An overdue notice from the library hit my inbox last week, but before I return this book I want to make a note of it here. Upon a friend's recommendation I read Grammar Lessons: Translating a Life in Spain by Michele Morano. What a beautiful book. There are some books that are life-changing based on their content, and there are some books that are companions along the journey. Grammar Lessons is the latter. Morano's beautiful precise language, keen insights, and dexterous handling of time transcend the generic travel memoir to create a text I couldn't wait to open each night in those moments of relaxation after a long day.
Here's a sample:
"Now I listen and the words float through me in phrases that will never make sense. Now I look around at the faces, the slight smiles, closed eyes, the full-stomached belief in the power of rituals even though not one of us understands what is happening here. Even Chus does not understand, or remember, all of what he's trying to say. This is a poem, a prayer to the dark spirits, a rhyme he tries to call back from the depths of memory. In place of certain lines, he hums, the rhythm held deep within his throat, within the motion of his arm and shoulder. Our faces are beginning to glisten, and I am memorizing the movements, listening to the almost familiar sounds, like Castellano but not quite, like the language of my sleeping dreams, always on the verge of being remembered. The sounds swirl and lift and pour and burn, and I am so open, so thankful for the warmth and the transport back into the part of my mind where language rises and falls like fire dancing on liquid, that I don't notice Chus is humming and humming, dissolving with the last line, the final word, into laughter."
Essays not to miss in this collection are: "In the Subjunctive Mood" and "In Praise of Envy."