The general library is around the corner. I've always known where it is, of course, being such a book connoisseur (if there's such a thing), but I haven't had a chance to indulge. The sight of the pillars and stone steps, architecture so typically French and yet Asian within the context, delights me to no end. Midsummer blooms in abundance, and the ginger flowers, each as large and red as a rooster's crown, compete fiercely with the haciendas. That's the reason why I love the tropics. The incessant rain must be good for something other than wrecking havoc with my hair.
There's something about the smell of books -- old books, new books, thick books, thin books, tall books, short books, Asian-language books, English books. Books, books, books. I believe everything is all right again once I'm surrounded by shelves upon shelves of the printed words. Within these walls, and on every shelf, there are portals through which I could escape the harsh realities of the world outside. In the hushed dimness of the reading halls, there is a sense of calm satisfaction that no matter what happens, no matter how dire things are, there's somewhere a place for us (now I'm quoting West Side Story).
I've brought a few with me, of course, but reading them over and again, four times, is drone enough. Something new, or different, is in order. To my delight, the French and English literature sections are surprisingly well-stocked. As usual, Dickens, Austen, Joyce, Hugo, and Woolf await me, as do Salinger, Gide, Kerouac, Miller... but I'm looking for something new. Someone, or something, I haven't read yet. Scanning the aisles has become a purposeful exercise, the musty smell of books enticing, the growing weight in the crook of my arm comforting. I find a corner desk to stack the books I've collected, then randomly pull one out. Steinbeck's new The Winter of Discontent. I must have read my copy of East of Eden until the pages fell off. Now, it isn't always easy to love Steinbeck -- I often find him overt, heavy-handed, opaque -- but I admire his talent and the complex themes of his works. This looks to be a great book, and I'm eager to spend a hot, lazy afternoon with him.
Deeply immersed in Ethan Allen Hawley's modern America, I reach up for a breath before he goes through with the bank robbery. What a horrible decision to make, but I suppose we all have a certain darkness in each of us, and have to make morally ambiguous decisions. Face to face with our own values and defects, which path would we choose? That has always been a thorny question for me. I consider myself a moral person; through the horrors of the war, I managed to uphold my values. But am I infallible? If the devil knocked on my door tonight, would I let him in and serve him tea and biscuits? Then go to bed with him?
We're on the verge of another war, here. The Korean War was only a short hop away and we're already sending our men and women back to Asia, in a never-ending cycle of aggression and regression. Greenleaf's words rear their ugly heads again: "I don't think we can expect either side to be honorable." Those who believe wars are ever honorable and just will wake up soaking in the blood of a shocking revelation.
So, what am I doing here?
Tuesday, September 14, 2010
I'm going to do something unusual -- I'm going to post a snippet (without spoiling the plot) of my WIP. Whaddaya think?