Tuesday, November 16, 2010

The Lesson of the Season

The short story "The Lesson of the Season" by Thomas H. CookChristmas at The Mysterious Bookshop, edited by Otto Penzler.—touched my heart like few stories have. It was like someone lovingly looked into my soul and smiled. The plot is simple: a man comes into a bookstore at Christmas time, and a clerk offers to help him find a book that he might enjoy. I saw myself reflected in both characters.
But saddest of all, Veronica thought, was that Harry never bought a good book, and thus had yet to experience the actual thrill of literature, the way a fine passage could lift you high above the teeming world, give you focus and a sense of proportion, allow a small life to expand.
Harry explains to Veronica why he buys pulp crime novels:

“They’re like a scotch to me,” he said.
“A scotch?”
“You know, like when you come home at the end of a bad day, and maybe your wife is waiting for you, and she gives you a scotch.”
Harry goes on to explain how reading these unsophisticated crime novels saved his sanity. Veronica has been reading the book The Measure of Man and by the end of the story understands in her heart the quote she has been repeating in her head: “We live in the echo of our pain.”

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