Through the years, I have gotten many good tips from patients about which books I might like to read. I recall that some years ago, my patients all seemed to be reading John Grisham. Too popular, I snobbishly thought. I couldn’t possibly like those. Then one morning, I accidently arrived at a meeting an hour early. The meeting was right next to the hospital library, so I stepped in to find a way to while away the time. They had a “put and take” shelf – mostly current fiction, and so I took a John Grisham book, The Firm. Rachael had told me that she didn’t like this book because Tom Hanks was the star. At least this is what I thought she said. How could anyone not like Tom Hanks, I wondered. So I started the book, and was hooked. My mental movie, of course, starred Tom Hanks, which made it all the better. It was years later when I was shocked to find that the movie actually starred Tom Cruise. Rachael’s statement then made much more sense.
More recently, many of my patients have been reading The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet. This is another one that, for some reason, I thought could not possibly be any good. I had been tempted because I enjoy reading “Seattle books,” and also because I was interested in this shameful facet of our American past, but I was not tempted enough. Then one evening I took care of a patient who had a big pile of books with her, and I noted that I had read and enjoyed most of them. She was reading The Hotel at the…., and said that she liked it very much. I decided to give it a go and was glad I did. Seattle Chinatown, where most of the story takes place, has changed little in the years since Henry and Keiko were children there. And the Panama Hotel, the title character, is one Rebecca and I have walked by frequently without ever going in. This made reading the book all that much more fun.
Occasionally, when reading novels, I become fixated on the food that the characters are enjoying. Thomas Mann, in The Magic Mountain, goes on for pages with a minute description of the chocolate cake that Hans Castorp and Father Naphta are eating. I was reading about that cake in the middle of the night, and suddenly was consumed with desire for a piece of it. Giving in to the need, I hopped on my bike, cycled to an all-night bakery, bought one, came home and ate it. My sleeping family knew nothing of this, as I carefully got rid of all crumbs and clues before morning. Similarly, The Hotel at the Corner of Bitter and Sweet produced an intense desire for Japanese noodles. I’m much older now, and have more self-control, so I was able to restrain myself for a few days until Rachael organized a little field trip for the two of us to a noodle shop and then to tea at the Panama Hotel. The noodles were delicious (of course,) and the Panama Hotel turned out to be a wonderful place for a cup of tea. Lovely tea, an excellent cookie, a serene atmosphere and pleasant surroundings – just perfect for tea and a biscuit or scone. Rebecca and I returned a week or so later, and this time, the tea-tender suggested that we have lychee tea, which, he said, is the favorite tea of the characters in the novel. Naturally, we took his advice. We later agreed that the Panama Hotel is our favorite Seattle tea place.
|Few things better than a lovely cup of tea.|
|Except maybe tea and a caraway cookie!|
This has been very stream of consciousness writing. It was going to be all about the book and then wasn't about it at all!