Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

After the Flood

Academic journal article Michigan Quarterly Review

After the Flood

Article excerpt

The books were inheritances, old friends we loved the way as children we cherished the books we took to bed at night. These our daughter raised from the flood, to wrap with waxed paper, and seal in plastic. But even though she transferred the books to a freezer, we had come too late, and they remained stiff as wood chunks, laden with ice. When she arranged them on a stone wall at the lake house we rented, having lost our home, they dried and became distorted, like the faces of people who are angry or frightened.

Our daughter has always tried to save the stricken, the fallen, and I know there might be nights to come, perhaps after we are gone, when she will wake to a dream of books. In these summer days she took them in hand, one by one, to separate each page from the others, then sprinkled a desiccant on the paper, brushing the powder carefully away. But many books remained to be salvaged, and as we removed them from the freezer, I saw that what we preserved was not the signed edition or illustrated text but the disfigurement and wretchedness of their loss.

Seeing them, I felt my work as a writer the more tenuous, the ambrosia of immortality spilled out upon me. But I could not bear to discard the books passed down in our family, even if they had been ruined. …

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