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February 13, 2007
In haste to come away, so as not to be late for our appointment, I did not put on my under-eye concealer.

You look tired, Nancy said, a little concerned.

Oh, I said. I was reading a wonderful book and was excited by it. Even after I finished it I couldn't get to sleep.

I checked the mirror after our appointment and Nancy was right: I looked ready for the embalmer's art. This hardly ever happens. Sleeping is my favorite indoor sport, and I'm really good at it. Nothing gets in the way. But Snow is such a good book, such a perfect book, so sweeping. I had it on the plane with me to North Carolina and back, had it in bed with me after closing the door on my retreat weekend.

Who is the writer that keeps you awake? The one for whom you're willing to look like a corpse all the next day? The one you're happy to read and reread, the writer you hope lives forever?

Jane Austen. Nikos Kazantzakis. Feodor Dostoyevski. John Irving. Flaubert and Joyce. Toni Morrison. J. M. Coetzee. These are some of mine. Now I will add Orhan Pamuk to that list, and read his other novels -- Snow was my first. Some are living, some are dead: nobody lives forever, no matter how wonderful. But their books have made me ache with beauty, and I can live in any one of them again, any time I want to, just by opening it. They are beautiful enough to lose sleep over.

Every time I finish a book or a poem that aches with beauty like that, I am sad for just a moment. Why must all our beauties end? Why does it have to be over? Why couldn't I stay in the book?

Because life goes on. But it goes on into more and more lovely things, hidden amid the plain forest of the so-so. Who knows around which corner you will encounter your next beauty?


Sand begins as stone—
Rock, if you like—
Solid either way.

Love likes a friend’s
Take on time and
Gives wide berth;
Accepts much more
Than it thinks respect
Can shoulder.

Sand and stone have
Much to teach us—
Mostly how to separate
Simplicity from form.

The glory of each
Lovely pearl begins
Its flower in an irritated
Oyster accommodating
Unwelcome sand.

This is who
We are.
-Christopher Davenport
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