Reading Books and Remembering Places
Let us start with a Beatles’ song. Let me dedicate it to books.
There are places I remember all my life
Though some have changed Some forever, not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
Of lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I loved them all
And with all these friends and lovers
There is no one compares with you
And these mem’ries lose their meaning
When I think of love as something new
And I know I’ll never lose affection
For people and things that went before
I know I’ll often stop and think about them
In my life I loved you more
Books tend to evoke memories of place for me. I usually read on my couch or in my bed (and now in my university’s library), but sometimes I read in less-than-ideal (or more-ideal) places, and whenever I remember the book, I remember that place.
Here are some of my memories:
Lonesome Dove (1985) will always remind me of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, because I read it poolside. That was an ideal circumstance. I sipped limonadas, soaked in the sun (through sunscreen, because I have fair, freckled skin!), and found myself lost in the world of the old west. Just thinking about it makes me want to order another drink and dip my toes in the pool.
Middlemarch (1874) will always remind me of two places. The children’s climbing cage thingamajigger at Boondocks, a center with bowling, race cars, laser tag, and arcade games. I took my girls there to play one morning, and I got to sit and read while they sweated and climbed. It will also remind me of the Browning Center on the campus of the university where I used to work as an adjunct instructor of English. My daughter had a ballet recital take place there, so while I waited for her dress rehearsal to finish, I sat in the lobby on the most narrow and uncomfortable black leather couch in the world and read.
I read Dante Alighieri’s Inferno (1314), number 76 on the BBC book list, in the arts and music building of the campus where I did my undergraduate work. I always think of that dark, yet towering commons area with hard stone seats and maze-like displays of art when I contemplate Dante. (Yes, I sit around contemplating those deep ideas all the time.) Reading the Inferno was obviously a class assignment, but I honestly got lost in its poetry and enjoyed each minute of my classical education. And it wasn’t necessarily because I understood, but more because I felt as if I were getting smarter and perhaps more enlightened. I was young and dumb then.
I will always think of riding bus number 472 into Salt Lake City when I remember Goodbye, I Love You (1986). The reason is mostly explained in this post, which I consider to be one of my best. Unfortunately, I also reread this book in December 2011, while in bed suffering from a violent stomach flu. Now I’ll never forget that miserable few days.
The Harry Potter series will always remind me of the tiny apartment my husband and I rented downtown when we first graduated from college. We spent the summer refusing to turn on our air conditioning (to save money because my husband is a CPA) and reading the books in our underwear. (!)
Pride and Prejudice (1813) reminds me of the room I had as a teenager, with lacy pink and green bedding, a Garbage band poster and The Fugitive movie poster on the wall, and an extremely distasteful shelf full of ugly stuffed animals. I read it in one week, part of my mom’s requirement for summer reading and the book club I had with her and my sisters.
I read E. M. Delafield’s The Way Things Are (1927) on a flight from Boston to my home after visiting my sister and her husband one August. I left my husband and daughter (I only had one at the time) behind and had fun in Boston eating, riding the ducklings, visiting historical sites, eating dim sum, eating cannolis, eating Italian food, walking, and eating. Did I mention eating? On the flight home, I read the entire book. So although it is set in London, I always have the picture of an airplane cabin in my head. (Life of Pi also reminds me of travel. I read it in an airport.)
What books and places do you remember?