it’s because of the wonderful materiality of books — their presence as objects, things that carries memories the way an old toy does — and in part because of the way that good lines can get stuck in your head like songs. And that kind of memory of language, I think, is really lovely. It makes it so that each book presents the possibility of linking different experiences of reading it, plus the different thoughts and mental stages you were in at each read, every time you open it. Is it appealing, friends, to think of books like bodies? After all, we stay in conversation and our relationship stays in flux through time. Each dust jacket becomes a familiar face.

Other thoughts:

  1. (Footnote 1) I realize this makes my projected longevity arrogantly great, but I’m not about to jinx myself by predicting my demise in my 40s!
  2. The flight back home on an airline that only allows one backpack’s worth of goods, considering my budget, so I crammed as many books as I could carry in a bag and practically fled from Berkeley. This is the kind of situation that makes me wish I had the nerve to get a rolling backpack. But the childhood fear of looking like a dweeb still haunts me. Weren’t rolling backpack-havers hated and scorned in high school? Why hate and scorn ergonomic bliss?

Lindsay Choi covers literature. Contact them at [email protected].