"Man's 'progress' is but a gradual discovery that his questions have no meaning." ~ Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
In my collection of loved-and-lost books, there’s the rare “The Liar’s Club” by Mary Karr, “The Bag of Bones” and “The Green Mile” by Stephen King, and “The Hundred Years of Solitude” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
The books were read seven to twelve years ago, but I can still remember the environment each one of those books gave me.
I remember the times I exploded laughing with Karr’s crystalline childhood recollections. I remember the heat from the window in my chaotic room when I survived imprisonment and storms in King’s South. I remember the sad loneliness that made me finish Marquez’ surrealism in a single five-hour sitting.
The books, if I may rephrase, have been sitting on my body like scars and tattoos, ever so clear and weightless. Every time someone mentions Karr or King or Marquez, I roll up my sleeves to flaunt them. “See? This is how I carry around my books, how I never lose them.”
One day, succumbing to an irrepressible longing for a house that I could no longer visit, I repurchased and then TRIED rereading “The Hundred Years of Solitude”.
That second book stunk. It was flavorless. It didn’t even feel very solitary anymore.
So I gave it away to someone. Someone beloved.
Now the memory of both books, the one read in Amman and the one I gave away, sit with us in this (so far, self-centered) article about things we’ve lost. About things that improve in value and meaning, because they’ve been lost or surrendered to others. About things and people and places we love have better a chance to remain with us, in meaning and memory.
Because sometimes, the things that are most real, are the least obvious to the senses.