At this uncertain and unsteady Thanksgiving, I am grateful for many things: family, health, a stable job, and the food I’m about to eat in T-minus two hours. Somewhere on that list, though, are the thousands of books which line my basement walls. They are my comfort, my inspiration, and my escape hatch (down which I frequently find myself sliding these days). Where would we be without the music of words?
Bookish recently asked several authors (including yours truly) to name the one book for which they’re thankful. I could have plucked any number of books from my shelf. I mean, just a casual perusal yields this harvest of books which have comforted, inspired, etc. over the years: A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor, The Collected Stories of Raymond Carver, Rabbit, Run by John Updike, Jimmy Corrigan by Chris Ware, Rock Springs by Richard Ford, Catch-22 by Joseph Heller, The Executioner’s Song by Norman Mailer, and The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I could go on and on, but Bookish demanded a single book and so I tried to narrow it down as best I could. My response:
Just one book? Impossible. Narrowing it down to just one shelf of my nearly 40 shelves? Next to impossible. Maybe I could pick just one author out of the dozens who’ve held sway over my imagination for 50 years? Doable, but still difficult. Okay, okay, okay… (takes deep breath, stares long and hard at his library) I’ll choose… David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. I could have easily picked ten others from my Dickens shelf (one of the longest in my library), but I’ll settle on this bursting-at-the-seams bildungsroman about a thinly-disguised C.D. as D.C. who makes his way from abused waif to accomplished author over the course of three inches of pressed and bound pages. I am particularly thankful for Dickens’ masterful marriage of plot and character whose happy union always sharpens both my imagination and my pen—never more so than in the personages of Betsey Trotwood, Steerforth, all the Peggotties, Mr. Micawber, Dora, David and, oh, the shudder-worthy Uriah Heep. David Copperfield is a triumph! And God bless us, everyone! Oh wait, that’s from another favorite of mine.