Book Heaven

Where the world of books and life intersect

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Location: South Amboy, New Jersey

I am deeply involved in trying to solve the discrepancy between being interested in zen and trying to acquire all the things I've been accumulating

Monday, January 31, 2005

Bizarre Coincidence

Another truly bizarre coincidence to report. Although my house is extremely well constructed, there is one area where it is sadly lacking in quality. The pipes are not insulated for sound and when you release the water from the tub, it sounds for all the world like it is just cascading down the wall. It really doesn't sound like it's in a pipe at all and it still unsettles me to hear it. Although we've been in the house for about two and a half years, my wife just noticed this the other night. After explaining to her that this situation is very common, she went to sleep and I sat down to read which I almost never do that late at night (1 A.M.).

I decided to pick a story from Mark Helprin's new collection, The Pacific and Other Stories (The Penguin Press, 2004). I paged through the book and selected the most interesting story, Vandevere's House. It was short (12 pages) and it had an intriguing opening:

A year or two before Melissa left, Vandevere had fallen into the rhythm of making the house better, day by day.

Three pages into the story, I get to the following unbelievable passage:

Though you could not see them, the things you could not see were flawless. The plumbing supply lines, for example, were made of an alloy used in United States naval ships to coat areas subject to the greatest corrosion. When water ran to sinks and tubs, you could not hear it coursing within the walls even with a stethoscope, and when it drained it cascaded inaudibly down stainless-steel pipes with sides two inches thick, themselves encased within walls as heavy
with plaster as the White Cliffs of Dover.

When I recovered from this passage, I somehow managed to finish this wonderful story about a man who could not let disorder into his hopelessly ordered life. Like all of Helprin's books, this is a treasure to be savored one great story at a time.

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