Thursday, February 23, 2012

Words We Underline

Once in awhile, when it's time for a new read, I close my eyes and pick a title from one of my many stacks of books. Noting The Ice Chorus was an Advance Reading Copy, I knew I'd snagged it at a booksellers convention somewhere along the line. The release date on the cover announced  "February 2005". This should give you some idea about the organization of my "stacks."

The opening line in The Ice Chorus (wonderful book trailer here), a novel set in Ireland, set a sensuous tone. "An ocean-hued piece of silk rests over her hand like a landed butterfly." I use the word sensuous in its broadest and most lovely form, which is, according to,  something perceived by or affecting the senses. Although I'm not quite half-way through yet, the lushness of the writing continues in wonderful ways. Sarah Stonich, the author, renders visual and emotional details, helps us see through the lens of a camera, witness the fluidity of movement in an artist's brush strokes, and feel the power of human touch, no matter how faint. Publisher's Weekly said about the book, "Midlife renewal and the power of art to transform life are celebrated in this bittersweet tale." 

Then I came to a line that caused me to get up out of my chair and grab a pen. A line on page 122 of my ARC, one I just had to underline, then star in the margin, then tell you about .

"Of all the stories she's ever been told, watched on screen, or endeavored to make herself, she understands that only those that unfold naturally endure."

It is a line that could have changed by the final edition. No matter to me. This is the copy I own, and even though I wasn't sure why, the power of  that line grabbed me.

I don't have a library card; we don't live in anyone's district. I buy books. Lots of them. Most read "keeper books" on my shelves are marked up in this way. Underlines, stars, exclamation points, an occasional "OH!" ... If, shortly into the pages, I've already noted several lines, I begin making a list of said page numbers in the front of the book. That way I can just flip from one to the next when I want to savor them.

I feel pretty certain that the novel on my shelves containing the most notations is A River Runs Through It. It's a shorter story filled with lines that caused me to stay with them, return often, even during that first read. They captured me, ensnared me, owned me. I'd read a paragraph, a page, then have to go back and read those lines again. How does an author do that to me?

The first time I received reader mail from someone I didn't know who shared she'd underlined many lines in my books, I wept. I have no idea which lines she referred to. It's hard to imagine any that worthy. I'm not a "literary" author. I can only attribute such a remarkable event to the power of the reader's spirit bringing to light that which needs to be noticed.

The only thing I know for sure is that if I ever try to write those types of lines, they suck. Pure and simple. Perhaps that's why the above quote from The Ice Chorus resonates. Only that which unfolds naturally endures. Amen.

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