I just read the beautifully written book, Someone, by Alice McDermott. As it turns out, I just read it for the second time, although I didn’t realize it until I’d gotten quite far into it.
I loved how it was described on the jacket. A girl growing up Catholic in Brooklyn in the ’40s. Right up my alley. I particularly like books that are set in a different time period from my own. And this one is set in Brooklyn. Perfect!
In the story, the neighborhood boys play stickball in the street, a blind veteran of WWI sitting in a chair in front of his stoop. For some reason, the boys turn to this man, Billy Corrigan, to call questionable hits out or in. His calls are gospel, unquestioned. This, of course, jogged my memory. You can read and read but you won’t find a blind stickball referee in more than one book.
As I read on, I felt again like I was in new territory. Perhaps I didn’t get much beyond the stickball scene? Perhaps a book I’d had on hold at the library came available and I’d abandoned Someone for it? Plausible enough. I read on. Seemingly it was all new to me–until oh, three fourths of the way into the book, there’s another strikingly familiar incident concerning the protagonist’s cataract surgery (no spoilers here, I hope). Okay, clearly, I’d read (and loved) the book before. Aiyiyi!
I keep a list of Books Read these days, but I only started it a few years ago. This one isn’t on it. Well, at least I read it more than a few years ago. That helps. And I suppose one could be grateful for the chance to read, again, a lovely book, with fresh eyes, with a brain that is unsullied by this or that from a previous reading. This book was definitely worth a second reading. Or possibly even a third?
Ah well. Now I’m going to add a poem that I am very well aware I have added to a previous post. You needn’t point it out! It’s just too perfect for this one and half of you probably won’t remember having read it before, anyway. 😉
Forgetfulness – Billy Collins
The name of the author is the first to go
followed obediently by the title, the plot,
the heartbreaking conclusion, the entire novel
which suddenly becomes one you have never read, never even heard of,
as if, one by one, the memories you used to harbor
decided to retire to the southern hemisphere of the brain,
to a little fishing village where there are no phones.
Long ago you kissed the names of the nine muses goodbye
and watched the quadratic equation pack its bag,
and even now as you memorize the order of the planets,
something else is slipping away, a state flower perhaps,
the address of an uncle, the capital of Paraguay.
Whatever it is you are struggling to remember,
it is not poised on the tip of your tongue
or even lurking in some obscure corner of your spleen.
It has floated away down a dark mythological river
whose name begins with an L as far as you can recall
well on your own way to oblivion where you will join those
who have even forgotten how to swim and how to ride a bicycle.
No wonder you rise in the middle of the night
to look up the date of a famous battle in a book on war.
No wonder the moon in the window seems to have drifted
out of a love poem that you used to know by heart.
If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.
Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”