Thursday, September 30, 2010

The books I sent to Cormac

by J J Cohen

[read of the wolf child first]

You will remember that when Cormac Keane of Edinburgh discovered my missing notebook on a flight to France, he returned it but refused the reward. He asked me instead to send him a book that "changed my thinking or views significantly."

He couldn't have known that such a request is precisely the way to torture a person who teaches books for a living and feels transformed by each.

I have agonized over the decision for weeks. I decided early on to send no theory or specialized scholarship, since I have no idea what Cormac's background is. I decided, finally, upon two books: The Lais of Marie de France, trans. Hanning and Ferrante (I teach this book every year and never tire of the worlds it calls forth; the small essays by the translators are also works of art themselves), and Nadeem Aslam's Maps for Lost Lovers. At first I was going to buy a copy  ... but then I realized that the only appropriate gift would be the one that Nadeem signed for me in 2008. Because it is so difficult to part with this signed novel, I know it is the right choice to send the book to a new life in Edinburgh.

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