Monday, June 11, 2012
WHEN BOOKS MAKE YOU CRY Those of you who know me know that I am one of the great "softies" of all time. Just let me hear the opening notes of James Horner's score for FIELD OF DREAMS and I am gone. Let me see a puppy and a child at play and I am an instant mess. This morning I was thinking back to those books that made me cry. Something in the wording, the message; the knowledge that you are in the presence of greatness, all of these and more can do it. The following are a few of the books that, over the years have reduced me to a driveling idiot. The first such book that I can remember was Albert Peyson Terhune's novel for kids, LAD, A DOG. Well come on, a beautiful collie in harm's way. I think I was seven or eight when I read it and remember that I was glad my bedroom door was closed so that I wouldn't be embarrassed in front of my parents. The next one came in college. I had a rather "sensitive" and flamboyant professor whom now I realize was gay, who used to read Paul Galico's "The Snow Goose" to his classes before Christmas break and go into floods of tears as he reached the last words. We smiled tolerantly for we would never fall prey to such outright sentimentality. After all, we were eighteen. And then said professor assigned DAVID COPPERFIELD. We groaned and moaned about having to read such a long tome in a week's time, but read it we had to. A dear friend of mine, who was a "townie" invited me and my roommate to have Sunday dinner with him and his parents. I remember it as though it were yesterday instead of so many years ago. A cold, rainy upstate New York autumn afternoon and while the mouthwatering fragrances of Sunday dinner floated in from the kitchen, my friend and roommate, both, coincidentally named Paul, and I sat in the snug living room, doing our schoolwork for the following week. My task was COPPERFIELD, which, by this time had stopped being a task at all, as I had fallen under the Dickens spell for the first, but not the last, time. As the rain fell, (SPOILER ALERT) Dora died and her little dog Gyp died of a broken heart. Thank God there was a box of Kleenex on the table next to me. Obviously, I have never forgotten that wonderful moment. The next book, and, probably, the most profound was the just published TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I had just started teaching and was still living at home in what I had fashioned into a basement bachelor flat, with my family. I was immediately caught up in the story and when, almost at the end of the book, I turned a page and saw the words, "Hey, Boo" I couldn't catch my breath. Here in two simple words was a girl growing into a young woman, the understanding that often one mistakes good for evil, the climax of a magnificent tale and more. With tears streaming down my face, I climbed the basement stairs, walked silently past my mother who was cooking and who was used to the fact that her son was somewhat strange, past my father and sister in the living room, out the front door and around the block again and again for maybe ten times. An epiphany. That's what it was, an epiphany. The same that happened at the end of ULYSSES and LES MISERABLES. To know tangibly that there was this kind of beauty in the world. To know that I had joined the millions of people through the years who had been moved as I. That there had been a connection between me and the authors. Oh, the joy of reading that brings forth such tears.
Posted by Jeff Laffel at 11:04 AM