måndag 1 december 2008

Lucka 1

A library is thought in cold storage.
==================Herbert Samuel
Amaryllis and Henrietta (1952), by Vanessa Bell


The good friends, Lionel and Ulysses, walked towards the public library. A block before them a funeral procession emerged from the First Ithaca Presbyterian Church. Pallbearers carried a plain casket to an old Packard hearse. Following the casket the two boys saw a handful of mourners.
"Come on, Ulysses," Lionel said, "it's a funeral! Somebody's dead." They ran, Lionel holding Ulysses by the hand, and very soon they were at the centre of everything.
"That's the casket," Lionel whispered. "Somebody's dead in there. I wish I knew who it is. See the flowers. They give them flowers when they die. See them crying. Those are the people who knew him."
Lionel turned to a man who wasn't very busy crying. The man had just blown his nose and touched his handkerchief to corners of his eyes.
"Who's dead?" Lionel asked the man.
"It's poor little Johnny Merryweather, the hunchback," the man said.
Lionel turned to Ulysses. "It's poor little Johnny Merryweather, the hunchback," Lionel said.
" Seventy years old," the man said.
"Seventy years old," Lionel said to Ulysses.
" Sold popcorn on the corner of Mariposa and Broadwar for thirty years," the man said.
" Sold popcorn on the comer of -- " Lionel stopped suddenly and looked at the man. He almost shouted. " You mean the popcorn man? " Lionel said.
"Yes," the man said, " Johny Merryweather-gone to his rest."
"I knew him! " Lionel shouted. "I bought popcorn off of him many times! Did he die?"
"Yes," the man said, "he died peacefully. Died in his sleep. Gone to his Maker."
" I knew Johnny Merryweather! " Lionel said, almost crying. "I didn't know his name was Johnny Merryweather, but I knew him." Lionel turned to Ulysses and put his arm around his friend. "It's Johnny," he almost wept. " Johnny Merryweather, gone to his Maker. One of my best friends, gone to his rest."
The hearse drove away and very soon there was no-one in front of the church except Lionel and Ulysses. Somehow it seemed wrong for Lionel to leave the place where he learned that the man who had died, the man in the casket, was a man he knew, even though he had never known that the man's name was Johnny Merryweather. At last, however, he decided that he couldn't stand in front of the church for ever, even if he had bought popcom off of Johnny Merryweather many times – so , thinking of the popcorn, almost tasting it again, he went on down the street with his friend Ulysses, still headed for the public library.
When the two boys entered this humble but impressive buildiIg, they entered an area of profound and almost frightening silence. It seemed as if even the walls had become speechIess, and the floor and the tables, as if silence had engulfed everything in the building. There were old men reading newspapers. There were town philosophers. There were high-school boys and girls doing research, but everyone was hushed, because they were seeking wisdom. They were near books. They were trying to find out. Lionel not only whispered, he moved on tiptoe. Lionel whispered because he was under the impression that it was out of respect for books, not consideration for readers. Ulysses followed him, also on tiptoe, and they explored the library, each finding many treasures, Lionel – books, and Ulysses – people. Lionel didn't read books and he hadn't come to the public library to get any for himself. He just liked to see them – the thousands of them. He pointed out a whole row of sheIved books to his friend and then be whispered, " All of these – and these. And these. Here's a red one. All these. There's a green one. All these."
Finally Mrs. Gallagher, the old librarian, noticed the two boys and went over to them. She didn't whisper, however. She spoke right out, as if she were not in the public library at all. This shocked Lionel and made a few people look up from the pages of their books.
"What are you looking for, boy?" Mrs. Gallagher said to Lionel.
"Books," Lionel whispered softly.
" What books are you looking for ? " the librarian said.
" All of them," Lionel said.
" All of them? " the librarian said. " What do you mean? You can't borrow more than four books on one card."
" I don't want to borrow any of them," Lionel said.
"WeIl, what in the world do you want with them?" the librarian said.
"I just want to look at them," Lionel said.
"Look at them?" the librarian said, "That is not what the public library is for. You can look into them, you can look at the pictures in them, but what in the world do you want to look at the outsides of them for?"
"I like to," Lionel whispered. "Can't I?"
"WeIl," the librarian said, "there's no law against it." She looked at Ulysses. " And who's this?" she said.
" This here's Ulysses," Lionel said. " He can't read."
" Can you? " the librarian said to Lionel.
"No," Lionel said, "but he can't either. That's why we're friends. He's the only other man I know who can't read."
The old librarian looked at the two friends a moment and in her mind said something which very nearly approached a kind of deliclous cursing. This was something brand new in all the years of her experience at the public library. "Well,"she said at last, "perhaps it's just as weIl that you can't read. I can read. I have been reading books for the past sixty years, and I can't see as how it's made any great difference. Run along now and look at the books as you please."
"Yes, ma'am," Lionel said.
The two friends moved off into still greater realms of mystery and adventure. Lionel pointed out more books to Ulysses. "These," he said. " And those over there. And these. All books, Ulysses." He stopped a moment to think. "I wonder what they say in all these books." He pointed out a whole vast area of them, five shelves full of them. " All these," he said; "I wonder what they say." Finally he discovered a book that looked very pretty from the outside. Its cover was green, like fresh grass. " And this one," he said, " this one is pretty, Ulysses."
A little frightened at what he was doing, Lionel lifted the book out of the shelf, held it in his hands a moment and then opened it. "There, Ulyssesl" he said. " A book! There it is! See? They're saying something in here." Now he pointed to something in the print of the book. "There's an' A '," he said. "That's an ' A , right there. There's another letter of some sort. I don't know what that one is. Every letter's different. Ulysses, and eyery word's different." He sighed and looked around at all the books. "I don't think I'll ever learn to read," he said, "but I sure would like to know what they're saying in there. Now here's ,a picture," he said. " Here's a picture of a girl. See her? Pretty, isn't she?" He turned many pages of the book and said, " See it? More letters and words, straight through to the end of the book. This is the pubalic liberry, Ulysses," he said. "Books all over the place." He looked at the print of the book with a kind of reverence, whispering to himself as if he were trying to read. Then he shook his head. "You can't know what a book says, Ulysses, unIess you can read, and I can't read," he said.
He closed the book slowly, put it back in its place, and together the two friends tiptoed out of the library. Outside, Ulysses kicked up his heel because he felt good, and because it seemed he had learned something new.

From The Human Comedy (1943). by William Saroyan

5 kommentarer:

  1. What an exquisite observation.

  2. This is a wonderful book that I should borrow from the library, as I did when I was a girl. The movie, also, is very, very good. I remember whole scenes from it, though I haven't watched it in years.

  3. I'm glad you like it — it is one of my favorite books. I read it in my late teens and have reread it several times. I've only read a few of his books and even if I'm not always fond of the story I like the way he wrote. His son is a poet too but I never understood his poems — maybe I should try again.

  4. I love this book too. My parents had a copy in our library when I was growing up....I had a strange experience when I learned to read and have never encountered anyone who had a similar one. Before I could read I loved to look at comic books and my grandparents had several which I looked through at their house. I made up several different stories to go with the pictures. Then around 5 or 6 years of age, I learned to read. When I knew what the stories were supposed to be, I couldn't summon up my imaginary alternative stories anymore and was rather sad about it. Still - I turned into a true biblioholic!

  5. I think your reaction was very logical - and that is one reason why I don't believe in teaching kids to read until they are ready for it. And that differs a lot from one child to another!
    After I learnt to read I didn't like books with pictures in them - I wanted to make my own inner pictures. So I always chose thick books with small letters and no pictures. I wanted them to last loooooong and I was always sorry when I came to the end of a book.