John Knowles

Wee hours before Friday.

With a little love from somebody, what might I not be? With an unconditional blessing for who I am, what might I do with my life? Yesterday I got myself a two liter of Coca-Cola and between then and now, drank the whole thing. The experience was rather rejuvenating, and now a few memories detach themselves from the background. I was with a friend on the Downtown Mall during the Christmas season 34 years ago, and I looked for a gift for my mother. One empty building had been converted to a book fair, so we examined some of the titles on display, ranged about on tables. Empty handed, we moved on to the locally owned Book Mark, where I found a modest hardcover of the paintings of Claude Monet and picked it up.

Somewhere that same day I bought the paperback edition of A Separate Peace by John Knowles and began to reread it. The story was about the envy of an intellectual nerd in prep school for his friend who was athletic and charismatic; about the unaccountable irrational in everyday life and how it intrudes on our awareness. Thinking back, were you supposed to like Gene the intellectual or not? At the time, I sympathized with his character, even though he was guilty of a strange crime, while Finny was his innocent victim. I don’t remember the ending very well, except I know that the truth of the incident between them is found out in a mock trial. Envy and jealousy are odd emotions, often destructive. I’ve known a few people consumed by these feelings. They don’t lead to anything good. 


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