I think we ought to read only the kind of books that wound or stab us. If the book we’re reading doesn’t wake us up with a blow to the head, what are we reading for? So that it will make us happy, as you write? Good Lord, we would be happy precisely if we had no books, and the kind of books that make us happy are the kind we could write ourselves if we had to. But we need books that affect us like a disaster, that grieve us deeply, like the death of someone we loved more than ourselves, like being banished into forests far from everyone, like a suicide. A book must be the axe for the frozen sea within us. That is my belief.
What a miracle it is that out of these small, flat, rigid squares of paper unfolds world after world after world, worlds that sing to you, comfort and quiet or excite you. Books help us understand who we are and how we are to behave. They show us what community and friendship mean; they show us how to live and die.
You should never read just for “enjoyment.” Read to make yourself smarter! Less judgmental. More apt to understand your friends’ insane behavior, or better yet, your own. Pick “hard books.” Ones you have to concentrate on while reading. And for god’s sake, don’t let me ever hear you say, “I can’t read fiction. I only have time for the truth.” Fiction is the truth, fool! Ever hear of “literature”? That means fiction, too, stupid.
Reading is the sole means by which we slip, involuntarily, often helplessly, into another’s skin, another’s voice, another’s soul.
We don’t need a list of rights and wrongs, tables of dos and don’ts: we need books, time, and silence. Thou shalt not is soon forgotten, but Once upon a time lasts forever.
#1 Pilot “The wolf thought to himself, what a tender young creature. What a nice plump mouthful” Little Red Cap
#2 Bears Will Be Bears “She looked into the window, and then peeped through the keyhole; seeing nobody in the house, she lifted the latch.” The Three Bears
#3 Beeware “She’ll sting you one day. Oh, ever so gently, you’ll hardly even feel it. `til you fall dead.” The Queen Bee
#4 Lonely Hearts “There she paused for a while thinking…but the temptation was so great she could not conquer it.”Bluebeard
#5 Danse Macabre “Out they scampered from doors, windows, and gutters, rats of every size, all after the piper.” The Piper Of Hamelin
#6 Three Bad Wolves “Little Pig, Little pig, let me come in, said the wolf to the pig. Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin, Said the pig to the wolf.” Three Little Pigs
#7 Let Your Hair Down “The enchantress was so hard-hearted, that she banished the poor girl to a wilderness, where she had to live a miserable, wretch state. “Rapunzel
#8 Game Ogre “Fee Fi Fo Fum… I smell the blood of an Englishman…” Jack and the Beanstalk
#9 Of Mouse and Man “I am impelled not to squeak like a grateful and frightened mouse but to roar…” John Steinbeck
#10 Organ Grinder “We shall see the crumbs of bread…and they will show us our way home again.” Hansel And Gretel
#11 Tarantella “Instantly, the priestess changed into a monstrous goblin-spider and the warrior found caught fast in her web.” The Goblin Spider
#12 Last Grimm Standing “The beast was loosed into the arena, and among them a beast of huge bulk and ferocious aspect, and then the wretched slave was cast in” The Slave and the Lion
#13 Three Coins in a Fuchsbau “For me there are neither locks nor bolts, whatsoever I desire is mine” The Master Thief
#14 Plumed Serpent “Said the dragon, ‘Many knights have left their lives; I shall soon have an end to you, too.’ And he breathed fire out of seven jaws.” The Two Brothers
#15 Island of Dreams “Soon he was so in love with the witch’s daughter that he could think of nothing else. He lived by the light of her eyes and gladly did whatever she asked.” The Witch’s Daughter
#16 The Thing With Feathers “Sing my precious little golden bird, sing! I have hung my golden slipper around your neck.” The Nightingale
#17 Love Sick “Forgive me for the evil I have done you; my mother drove me to it; it was done it against my will.” Donkey Cabbages
#18 Cat and Mouse “Perhaps some accident has befallen him,” said the king, and the next day he sent out two more huntsmen who were to search for him.” Iron John
#19 Leave It to Beavers “Wait!’ the troll said, jumping in front of him. ‘This is my toll bridge. You have to pay a penny to cross.” Three Billy Goats Gruff
#20 Happily Ever Aftermath “And they lived happily ever after.” Cinderella
#21 Big Feet “He stripped off his skin and tossed it into the fire and he was in human form again.” Hans My Hedgehog
#22 Woman in Black “It shall not be death, but a sleep of a hundred years, into which the princess shall fall.” Sleeping Beauty
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To you who don’t know me:
I guess it’s fitting that now I wish I could talk to you, wish I could hold you, but of course I can’t. And while I’m off making a mess of everything, you’re somewhere learning your first words, your first steps.
I’d come see you, if I could. Duck out this greenroom door and grab a bus, use a fake name, never come back, but I can’t. I should . . . but I just filled my vein and I don’t want you to see your daddy like this.
Gotta do something though …
They’re after me.
I’m not supposed to know but I do. Art becomes business becomes lies. The soul dies. We don’t know it’s dead until it’s long since slipped from us, and we look back and see it waving sadly, as we move on, hollow inside.
I’ve become my faults, can’t stay clean, destroy all the love that comes my way. I know these things. How did I get here? How now brown cow? Life is all just nursery rhymes. You already know everything you need. I’d love to say them with you.