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Saturday, March 1, 2014

Bel Canto

We go to an opera and hear that one perfect note or phrase or even song. We are at a movie and there is a moment when we do not want to be anywhere but in that place. Or we are reading a book and realize that as much as we want to turn the page we do not want to come to the last page ever. So describes my journey into Bel Canto by Ann Patchett.

I am astonished by the  beauty of her phrases:

"Sleep was a country for which he could not obtain a visa"

"Suddenly I am hungry and the only thing that will feed me is sunlight"

"Scattered among them were a handful of soldiers sprawled on their backs as if sleep was a car that had hit them dead on"

Perfection, each one. She says exactly what we are thinking, except that we have no words for the thought. Like new language learners we understand the idea before we have words to express it. Like Gen in her story, a true master of language who only understands the absence of love once he has it. Or Cesar who understands the meaning of each word in the songs he sings without knowing any of the words at all.

Each character, like all of us, knows so much beyond the words, more deeply than the language used to express them.

And how she embraces the melodrama. Life as opera, celebrated to the max in its terror, splendour, and moments of just-rightness.

Oh  to be able to sit in each moment, appreciate its perfection, and be okay with arriving, even at the final page.


  1. Melanie your beautiful words to remind me of why i will go back to Bel Canto- the comparison to the new language learner is perfect.

    1. Thanks Mary. Loved this book.

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