Tuesday, August 28, 2007


Jess and I went to Barnes and Noble the other day, and I walked out with three or four books I couldn't live without. Or thought I couldn't, anyway.

Turns out I was right about the first one, Drinking, by Caroline Knapp.

The funny thing is, neither I nor any of my close family has troubles with alcohol. (I've been worried a bit lately about Evan's drinking, but I guess I mean the family I grew up with.) I've never watched a friend spiral, never feared my own relationship to alcohol.

It doesn't matter. Knapp's story is universal, even if her theme isn't. From the first page, she had me right where she wanted me: totally drawn into her world and fascinated with her tale.

In the early going, Knapp describes drinking wine with her father when just the two of them had dinner together in a restaurant, a first for them.

I don't remember what we talked about that night, but I do know that the discomfort was diminished, replaced by something that felt like a kind of love.

Like drinking stars. That's how Mary Karr describes it in her memoir, The Liar's Club, a line she picked up from her mother. She drank red wine and 7-Up one night from a bone-china cup when she was a kid and she felt that slow warmth, almost like a light. "Something like a big sunflower was opening at the very center of my being," she writes, and when I read that, I knew exactly what she meant. The wine just eased through me in that Greek restaurant, all the way to my bones, illuminating some calm and gentler piece of my soul.

I think that's brilliant. The way she takes lines from a book she's read, gift wraps them, and sets them into her story like a present to be opened. If I hadn't already read The Liar's Club, you can bet your sweet bippie I'd have been online ordering it when I finished that chapter. As it is, I pulled my copy down from the bookcase and put it in the pile on my nightstand.

I'm coming to understand the richness, the texture that's brought to a story through the inclusion of a sense of history, through a sense that the action isn't happening in a vacuum. Our characters' daily lives and loves are filtered through the era in which they live, the movies they watch, the music they listen to, and the books they read.

Books. Aaaahhhh, books. From the moment I learned to follow black squiggles marching across white pages, I have loved books and the places they could lead me, the trails they blazed. I rely on their presence and give thanks for the lights they shine into the dark, slippery corners of my mind and heart.


Michelle O'Neil said...

Yes Jerri.

Books are the addiction here.

Jess said...

I think the full title is Drinking: A Love Story. :)

I just remember that when I read that book I carried it around with me for a long time, I loved it that much.

Thanks for including me in the book binging!

Carrie Wilson Link said...

Books have always been a lover I can count on.

Deb said...

I had to give up my friend Wine, but my oldest friend Book continues to fill me with warmth and wonder. Thanks for the reminder and for a new title to add to my next Amazon order.