Talk:Art About History

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CHOSEN GIRL Faith S. Holsaert

I. In the beginning were my parents, shoulder to shoulder, the baby floating within their massed outline.

I sat close, in either lap, during their disputes.

My father said, "Oliver Twist. It's a wretched book, Deirdre. You like it because you read it as a child."

"I like it because it's about people. Not like your Eliot, who writes about things."

"Deirdre, Fagan's a sentimental abomination." She held me tight against her bosom, and I learned how her muscles tightened when she clenched her teeth. “Well I love that book.”

“Fagan’s an anti-Semitic stereotype,” said my WASP father. She struck quickly. “Are you Virginia Woolf to my Leonard?” My Jewish mother.

Silence.

That was the form. Books and books and books. A book to say I love you. A book to say I hate you. Later, they attacked one another, down to the muscles of the hands that held me, saying names like Henry James, Robert Browning. When they agreed, Auden. The way they loved me was to teach me what they knew.

And what they knew was books.

Before I could read, my father taught me how to open a new book. First I must riffle the pages, feel the paper with my fingertip, and smell the lingering odor of ink. His fingers were tapered, cool half moons at the base of each ridged nail. His hand warm. I must: open near the beginning of the book; press the book open until the spine gave; move through the pages in quarter-inch increments to crack the spine until the book lay supple and ready in my hand.

Books were their lifeblood. Later, Laurel would say the same about the blues.

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