Letters of Life


I do not want your admiration now, because I do not want your insults in the future. -  Sōseki Natsume

I do not want your admiration now, because I do not want your insults in the future. – Sōseki Natsume (1914)

We all have books scattered about the house, silos of board and printed paper on side tables and stools, unread, but bought with intentions of being absorbed cover to cover. The process starts in the bookstore, usually with no intention to purchase. I’ve often walked into the Japanese bookstore in my favourite downtown mall, also managed by a Japanese company, following on the heels of a friend who is a multi-expert, particularly in books. It’s all relative of course, such perceived expertise, and given that I spent 10 years reading nothing but the equivalent of the TV Guide when the children were very small, the accolade is probably no great compliment.

We would head straight for the Literature shelves, where the science fiction titles are, and as the Cat scans the shelves like it offers the latest fad, I would sweep over the same books with no flicker of recognition, comprehending nothing since it’s all Greek to me. Luckily, the adjacent shelves, with less intimidating titles and friendly-sounding authors, would beckon like smiling acquaintances, and I would sidle over and stand and stare at the beautifully-titled covers, much like one admiring the pattern on a printed summer dress or the colour of a folded cashmere sweater.

Within minutes, as we stroll past the shelves, involved in the scent of book print and paper, I would find a book being handed to me, and then another, until I find my arms around a small pillar of books and with no time to digest the blurbs at the back. At the very least, all the covers entice.

I’ve never needed a personal shopper, but who could ever refuse having a personal book shopper, and it’s heartwarming what roles friends would assume for themselves in one’s life. This book shopper could not recommend any Faulkner (I asked because Gabriel Garcia Marquez idolized William Faulkner and I in turn idolize Gabriel Marquez) having admitted that she didn’t “get” Faulkner, but that’s okay. Having assumed the role of a bona fide personal shopper myself, even I don’t get peplumed blouses and I haven’t understood the lure of bell-bottoms (they’re NOT the same as boot-cut or flared trousers). No big deal.

Good thing then, that Kokoro is, in many circles, widely regarded as the bee’s knees. Or in this case, the Cat’s pajamas.

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