Books are more than just stories; they are hooks upon which the timeline of my life is draped. When I look at all the books on my shelf, I can remember what I was doing when I was reading each novel. Robin McKinley’s The Hero and The Crown– sick in bed. Michael Crichton’s Jurassic Park– on lunch breaks while interning at the Smithsonian. Bram Stoker’s Dracula– in between rehearsals for a performance of Carmina Burana. Marion Zimmer Bradley’s The Mists of Avalon– according to my 13-year-old cursive on the inside cover, “May 26, 1989 James Madison University Ben E. Wright Spring String Thing” (as if I would forget decades later.) I was very proud when I finished that book in the JMU dorms as it was the longest book by far that I had ever read to that point. It was also the first book I read in secret because I knew my mother wouldn’t approve of the steamy sex scenes.
Today I add a new peg to my timeline scaffold: Watching the horrific destruction of the Japanese earthquake/tsunami unfold on CNN while reading Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere; two completely unrelated memories that will forevermore be linked in my mind.
Far below the Twitter peaks of trending topics such as #japon, #earthquake, #tsunami, and #prayforjapan, there is one called #fridayreads. Apparently it happens every Friday. Book lovers tweet what they’re reading to the world, myself included. The titles are eclectic: Demonglass, The Center of Everything, Swamplandia, Mothers and Daughters, Hunger Games, The Mothman. I haven’t read any of these. In fact, I haven’t heard of most of them. But I know one thing about all of them- they will all become markers in the minds of their readers that point to today’s devastation and carnage. Just like a particular scent can bring back memories long forgotten, I suspect these books will forever remind their readers of the day the earth shook in Japan, the waters rose, and whirpools spun menacingly offshore. I can only imagine what memories the books read by the Japanese on this day will evoke.
And the day is not over yet. Fifty countries stand braced for impact as tsunami warnings abound.
My thoughts are with the Japanese and all who will be affected by this terrible tragedy.