I want a beautiful friendship based on a shared love of The Hours by Michael Cunningham.
The Hours is maybe one of the best books I’ve read. I love this book. I never want to be finished reading it, and as the percentage creeps up…40%….52%….67%….I must have more of it and I already regret its end. I can’t think of anything better than reading this book. I resent the fact that I have little time for it, even while I relish the longer duration of my life this means I get to spend wrapped up in it.
I want everyone I know to read The Hours, but I know it is not a book for everyone. It is not a book for most of you. First of all, I don’t think you should read it unless you’ve read Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf. I read it two years ago, and that is perfect. It would also be perfect if I had read it two months ago. Possibly even more perfect, but is that a thing? More perfect than perfect?
And then it is a very literary novel. The language makes me want to cry, but a lot of readers don’t care about language. And the themes….many of you wouldn’t like them, or you wouldn’t understand them. You wouldn’t want to understand them, or you’d lack the experience or tools to understand them. I don’t think this is the easiest book to understand. I am sure I don’t understand it either, not to the depth I would like. But that’s okay because I will read it again someday, and maybe I will understand it a bit more, and in the meantime, I will savor the anticipation of that re-read.
But let us imagine that you love The Hours the way I love The Hours, shall we? Then this is how our beautiful friendship would go.
We would read this book out loud to each other. We would take turns. I would want to be the one to read the Virginia Woolf passages, but I would be willing to compromise. We would let the language trip from our tongues, and sometimes we would pause to savor it in just the way we’d pause to savor a particularly exquisite bite from a fine meal.
We would read this book in the park. We would forget to bring a blanket so we would lie straight on the grass, and it would tickle our necks and our elbows, and we would hope it wasn’t freshly mowed or our reading would become punctuated by outbursts of sneezing. The sun would make us sleepy, and sometimes we’d be listening more to the cadence and inflections of the other person’s voice than to the actual words.
We would repeat ourselves.
We would read this book on the floor in front of the fireplace. The lights would be dim, the crackle of the fire sometimes overtaken by wind blowing through the trees outside, and into this scene of contrasts–warm and safe versus brisk and wild–we would speak these words and we would feel them more deeply.
We would read this book over the phone when we were far apart from one another. It would remind us of who we are. It would shrink the distance.
I would bring you roses. You would bake me a cake. There would be crumbs in the icing, on purpose. We would go to a hotel, and we would read Mrs. Dalloway there in silence. We would put candied ginger into our tea, and we would wish we were in London. And then one day we’d go to London, and our wish would explode like a dandelion blown by the lips of a child, as all wishes do when they come true.
Just as the three viewpoint characters of The Hours are linked by Mrs. Dalloway, so would we become linked by The Hours. Maybe we would transcend that link.
Maybe we wouldn’t.
Either way, our beautiful friendship would send ripples through time. I would think of you again when I was eighty-three years old. I would think of you with fondness.