“…that to write what I thought happened to me would be nothing more than an attempt to make contact wit you. But I hope we’re past that. I hope that each story you read was a meal we sat down to without talking” (Simon Van Booy).
A few months ago I discussed how overrated Simon Van Booy was. What love stories, what disastrous treatment of women. During my first Booy experience, he killed the woman at the center of the triangle before she was even able to become fully herself. I always chalk this up to “those darn male writers who think they can just write us right off the page.” It’s as if the woman sucked enough words into her cheeks that she had to blow away in order to add an effect to the novel. I hate that. If you’re going to write a love story and kill a main character at the end then I need to be devastated, not just believe that you killed her because she was a woman of class and wonder.
However, enough about that, because I’m here with my cheeks rosed from Sandy’s winter air to tell you that Simon Van Booy is a true gentlemen. At first I thought he was trying too hard to be the epitome of french culture sans the baguette with his buttoned satin vest and velvet loafers, but I’ve made a complete change in that opinion.
I think the best books are by authors who just want to know and connect with the world. How can you write a book about the people you see walking in the city street, buttoned up and ruffled with wind if you don’t actually want to know them? Every writer is somehow writing the story of you and me. They are born to find us and make us unfold inside ourselves. We are the words, the blank space of grief and time. Any book that’s written has the soul of every human being in the world behind it because while authors hole themselves into wool and cabins, they’re only letting words interrupt their people watching. Words interrupt the truth they find in watching someone deliver the paper, eat spinach without getting one piece stuck in their front teeth, nail a birdhouse to a tree by a rusting silver nail and their bare hands.
I have written four pages of notes on Love Begins in Winter. Not only did Simon Van Booy convince me love is as simple as breath fogged unevenly into the portrait of a window, but he taught me how to write again. I’ve been struggling with my own writing for a few months (since I stopped reading obsessively and began teaching obsessively). BUT yesterday I was writing quotes like “then he put on a brand-new pair of loafers he’d brought with him. There were balls of tissue paper in the toes.” That is writing. It’s the mundane becoming imaginative and new. It’s the tissue paper that wore the shoe before us. It’s a wonder people don’t write notes in the tissue paper, rip them out and let them crumple to the floor. Secret notes through the holes of shoes, how wonderful. See my mind just goes elsewhere. One simple thing, one mundane everyday thing and the writing takes off and the world of people in Hudson Belk slipping their peeling, caked, sunburned, freckled, feet into new shoes and letting the tissue paper waft to the ground. It’s nothing, and it’s everything.
“The handwriting was full of loops, as if each letter were a cup held fast upon the page by the heaviness of each small intention” (181).
If I could write you a blog with my own pink pen and tall A’s, then you would know what writing this blog means to me. While Simon Van Booy wrote love letters through perfectly smoothed eggs, shined by the boy in love with the girl who’s legs lasted long enough for him to fall in love with her sister too…
I was writing a love letter to myself. When you read a book that hits you in some deep spot inside the womb of your heart, the place where handling (and shipping) comes from, where the decision to jump or not to jump comes from, where the soft beat that teaches you to slow dance is secure and hidden behind a frame of bones, you write each painful word down. You count the number of eggs the character shines and places gently into the basket, brown spots and all. You watch the wind flip the soft pages of a book on a city bench and wonder who left it, what do the words mean when they’re whispered?
While reading this book, I learned about my own love stories.
“The present grows within the boundaries of the past” (52).
“They haven’t made love for years but sleep holding hands” (33).
What do these stories tell us about love? Where do they make the body quiver, shudder, goose bump and fold like a map. I want to meet the couple that just holds hands.
In the history of the world two girls laid in a shared bed at a sleepover, one above the sheets, one below. The freckled girl whispers about her foreign exchange sister who used to come from Russia in the summer, sick with nuclear fumes and pale like she’d lived asleep in snow. The secret message they shared between their palms. When they would lay on the floor of one girl’s parent’s living room, one girl would fumble with a zipper, scoot over after lights-out and zip the two of them up into a sleeping bag like notes in a pocket. One head on a shoulder. One dreaming of a boy in math class who uses his pencil with just three fingers instead of her four.
The girls held hands making a mitt of warmth. Three squeezes of hot air between their palms, I love you.