Friday, May 09, 2008

Non-Oprah Book Club: The Giant's House

To prove to you that I do indeed have a soft side - it's not all blood and guts, you know - I offer a sweet book for this week's selection. This is the story of a lonely librarian who befriends a boy of unusual height, a sort of mundane set-up, I know, but Elizabeth McCracken is such a brilliant writer that you soon forget the high concept idea and become immersed in its complex emotional connections. I could not put this book down once I started it. Absolutely beautiful in its execution and prose.

The Giant's House was published in 1996 and gained some attention when it was nominated for the National Book Award - sadly, it did not win.

You might think, living alone so long, so seldom touched, I wouldn't know what to do. But I did. Alone in my bed, I'd sometimes tested on myself. I ran a tentative hand along my collarbone; then a confident hand; then somewhere between. There wasn't an inch of skin I hadn't skimmed my fingers along, wondering would someone else like this? I thumbed my ears, traced the outer trough with just a fingernail; strummed my belly; outlined my nose, mouth, as if they were places on a map I longed to visit, a homeland I had not seen since childhood.

Some lonely untouched people might get used to it, decide they could do without. Not me. I learned to touch myself tenderly to give myself what I could not ask others for. I stroked my own cheek; late at night, I brushed the hair off my own tired, worried forehead.

I knew in what order to caress a face, a back. I knew what would be expected, and what surprising. I remembered: there is bone, and there is skin, and muscle, and other things. You must always remember this, encountering a body, the same way you must remember when you walk around Cape Cod that there are trees, and also dunes so vast that while walking in them you cannot see the ocean or road; there are roads, and the ocean, and the bay, scrubby forests full of things that scratch, and bogs. It may seem impossible to dress in readiness for all these things, but you can as long as you are mindful.

Go to Patti's Blog for more Forgotten Friday Books.

1 comment:

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, boy. I remember crying over this one and her next about Niagara Falls, was it? Thanks, Steve.