Day 2 of the 3-day Quote Challenge, whose purpose and origins I’m still not entirely clear on! I think maybe my old boss is behind
This quote is from Valeria Luiselli, who I discovered about 2 years ago, because I saw a BuzzFeed article naming her a female literary compatriot to Roberto Bolaño, and he is one of my favorite authors but I always like to read more women. This is from a story called “Return Ticket”, from a collection of short stories, Sidewalks.
Going back to a book is like returning to the cities we believe to be our own, but which, in reality, we’ve forgotten and been forgotten by. In a city–in a book–we vainly revisit passages, looking for nostalgias that no longer belong to us. Impossible to return to a place and find it as you left it–impossible to discover in a book exactly what you first read between its lines.
Luiselli is a master at capturing those inexplicable emotions, those points in time where words fail us. I think in this passage she highlights something I came to realize about myself by the time I was ready to graduate college–that there is no permanent state of the self. We are always changing, and even the things we designated to remember will mean something different in a month, a year, ten years, than they did the day we first saw them.
During my first year post-college graduation, I went back to Oakland/Berkeley during spring break to visit all my friends. I was desperately depressed in Kansas City, and hoping that my trip would take me back to who I had been in college–happy, relatively carefree, having wild parties with my friends, having friends who wanted to hang out with me at all. But the shadow of the real world was looming over me every moment, and I couldn’t find that magic I had been hoping for.
This summer I went back to the first town I visited outside the US. I talked about how when I was younger, right after that first magical summer, I wanted to re-live the experience over and over again. The things I’ve learned since then told me that this would be impossible–you can’t remember exactly what it was you first saw in that passage or place that sparked your imagination.
Maybe some see that as sad,that we can never re-capture that initial romance or wonder. I know that spring break I went back to Oakland, it only made me more depressed. But now, I see it as a new chance to explore and discover with every time we return.
I can’t recommend Luiselli’s books enough: