October 24, 2001

Creases

On the subway tonight I read the same book I always read: The Loser by Thomas Bernhard. It’s the only book I ever read all the way through, despite only reading it on the subway. I read five to ten pages at a time, depending how far I’m going. When I finish I return to the beginning and start again.

The book’s effect on me is like music. There’s little plot; it’s simply a man’s thoughts about his two closest friends, both of whom are dead. One is Glenn Gould. The other, the loser of the title, recently committed suicide by hanging himself from a tree a hundred yards from the home of his sister.

Years ago I enjoyed reading books – novels! – but no longer. Most seem so written. Descriptions, in particular, I find intolerable. The Loser contains no descriptions, or nearly none, which is partly why I love it.

A confession: I dog-ear the pages. And since I’ve been reading the book for so long, more than half the pages have little diagonal creases. Somehow this pleases me. There’s something to be said for loving something to the point of destroying it a little.