“All this time the man who killed me will not die.” – Marlon James, A Brief History of Seven Killings
I recently discovered the work of Marlon James.
This didn’t happen by way of a book review, or media buzz, internet message boards, or even the old time word of mouth routine.
I became aware of his novel A Brief History of Seven Killings while walking home from the store one morning when I looked down and saw a single page from the book on the street.
It was page 585 and 586 of the 704-page novel about postcolonial Jamaica that Entertainment Weekly called “nothing short of awe-inspiring.”
I probably should’ve kept walking, as I’ve got enough paper, books, and other assorted crap in my house already.
But as a reader and someone who has published his own book, I felt badly that an author’s work had been abused like this.
Published by Riverhead Press, A Brief History of Seven Killings is James’ third won the 2015 Man Booker Prize, a first for a Jamaican-born author.
And here was this single page from a prize-winning book blowing around the gutter.
It would be a shame if someone deliberately destroyed the book, but not at all surprising in this age of intolerance. I just have no way of knowing.
The wind can blow very strongly off the Narrows, so this single page might’ve traveled a long way before it came into my line of sight.
I don’t begin to compare myself to Marlon James, of course, but I do understand how difficult it is to write a book. Doubts pile up as you struggle to find just the right words that will bring your story to life.
You end up throwing out a lot of your work—at least I sure as hell do—as you write, rewrite, and rewrite so more.
Given all that grief, writers can’t be faulted for wanting their work to live forever, as unlikely as that sounds, rather than being ripped up into confetti.
My parents always stressed the importance of reading and my mother liked to say “books are our friends.”
Books have been such an important part of my life for as long as I can remember, starting with Dr. Seuss, to the Hardy Boys, and going on to Ken Kesey, whose Sometimes A Great Notion changed my life—seriously.
I frankly don’t a read enough now, especially since I don’t commute to an office anymore.
I’ve read so many books while riding the subways and buses in this town. It’s the best way to deal with the crowds and the delays and the lunatics—as long as the lights stay on.
So I’ve decided I’m going to make an effort to read more every day.
I didn’t like my seventh-grade teacher worth a damn, but I do respect for him for the time he urged us all to read by telling us “with books you can go anywhere.”
It’s vital for children to develop reading skills, especially now that we have all these distractions. Curling up with good book has never been more important.
Books as I knew them appear to be an endangered species as more and more people choose eBooks over the real thing. I have no interest in reading eBooks, but then I haven’t really tried them yet, so I suppose I shouldn’t judge.
When I was in the fifth grade, Mrs. Toomey, my Cub Scout den mother, encouraged us all to find a damaged book and repair it.
I actually carried out that assignment, but don’t ask me what particular book I salvaged or whatever become of it. I’m just happy I did it.
It’s a shame that I can’t repair A Brief History of Seven Killings, but I’ve decided I going to get a copy of the book and read the other 700-odd pages.
And I’ll take good care of it, too, because you can never have too many friends.