Wednesday, August 24, 2011

The Power of Words

There are a number of things that really irritate me about kindles – electronic reading devices. I treated myself to a kindle for my birthday way back in March believing my life to somehow be incomplete. Many of my friends had kindles, waved them before my eyes and waxed lyrical about them. I dreamed about how good it would be to own one. Yes, I coveted a kindle.

I miss the smell of a book and the feel of paper. New books in particular have an unread, new ink, freshly printed fragrance about them that I like to inhale. I suppose I could just go into a bookshop, pick a book off the shelf and sniff to my heart’s content.

I miss the opportunity to read a page or two before I buy a book. There are books that take just a line to get you hooked. Dick Francis always did that for me. The opening line was a hook and the rest of the page just reeled me in. If you can read the opening page before you download to a kindle I have not yet discovered how.

I miss the whole exchange at the cash register. At the click of a button on my computer or my kindle, the book speeds across cyberspace. It is all too easy to press the button. There is no need to check the contents of my purse or count out precious pennies and pounds. Just the click of a button! I have clicked too often and have spent more on books that I usually do.

What I really miss, though, is the ability to flick back through the pages to re-read paragraphs or chapters to remind myself of what went before. Once I have finished a book I like to go back to my favourite bits and read them over again. Bookmarking just isn’t the same.

The most recent book I have read on my kindle was “The Confession” by John Grisham. It follows the story of young man accused of murdering a young girl. He is not the culprit, but that doesn’t stop him being convicted and sentenced to death. Nine years down the line the real murderer turns up to own up to the crime and save the young man who has 24 hours before he is to be executed. It is a page turner of a story.

I discovered a favourite chapter. I knew, as I was reading it, that I would want to come back to it again and again. I suppose I should have taught myself how to book mark a page. I now know, after much button pressing, that it’s chapter 29.

If you haven’t read the book and don’t want me to spoil it for you, skip the next few paragraphs. Go and make a cup of tea and come back in a minute or two.

Sadly, the real murderer is ignored as one of these nutters that turn up at the last minute to stop executions, so the young man was executed. The prosecution lawyers, the judge and DA are unprepared give a day or more to investigate the new claims. One of them knows that a lot of bullying went on behind the scenes to get the young man convicted.

Anyway, chapter 29, beautifully written, really heart-rending, has the mother of the executed boy preparing his body for burial. She could have left it all the funeral home to do but it had been nine years since she last had the chance to hold him. She cries a lot as she gently cuts away the clothes he was wearing as he was given a lethal injection. She touches scars on his body and remembers the events when they happened. She sings hymns and kisses him and she saves up the prison clothes to burn in a private ceremony.

I cried as I read it.

I wanted to be her. I wanted to have a child and if, for any reason, I outlived him or her, I wanted say my goodbyes in such an intimate and loving way.

I felt robbed. I don’t have children. Some of the time, most of the time really, I don’t think about it. It is just the way life worked out. Sometimes it hurts. I ache for what parents take for granted. Sometimes I seethe with anger. I stand in a line at a checkout and watch a woman drag a child by their arm while snarling and hissing at them and I want to say something but never do.

The power of words – to evoke such strong feelings.

Writing doesn’t come much better than that.




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