Monday, March 3, 2008

Palm-of-the-Hand Stories

Some books are imprinted forever with the places where you read them. When I think of Palm-of-the-Hand Stories by Kawabata, for instance, I think of the old stone quarry in Rockport, Massachusetts. A few times in the summer, back when I was living in Cambridge, I took the train from Boston to Rockport and hiked to the rocky peninsula where the quarry was dug long ago. Now it’s filled with rainwater, and a few bushes have taken root between the blocks and slabs of rock. It was a good place to go either alone or with a friend, and when I think of it I remember leaning against a flat, sun-warmed slab of granite and reading the hardcover edition of Kawabata’s book. The cover was just ornamental type on a very pleasing shade of deep blue. A couple of times I was there in the late afternoon, waiting for the sunset. The bay to the west of the quarry was broad enough that you could actually see the sun set into the water — rare for the East Coast. I kept hoping I would see the famous green flash at the last moment of sunset, but I never did. I checked out Palm-of-the-Hand Stories from the library, but I haven’t recaptured the magic of reading it the first time. The paperback edition from the library has a murky photo of hands rather than the deep blue cover. The stories, too, are more disturbing than I remember, though Kawabata’s ability to convey character and emotion in two or three pages is amazing.

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