A hollow book might take the pressure off of loved ones. Sometimes the people to whom we are most tightly yoked can’t tolerate our unhappiness. If we are sad, they want to fix it. “Take a hot bath with Epsom salts,” they say. Or else they say, “have a glass of gin.” Or they might suggest you run five miles. Often and often a 5-mile run is all that is needed.
The great feature about this book I don’t know how to manufacture— this listening book— is that it would let you be sad in front of it. Sometimes—and here’s where it gets tricky—sometimes we need to be sad. Maybe we just got the diagnosis, or maybe we simply have a sweet-tooth for self-pity. We need to be sad. We yearn for somebody to witness our sorrow.
A good book can let us alone, but the right book, the right story, can bring us into sorrow. I heard my friend Alan Sklar read Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” at the Armonk Public Library. Now that’s a story that has made the bed for you in the summer house on lake Melancholy, a story that has changed the sheets for you, and cleaned the dead mice out of the bureau drawers. I’m not at all sure that Ernest Hemingway would have liked me, or even that I would have liked Ernest Hemingway, but I am thankful for his prose.
So, there are cases in which a book with pages is even better than an empty box.