the book heart: no. 9 (blindness + the road)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Before I go right into today's installment of The Book Heart, I want to put some thoughts down that have been jumbled up in my head. When I started writing these posts, I wanted to write about the books that had meant something to me. The books that became real to me, the books that I fell in love with. There have been a few on my list that I know I've needed to write about. Some favorites that shaped me, that have stayed with me down to my bones, but that I don't love. They make my stomach hurt. They make me think. They spark the best discussions.  

I was feeling conflicted because these books are so important to me, but I just didn't feel right saying that they were in my heart. It's all sort of silly and I know I was overthinking it. But, that's par for the course around here. So anyway, I started writing a post called "Books that go straight to the head" and it was going to be about these stragglers that needed to be called out, but that didn't belong in my heart. And then I started writing about them. 

They had moved me. They had made me think.  They had become real to me. And while I hadn't fallen in love with them, maybe I didn't want to live in them, or dream about the characters, they had shaped me. Maybe they belong in the dark pocket of the book heart. 

There is no doubt, she is lost. She took a turning, then another, she no longer remembers the streets or their names, then in her distress, she sat down on the filthy ground, thick with black mud, and drained of any strength, she burst into tears. The dogs gathered around her, sniffed at the bags, but without much conviction, as if their hour of eating had passed, one of them licks her face, perhaps it had been used to drying tears ever since it was a puppy. 

One of these books is Blindness, by Jose Saramago. A book I put off reading for years because they movie had scared me so deeply. (And I knew the book would stick with me more than the movie.) It's kind of a humanity stripped down to it's bare bones story. In the street, naked and cold, shut together. It's hard (and for the most part horrible) to read. I had to push through it slowly. But it's worth the time. And worth the stomach pains from reading something so filled with horror. 

It took two days to cross that ashen scab land. The road beyond ran along the crest of a ridge where the barren woodland fell away on every side. It's snowing, the boy said. He looked a the sky. A single grey flake sifting down. He caught it in his hand and watched it expire there like the last host of christendom. 

Another one is The Road, by Cormac McCarthy. A book I read in my dark empty bedroom in Colorado one winter break, which kept me up all night and made it impossible to sleep. I still think of it often. Unlike Blindness which is a book filled with shit and gruesome descriptions, The Road is filled with the kind of horror that comes from nothing. (A weird reversal when you think about it.) But of course this only makes the worst parts stick out, red blips in a world of grey. 

They're both written in a kind of stream of consciousness, which can be grating for some people, but I loved it in each of these cases. No names. No long plot filled back stories. Just scenes and moments from the worlds that pit man against beast (in the inner most, worst possible way.) And the tiny instances of light in each.


Have you guys read either of them? What are your thoughts? It's true what I said above, they spark the best discussions.


  1. Your description of these books has intrigued me. I have not read either, but want to read both now. I know what you mean about a book that affects you and stays with you, but that you do not love. I've read many books like this, stories that are harrowing and hard to push through, but It is a rewarding feeling when you do.

    1. Harrowing is such a perfect word. Let me know if you do read either of them! (Or if you have any recommendations, I'm always looking for more..)


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