I just finished a memoir that I had picked up a few days ago because I was interested in the editor and wanted to get a sense of what she approved of. It was ok. The writing was a bit lackluster in some aspects for me but I am picky in that sense. I hit the last page this afternoon and was reminded why I have started to develop a subconscious annoyance when finishing a book on a Kindle. In a paper book, that last page can be absolutely prepared for, as you start to be able to count the remaining pages in your fingers. If it’s a good book, reading that last paragraph is like walking to the edge of a pier that juts out into the ocean. You walk slowly to the end, knowing what view awaits, knowing the odd sense of peace. Nothing else in front of you – just that last few feet of wooden planks and then a view you can meditate on – a destination of calm.
I used to take those few moments of reading the last sentences and then scanning the blankness of the page in the same way as we look at the ocean. Taking it all in, and understanding the walk down the pier, the stroll through the story. A little second to come back into the world I’m sitting in after being in a completely different one in my head, on the pages.
Now, the Kindle gets another strike because I realized I don’t enjoy that last page because it never comes – instead I read that last paragraph, touch my finger to the screen, and I am assaulted.
BEFORE YOU GO REVIEW THIS BOOK! TELL PEOPLE YOU READ THIS BOOK! FOLLOW THE AUTHOR! WANT MORE? OTHER PEOPLE LIKE YOU ALSO BOUGHT THESE OTHER TEN BOOKS BECAUSE OUR ALGORITHM SAID SO BECAUSE THEY’RE ALL ABOUT THE SAME THING!
Sure they don’t write it in capslock, but it sure feels like it.
They snagged me today though when I realized I didn’t have another book I really wanted to read, and I felt like I needed another Memoir, so I took the bait, jumped back on Amazon, and searched for my next Kindle read. Because of another algorithm, or some other creepy tech (YOU ARE IN ITALY AND SHE WAS IN ITALY AND YOU WANTED A MEMOIR!), I was recommended to read Waiting to be Heard by Amanda Knox. I scowled. In 2007, I was just starting college and my father has passed away just the year before. I had enough on my plate and was certainly not focused on this news story that seemed to plaster the news every evening. The only reason why I even knew about it at all was that it was based in Italy and we had just gone there last year and my obsession had begun.
My finger hovered over the screen for a minute. I downloaded a sample. I read a few reviews. In the past decade, the Knox story circled in and out of my life, but never took hold as anything important. Perugia, however, became another hilltown I fell in love with – but now as I sit here writing this, I realize that by the time I actually stepped foot into the city that was made famous by a murder, it was the furthest thought from my mind.
I bought the book. I’ve read up to the day of the murder November, 2nd 2007. I hate that I bought it. Not happy because I bought a fanfare book. That someone got to write something and publish it just because of the popularity of the story. Though I have to say, so far, Knox is a better writer than the last memoir I read. But living here in this country, and seeing girls get into trouble, and now knowing the story more thoroughly, and probably getting subliminal messages from the Netflix Documentary that keeps popping up, I caved.
I wanted to see why, how my beautiful Perugia could have emerged from this mess. I wanted to hear another side of the story. She writes so much like I did when I first came here as a student – but I got what she wanted in Ascoli. She ended up in a college campus that she apparently didn’t want anything to do with. She had the same problems fitting in, maybe being too young and ignorant to understand how to navigate a life away from everything she knew.
For me, Perugia is full of chocolate festivals and winding alleys that echo centuries of an enlivened history. The mood is younger, fresh – with the main road lined with bustling storefronts and cafes, just like any other town here. I’ve ran through the food stalls to grab a hot chocolate and drink it sitting out on the same piazza that so many, including Amanda have looked out over with a deep appreciation for its beauty. I’ve sat inside a high-end shop and pet the English Bulldog that liked to sit in the front window while his owner worked. I’ve sipped from the fountains and ducked into hidden cloisters with vibrant frescoes, and had a beautiful plate of Porcini mushrooms with my husband just steps away from the house that is now only known for a murder, and then drove off into that beautiful valley to a wine spa.
Now I’m reading about the little hilltown as a different setting, and I wonder if my mind will change after I finish reading. I doubt it. The echoes of the news crews and bustle around the century-old streets have silenced and the talk is of chocolate again. It seems that they’ve forgotten about Amanda – at least when I visited, even as the trial rose from the grave in 2013, and then died again in 2015 as I was falling in love in Florence. But for the next few days, as I read, as I walk that boardwalk to the end of the pier, Perugia will be my crime scene, and I will be a student again with terrible Italian and a skewed view of what life in this country really means, all because Kindle can’t let me just stare out at a blank page when I finish my book.