When we read we often read ourselves, that is, we bring ourselves to the book, so every reading is different. The first time I read Sigrid Nunez's memoir-like novel, A Feather on the Breath of God, it was 2004--my friend Roger had sent it to me in Florida--and I was thinking more about my own family, and interested in her portrayal of the mother character, a German who marries a man who is Chinese and Panamanian. The portrait is uncanny, as if the daughter-narrator were literally conjuring up her mother: Her "eyes were enhanced by shapely brows that made me think of angels' wings. Their arch gave her face an expression of skeptical wonder. When she was displeased her brows went awry; the arch fell; the world came tumbling down on me."
Five years later, aware of my aging body, I am more interested in the sections about ballet, especially this one:
I have spoken about the pain of dancing. Now let me say something about the pain of not dancing. You stop dancing and your body tightens. You feel like a piece of clothing that has shrunk in the wash. A sensation worse than any muscle ache. You are trapped in a body that is too small for you; you want to claw your way out.
I've stolen a part of this passage for a poem. Luckily, most days, I can walk myself out of this body that seems too small for me, walk until I heat up, and then stretch and walk some more.
I've written about only a few aspects of this sensitive novel that I love. Nunez's prose is lyrically tempered: "Bright sun, ancient stones, the endless noon of the streets and the eternal dusk of the churches." I'll steal that too.