Tag Archives: The Outside of August

A bit of musing

“Maybe this is why we read, and why in moments of darkness we return to books: to find words for what we already know.”

I may have quoted Alberto Manguel but don’t get me wrong, I only stumbled upon this aphorism on one of my prolific days on the internet thus you can expect I know none of his works. I should probably give him the attention he rightfully deserves not only because I might let another literary genius slip my fingers but also because the statement above is more than sufficing enough to convince me; but I also think I’m giving him enough attention (if not the most) by making his elucidating statement the object of my expatiation’s revolution.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable that in reading, our eyes simply read through the words without taking in its meaning but when we come upon something catchy, we surprise ourselves by going past reading and actually remembering it by heart. I believe the reason for this is because it relates too much of what we are and what we do in our lives. This was what I thought while reading Joanna Hershon’s The Outside of August — although some of the characters were idiosyncratic in their ways, the main character, Alice, shared some thoughts pertaining to human strengths and foibles that we sometimes tend to overlook. I was particularly amused with Charlotte’s (Alice’s mother) response to her daughter’s question as to why August (Alice’s brother) took great interest in swimming far off from the shore. She said, “Your brother needs to know what it feels like to be far away from everything familiar, in order to know how to love it.” It reminded me so much of Honey and Clover, of one of Takemoto’s many inspiring musings, “Pedaling my blue bicycle, I wondered how far can I go without turning back?” which he finally found an answer to after going soul-searching on his bicycle where he finally knew he had to leave just to realize how important the people he left were.

That’s Takemoto biking his way to Hokkaido

For me, there is that relieving sense when you see your thoughts of yourself and around made ostensible by other people’s words. I’m not saying it’s a relief that others have spared you the task of describing but it’s uplifting to know that you share in others’ perception which I think humbles, unites, and defines us as wholly humans. So once again — as one might note that I happen to be fond of quoting — I have some passages from The Outside of August that I think might relate to you one way or another.

“She (Alice) was more likely to focus for days on comments that no one would remember saying.”

“…she could go for days not noticing people, days where faces and figures blended together no more distinctly than leaves. But on some days…they’d pierce through the masses as wholly separate — painfully separate — in their startling individuality.”

“One morning she caught herself shaking up a piece of blue beach glass and putting it in her father’s coat pocket, only to realize that it too had to have a justification for being kept. It was no longer a charming oddity idly pocketed, but one more item in a pile that was waiting to be disbanded and scattered amongst strangers.”

Do you find yourself doing these once in a while? 🙂