Sunday, February 8, 2009


There are moments in movies, just as there are passages in books, that make me cry every time. Doesn't matter how many times I see a favorite film, if it made me cry the first time, the taps will flow again should I watch it for the hundredth. Doesn't matter if I read Bleak House ten times more before I die, (okay, maybe twice more -- I should live so long,) I will go when I read again those furious words Dickens thunders over the body of poor, dead Jo the street sweep, "Dead, your Majesty. Dead, my lords and gentlemen. Dead, Right Reverends and Wrong Reverends of every order. Dead, men and women, born with Heavenly compassion in your hearts. And dying thus around us every day." Doesn't matter how often I see Charles Laughton as Quasimodo swing down and save Maureen O'Hara as Esmerelda, when he swings back to Notre Dame, lifts her over his head and triumphantly shouts, "Sanctuary! Sanctuary!" I'm gone, brother, gone.

Reading about Dickens and his contemporaries, I was amazed to learn how easily and unashamedly grown gentlemen blubbed in his day. Even tough as boots Carlyle was not too Scots to cry. Only later, it seems, nearer our own time, did this nonsense that men don't cry become the norm. Or perhaps it was always a matter of class and occasion. Men cried in my childhood, though I admit they were damned quiet about it, even at funerals, but then the men I knew as a child were all working men. Much slapping of backs and walking out into fields to be left alone usually followed any wet outburst of emotion from the masculine half. Maybe "gentlemen" -- as opposed to the gentle men I was lucky enough to be raised by -- were allowed to shed tears, "in public," as it were, only so long as, say, Charles Dickens was wringing their hearts. I don't know. I do know that whatever the "rules," I am if not an easy weeper, a predictable one.

Looking around my little library, I am inclined to tear up just thinking how lucky I am to have my books about me, to have the space and the money to own these books, and a husband who allows for both the library and the waterworks. Every time I come into this room and see my sets of Dickens, or spot Cross Creek, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, or Nectar in a Sieve, by Kamala Markandaya, I could cry at my good fortune. Every time I am here in the company of all my books, I do hear Laughton's cry,


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