To Read Is to Fly

“To read is to fly: it is to soar to a point of vantage which gives a view over wide terrains of history, human variety, ideas, shared experience and the fruits of many inquiries.” 
― Alberto Manguel

 

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The Private Lives of Trees - Alejandro Zambra, Megan McDowell This is a gem of a short novel. It opens as a professor and writer, Julián, is telling his stepdaughter Daniela a bedtime story while waiting for his wife Verónica to return from an art class. The bedtime story is a sweet, humorous and quirky story about two trees who are friends. As you read on, you learn that Verónica is later than usual, and as time passes, Julián grows progressively more anxious.

In 98 pages, Zambra uses this simple premise to move into a story which is much more than this framework. I an reluctant to say more, because part of the pleasure of this beautiful short novel comes from your being led, with great care, along Julián's reflections, memories and projections into the future.

Throughout the novel, I could tell that Zambra weighed every sentence, every phrase, every word with great care. The result is a simple eloquence that beautifully sustains that atmosphere of that opening bedtime story, even as Zambra also explores the anxious thoughts, justifications, and fears we have all experienced while waiting for a loved one who is late returning.

This is a novel that is imbued with a great sense of affection and love. As I mentioned to Mike Puma earlier today, it is a gentle novel. Reading it feels like being wrapped in a blanket and lulled to sleep by someone whom you trust, someone who is watching over you with love. As Mike said, we don't have enough cause these days to use the word "gentle" -- for this reason, I recommend this novel to you.

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