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Chủ Nhật, 16 tháng 9, 2012

1. I never write in books, whether they are mine or not. I love books too much to damage them in anyways, turning the pages too roughly, folding corners, spilling water, accidently wetting a book in the rain, the list goes on. I avoid all types of behaviours that may deform books one way or another, therefore of course I can't bring myself to take notes in books. Even in exercise books, when I can, I write in pencil so I could erase them later.

2. When a book comes from libraries, sometimes it will be marked here and there by previous readers. It's always fascinating to realize how many hands the book has passed through, and how many minds have penetrated the words. When a book is older than my grandparents, the pages have turned yellow and even crunchy, I can only let my imagination run wild when trying to think what sort of people have touched this very same object. I hate reading books with highlights in there, green, blue, pink, red, all kinds of colours distract me a lot, because many times someone would find something worth emphasizing which I don't. But I like the notes left on the books when it is a gift. There was one time when I almost cried when lost in the smell of the university library's old dust, I read a page full of loving words from a father for a daughter on her birthday, his hope and aspiration for his little darling. To read those words and to imagine that the two people may as well dead, buried underneath earth, or burned down to ash, the book survives them, to imagine the journal of this very book I was holding in my hands, which bookshelves it has been on, which room it has been kept, which part of the world it has traveled, to feel like I had entered some spheres so private yet had been made public, makes something deep inside me stir, like how the dust dance in an afternoon sunlight ray shone through the window.

3. That's also how I felt when I saw the old man, Mr. Hong, 93 years old, playing a string instrument in a ca tru performance in the Kim Ngan temple on Hang Bac street. There were only an American man, a Canadian woman, my friend and I for the night's audience. The artist group consisted of two singers, three instrument players, and one MC. I was so honoured to be played for by a man with such a wrinkled face. I almost trembled as tears seemed to dwell up in my eyes. He is so old, and I am so young, yet he was playing for me.

The same feeling as when I touch a book more than 100 years old and see handwriting notes faded in its crumby sheets. When I looked at his face I saw history, such a rich and deep history woven from within. And because I was his audience that night, even though I didn't understand all the songs, nor did I come to fully appreciate the music, I felt humble, so young and small in the face of time and history.

But unlike a book, when he ceases living, his stories will vanish.That thought made me sorrowful, in that very moment I should have merrily enjoyed the music.
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