I don’t know how I can demonstrate it here, but I’m actually a good storyteller, as in actually narrating events to you over tea or during a walk by the river, which I did once with a friend. It’s like a gene running in the family. It was a clear winter night three years back. I had just finished a Jodi Picoult book called Second Glance, which I mistook for Second Chance. In my opinion, it’s Jodi’s best book. Some weeks after that walk I actually managed to interview her on Valentine’s eve for a local youth newspaper here (mental note: republish that). The night was chilly, and I narrated to him the entire novel. To tell you the truth, I was much more excited than I showed.
The sad thing is, I stopped remembering novels that way. As I grew up with all the distress in my life and the country it’s lived in did to it, I seem to have developed literary amnesia. I find it difficult to remember certain loved lines in loved books, or worse, sometimes I only catch the glimpse of an emotion, without really knowing what really evoked it amongst some great written pieces.
In the past I used to highlight my favorite quotes, and then this started to stop for some reason. It’s like I read faster now, or maybe less and less quotes catch my attention, I don’t know. The last time I made a successful narration was actually during the time I was reading the novel, I was rather finishing it. It was Jane Eyre and the subjects were my father and little sister, who loved it.
Remember my clad in mystery post about the book gift I received at work more than a month ago? Before I unwrapped it, I had ceased to read for the period of three months. The last respectable text I devoured was back in December, right before the ship of my life hit the storm of my grandmother’s terminal illness, may she rest in peace. I was convalescing after that and after a whole different kind of drama that had its share in my stress too, when my sister’s husband was taken by the regime here, and when we were waiting for them to take my sister as well – we still are afraid it might happen until now.
The book is called Stoner for a writer named John Williams. My colleague, upon giving it to me, mentioned how this novel is actually very realistic, and would at first glance not qualify for fiction in the first place. It’s like the life accounts of someone who actually used to live amongst us on this miserable planet. It has ‘The greatest novel you’ve never read’ on its front cover, and that is kind of true.
And then she smiled. It was a slow smile that started in her eyes and pulled at her lips until her face wreathed in radiant, secret, and intimate delight. Stoner almost pulled back from the sudden and involuntary warmth.
During the late winter and early spring months they found together a quietness they had not had before. As the outer world closed upon them they became less aware of its presence; and their happiness was such that they had no need to speak of it to each other, or even to think of it.
Although there was a love story that the author had very subtly lodged into his cold realistic, clean cut lines, the story maintained its strength, and it ended in the same lurch on your heart death has. A mute end.
Of course, I was deeply impacted. I sometimes forget how vulnerable I am. It started to physically manifest in 2013. When my mind or heart torture me, I sometimes lose balance and can’t stand (I got diagnosed months ago and the doctor said: what’s annoying you? I was like: oh dear. I got better though, alhamdulilah). I stopped reading again. I might have eaten one third of Heart of Darkness while I was waiting for my flight three weeks ago, but I never had it in me to finish it. I am like, what’s the point?
As you must have noticed, I can’t even write well. Compare the haggard wording of this post with the heartening lines I wrote in the two republished ones before it. Two years apart. You make the call.
Sometimes you can’t even compete with yourself.