The Paris Review

Crying in the Library

Still from Mary Pickford’s 1911 film Their First Misunderstanding.

I’m a crier by nature, but as I have aged, my reasons for tearing up have become more elusive, even to me. Where once I could predict a crying spell, like spotting an East Texas thunderstorm moving across the landscape, now they arrive fast and sharp, like hail in New England on a March day. More and more frequently, I find myself wiping away tears while asking with plaintive frustration, “Wait, why am I crying right now?”

I had one of those spells this morning while I holding a very old book in the rare books room of the Health Sciences Library at the University

You're reading a preview, sign up to read more.

Related Interests

More from The Paris Review

The Paris Review12 min read
What Thom Gunn Thought of Oliver Sacks
Thom Gunn, left, in 1960 at Hampstead-White Stone Pond. Oliver Sacks, right, with his beloved BMW motorbike at Muscle Beach. Courtesy of the Oliver Sacks Foundation. Photo taken from Sacks’s memoir On the Move. Back in the early eighties, when I firs
The Paris Review13 min read
Dislocated Realities: A Conversation between Helen Phillips and Laura Van Den Berg
Helen Phillips (left) and Laura Van Den berg (right) When an early copy of Helen Phillips’s new novel, The Need, turned up at my apartment, I had not read a book in two months. I had been unable to read, in fact. My father had died recently and each
The Paris Review7 min read
Rumple. Stilt. And Skin.
Sabrina Orah Mark’s monthly column, Happily, focuses on fairy tales and motherhood. “I hope you’re not afraid of mice,” my friend Amy says. I am in her car. She clicks open the glove box and a soft shock of fur and paper and string is gently exhaled