You wanted me to be an open book to you
You wanted me to lay bare my pages for your perusal
To be picked up and casually browsed
Book-marked and dog-eared
And in the end you were angry
That I was difficult, inaccessible
I’m not saying I’m a masterpiece
I’m no Hemingway or Steinbeck
But I can tell you this:
I’m not a synopsis
Not a CliffsNotes guide
No eighth grade reading level novella
I am difficult to grasp
Impossible to master
My words are fluid
My meter erratic
My lyric baffling
I am a mystery even to myself
And a hundred readings will not
Make me anything less
Curled up on my oversized chair
Beneath a soft blanket,
I flipped through the pages of a new book.
The familiar smell of printer’s ink and paper
Mingled with the aroma of my fresh coffee.
Tucked between the crisp pages,
I found a fragment of myself.
It fell from the book and fluttered down onto my lap.
I picked it up,
Turning it this way and that
In the cool April light.
Its facets shone
And it warmed under my touch.
Delighted, I ran to my bookshelf and began pulling out novels.
Rifling through their pages, looking behind their dust jackets,
I found more and more pieces of my self.
Some pieces were totally new and undiscovered.
Others were pieces I hadn’t realized I had lost.
All of them rebuilt me in some small way,
Returning myself to myself,
Or shaping into me something changed and beautiful.
I cannot believe I went through my whole childhood and adolescence without reading Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. I first read it during my freshman year of college and have read it annually ever since. I’m re-reading it now (we’re on Reading #4, for all my fellow math-hating English-Lit people) and I love it just as much as the first time I read it, if not more. I’m not sure why I love this book so much, especially since the first half is fairly tortuous to read. Jane’s miserable childhood is not exciting (rather, it is painful to imagine), and as my friend Valerie Campbell is quick to point out, Jane tends to err on the side of whining about it too much. But then there are the glowing monologues of Helen Burns, an impossibly wonderful human being, who (despite her unrealistic saintliness) wins my heart every time and makes me want to be a really good person too!
Anyway, I think the story really takes off when Jane reaches adulthood and longs for her liberty. Her theological journey is so intriguing to me! I love Jane because I identify with her weaknesses–her quick temper, her slowness to forgive, her reliance on human affection. It gives me hope to see her grow away from these vices and into greater virtues. But rather than babble on about the entire plot-line of this classic, let me just leave you with a quote by Muriel Clark: “Each time we re-read a book, we get more out of it because we put more into it; a different person is reading it, and therefore it is a different book.” Amen, Muriel. Justified.