Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Central Images

It’s back to work after my leisurely spring break. The school year always speeds by in the blink of an eye once we return from the break, and I’m sure it will be no different this year. For some strange reason, I find more time to do all the activities that I enjoy once I’m back at work – I read more, write more, and exercise more. I’ve picked up Louis de Bernieres’s Birds Without Wings, and I already know that it’ll be one of those books that will be branded in my mind for a long time. For most books, there is a central image that I find epitomizes what the work is about. In de Bernieres’s work, I’ve already found that image: that of enemy bullets coinciding with each other and creating a cross. To me, that is the ultimate irony expressed by the book, and it speaks to the clashing of cultures and religions, and the striving toward ideals, only to lead to disillusionment.

Other central images from some of my favourite books:

1. The juxtaposition of empty Lysol bottles and fireweed in Richard Van Camp’s The Lesser Blessed: To me, this describes my feelings on the north so perfectly. It’s about seeing both beauty and harshness existing side by side.

2. The missing smile of Prabaker in Shantaram, by Gregory David Roberts: In this novel about “everything,” I had to stop reading after the death of Prabaker, when his beautiful smile is torn out by a horrific accident. Prabaker reminded me of someone I loved, for he exemplified goodness and sincerity. I was thoroughly heartbroken, and could not continue on with the book for days after.

3. The Prince Rupert’s drop shattering in Peter Carey’s Oscar and Lucinda: After reading this book and watching the movie, I spent months looking on Ebay for a Prince Rupert’s drop. Its accidental perfection – a drop of glass unbreakable by the strongest force of a hammer, but that would shatter if snipped with a pair of pliers – seemed to me to express the haunting fragility of every dream, hope, and life.

For someone who has the poorest memory, I remember most novels through these images. They become a part of me, and I dream of them. I see my friends and Prabaker as reflections of each other. I am reminded of harshness even as I marvel at wildflowers on the roadside. I compare every fleeting beauty and hope to that astounding Prince Rupert’s drop.

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