Saturday, February 10, 2007

They were like seeds in the beak of a bird

Before she became ill, David's mother would often tell him that stories were alive. They weren't alive in the way that people were alive, or even dogs or cats. People were alive whether you chose to notice them or not, while dogs tended to make you notice them if they decided that you weren't paying them enough attention. Cats, meanwhile, were every good at pretending people didn't exist at all when it suited them, but that was another matter entirely.

Stories were different, though: they came alive in the telling. Without a human voice to read them aloud, or a pair of wide eyes following them by flashlight beneath a blanket, they had no real existence in our world. They were like seeds in the beak of a bird, waiting to fall to earth, or the notes of a song laid out on a sheet, yearning for an instrument to bring their music into being. They lay dormant, hoping for the chance to emerge. Once someone started to read them, they could begin to change. They could take root in the imagination, and transform the reader. Stories wanted to be read, David's mother would whisper. They needed it. It was the reason they forced themselves from their world into ours. They wanted us to give them life.


The stories in books hate the stories contained in newspapers, David's mother would say. Newspaper stories were like newly caught fish, worthy of attention only for as long as they remained fresh, which was not very long at all. They were like the street urchins hawking the evening editions, all shouty and insistent, while stories--real stories, proper made-up stories--were like stern but helpful librarians in a well-stocked library. Newspaper stories were as insubstantial as smoke, as long-lived as mayflies. They did not take root but were instead like weeds that crawled along the ground, stealing the sunlight from more deserving tales. David's father's mind was always occupied by shrill, competing voices, each one silenced as soon as he gave it his attention, only for its clamor to be instantly replaced by another. That was what David's mother would whisper to him with a smile, while his father scowled and bit his pipe, aware that they were talking about him but unwilling to give them the pleasure of knowing they were irritating him.

--John Connolly, The Book of Lost Things


  1. What an amazing excerpt! Thank you for sharing that!!

  2. I'm glad you liked it. All from the first chapter. . .

  3. Yes. That sounds about perfect.

  4. I read that book back in the fall. I *did* read it to the end, because I kept hoping it would have a decent ending. It was such a dark book. What did you think of it?

  5. I just started it yesterday, and I'm a couple other books as well, so it'll be a week or more before I finish it. I did hear it was dark, though.

    Did you like it?

  6. I did not like it. It was too grim and gory for me - nightmare-fodder, really. I had to finish it though, because I hoped it would end up all right. The end was better than I expected, but still pessimistic, I thought.

    I'd like to read what you think of it when you finish it.

  7. Anonymous4:57 PM

    i just got it 3 days ago but so far its such an amazing book. I absolutley love it! John Connolly ROCKS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


"I don't believe in ghosts, but I see them all the time."

Sherman Alexie cancels book tour for memoir about his mother.