A Year of Morning Thanks
Old respected friends
I'm not one of them, but I know lots of people who love to read old and familiar books time and time again. That phenomenon is something of a mystery to me. By nature, I guess, I'm not a re-reader.
But yesterday I returned to a world I deeply appreciated (I hesitate saying "loved") years ago, and renewed a relationship I'd not really lost but had certainly neglected.
The novel is The Assault, by the Dutch novelist Harry Mulisch. I read it years ago--it came out in 1987 or so--and I long ago assigned it to a special topics class I taught in 1995, a class that read the literature of the Holocaust. The Assault is the story of a man who was orphaned by the Nazis when they retaliated for the cold-blooded murder, by the Resistance, of a much-hated Dutch collaborator.
It's really a kind of murder mystery. Just exactly what happened that night--and why--takes the man most of lifetime to determine, and most often he's not even looking. He'd have much preferred to forget.
By the time the story ends, what we discover is that the murder and its horrible aftermath was prompted by just about every possible human emotion, pure and impure; and when the story ends--as it did last night, once again, for me on a plane from Seattle to Minneapolis--I sat there, once again, stunned.
This is no commercial. My guess is that all of us have good friends up there on the shelf, folks we haven't really hung around with for awhile. All I'm saying is that this weekend, amid a ton of my own yakking in a variety of venues, amid the splatter of a political campaign that is getting more and more negative, I spent some real quality time with an wise old friend, a novel--this one named The Assault. We had a great visit, and once again I'm the better man for having sat there with him and listened to his story.
Don't know that I'll go back again right away, but I'll tell you this much: that old friend will stay close, even closer than where it sits, right here beside me on the shelf.
This morning I'm thankful for one fine old book.