I edesa, anay 3,203//Th taemn
We were just present
by Aaron Guggenheim
paige's pages: the books that bind by paige pearcy
Have you had an interesting
experience? Story you want to share
with the world? Then The Statement
wants you to write a personal
A personal statement is a 1,000-word
first person essay about anything.
Check out this week's personal
statement on page seven, and e-mail
firstname.lastname@example.org if you're interested.
online comments ann arbor affairs: old testament
"I love this! It's very funny and well-written.."
- USER: Alyssa
Books are perhaps my best rela-
tionship. They're always there and
they're always interesting, new,
exciting, romantic and emotional.
Television bores me, movies are
short-lived, but books ... they stick
with you. And yet, how often do you
read? It's hard to find time, right?
But-what if you read just 20 pages a
day? Give up a few minutes ... cough
... hours ... on Facebook and pick up
one of those paper-filled thought-
makers. I promise, it's the cheapest
and most effective
You don't have
to believe that just
because my name
is the same word
as those that fill my
favorite objects that -
I have any authority
to deem a book wor-
thy or not worthy.
But, I am an English
major, if that credits
me at all. I'm going
to tell you what I
think, and I hope you
decide to pick one a
of these books up
and see what it does
I figured that over the holiday
break I'd be able to fit insome light
reading before hauling the novels
for my English classes across cam-
pus this semester. With the piles
of snow outside, freezing tempera-
tures and the thought of having to
see someone I knew anytime I
stepped outside of my house (Hi,
neighbors!), reading would be the
obvious wayto avoid all of it.
Much to my - and the better
majority of the West side of the
Mitten State's - dismay, the snow
was non-existent, the temperatures
were fairly mild and I'm really not
sures to read. Yet, there I found
myself. Awkwardly hunched over
my books in a blanket that made me
overheat rather than fend awaythe
cold and reading. Must be the book-
worm in me.
This winter break I came home
ready to start one book in particular
- Zadie Smith's "White Teeth.' But
I was quickly distracted from that
book by other reading suggestions
from my mother that had time lim-
its: "Going to see the movie tomor-
row ... must ... finish." Thus, I put
the Smith book aside. I started with
"The Perks of Being A Wallflower."
Yes, boo me all you want for not
having read this when I was a child,
but I was far more occupied with
"Harry Potter" and "The Princess
Diaries" (shun) to give even a nod to
The main character, Charlie, is
embodied in the words of Perks.
The style is different - disjointed
- and so is he. The stream of con-
sciousness is raw and colloquial
- a nice change of pace from those
books that require more reading
between the lines than actual read-
he thinks and feels point-blank.
. Next was Joan Didion's "Play
It As It Lays" - simply put, I am
obsessed with the female author.
Her prose is succinct and blunt and
she sugarcoats nothing - shit hap-
pens and she wants you to know
it. But "Play It As It Lays" wasn't
really a holiday-happy-feeling book,
unless you think drug abuse and
depression are equivocal to cookies
and, uh, kittens. If you like Didion,
"Plav It As It Lays" is noteworthy
to read merely to
contrast her writ-
ing before and after
J those tragic events
detailed in her
When 4 a.m.
rolled around the
next day, I realized
Maria Semple's -
"Where'd You Go
a' Bernadette" that
my sleeping pat-
tern was unpre-
dictable. But it's
not my fault! The
words on the pages
really just flew off!
"Where'd You Go
Bernadette" holds a well-deserved
place on many of the Best of 2012
book lists. The reason: it's hilari-
ous. The worst description, because
"hilarious" is overused and vague
(my English professors would not
be proud) but there's something .
to be said for ambiguity. It's filled
with snarky humor and jabs at over-
involved mothers that we all feel are
And with that my break began to
come to an end. I started to wander
down the road of "Downton Abbey"
and soon Zadie Smith's book had
yet to be completed. I was flustered,
but then I remembered there's
[LLUSTRATION BY MEGAN MULHOLLAND
"When I was at Michigan (LS&A '87),I was supposed to like
Jewish boys, too (My name is Sarah Siegel), but preferred Jewish
girls. The heart wants who it-wants. All's well that ends well; just
ask my Jewish wife. Why not become a writer on Jon Stewart's
show and see where it goes?"
- FACEBOOK USER: Sarah Siegel
that anti-social, removing the pres- ing, because Charlie says everything always another book column.
stood on one foot in my boxers in a frigid
river, attempting to wash away the thick
layer of dirt that had turned me an off-
shade of brown. And as I stood there - soaked
in that heart-rending beauty that comes from
encountering profound silence in the wilder-
ness - I realized something both profound and
troubling: We had absolutely no idea what we
Some context, of course, is necessary.
Ethan, Paul and I met while running cross-
country in high school and, over the years,
became fierce devotees to-running workouts
and races that left us mumbling incoherently
at the end of them. At the end of high school,
we decided to hike the John Muir Trail -
210 miles of pristine wilderness that led up
to Mount Whitney - with my twin brother
Jacob. We left Paul, far more athletically
gifted than Ethan, Jacob or I, in charge of the
"The first day is going to be fun," Paul said
with a small smile as we packed 35 pounds
of food, water and clothing into our back-
packs while huddled around a picnic table in
Yosemite Valley. Paul often thought the words
"incredibly challenging" and "fun" were
interchangeable. - .
I wasn't particularly worried about the have fucking Toblerone," I said exuberantly as
hike. We had bigger issues to carry along with we were cleaning pots after dinner.
us on the trail. Paul and I were involved in We awoke the next morning to frost and
dysfunctional relationships that - as only an damp sleepingbags.We dried our bags, packed
18-year-old could readily believe - seemed to camp and left. By lunch, however, Jacob blew
hover in the same sphere of importance as life out his knees and exited at Tuolumne Mead-
or death. But our concerns were meaningless ows for home.
when compared with Ethan. His father had After Jacob left, we picked up the pace of
been slowly wasting away as a result ofecancer. the hike. We were three 18-year-old boys lost
Ethan carried a satellite phone with him that in our definition of masculinity, forcefully
was ready to tug him back to reality if the cir- competing to get to the top of that next moun-
cumstances called for it. tain summit a few minutes faster, or hike
On the first day, we hiked morethan17 miles those next three miles in under hour. We all
and 7,000 feet of vertical elevation, passing by wanted to get there - even if we didn't know
day hikers who slung fancy cameras around exactly where we were heading.
their necks like trophies. That night, all of us Along the trail, in the grandeur of moun-
except Paul were too sore and tired to bother tains, trees and streams that made everything
moving, so we camped in a mosquito-infested seem less pressing, our conversations often
campsite. We watched another couple run off circled back to Ethan's dad. Paul andI had told
into woods away from the mosquitoes, over- Ethan that anytime he wanted to talk about it,
whelmed bythe ferocity of the swarm. he just had to say the word. We talked about
But we had chocolate and GORP, a trail Ethan's dad sparingly but, to be honest, we
mix appropriately nicknamed "amazing" for didn't know what to say.
the sheer quantity of caloric goodness that On the third day of hiking, after camping
we could hold in each handful. Our giddiness atop a rock that overlooked the river, my knees
about all the chocolate we had carried out into blew out. We set up camp for the night and in
the woods kept us happy. the morning, with the help of Ethan and Paul,
"Do you.see this? Wehave Toblerone. WL Lmade myway out to a road leading to a ski
resort. We reached the ski resort and called
my brother, who made the six-hour drive out
to come get me.
"Wow. That's all I'm going to say. Wow,"
Jacob had said over the phone before making
the drive on down.
By the end, we had hiked more than 70
miles over four days, walking from sun up to
sun down with little rest. Jacob and I were
both left limping for the next couple of weeks.
Ethan's dad was in worse condition than
when we had left.
But we didn't fight with each other during
the trip. When everything was going wrong,
we became closer. It came down to the fact
that we were just present. Despite the fact that
we didn't know what to say or how to say it, we
The morning after Ethan's dad passed away, .
Ethan texted me and asked me if I wanted to go
for a run. When I metwith him, I gave him a hug
and asked him the obligatory stupid question,
"You doing alright?" As we began running out
toward the trails, Ethan looked at me and we
started talking about airplanes.
Aaron Guggenheim is an LSA junior and a