In Reading, the Magic Is After the Trick

My grandmother used to read to me. She needed two glasses. Far and near. Both very heavy. I remember them as well as I remember the smell of the cabinet in which she kept them, next to some glasses that were only used on Sundays.

I also remember that when she didn’t wear them first thing in the morning while she was making me breakfast, my impression was that a part of her face was missing.

It was my first sense of obscenity, as for me, in a way, she was naked. Obscenity, in general, is not a naked thing, but what leaves us naked.

When it came time for reading, she took the one with a brown frame – the one away – and put on one with a dark, grayish frame. The close.

And read to me.


I would lie to you if I said that I remember any of the books that kept us company those afternoons. I can’t even imagine which ones they were. As I also don’t remember this story that is always told to me and that now, borrowing it from the memory of others, I tell you.

Funny how things slip out of your head, like water that slips through your fingers leaving only precious stones. You die of thirst, but at least there is something to look at.

The fact that my grandmother opened those pages and, from those little dirt on the white of the paper, extracting those things that she spoke to me, occasionally showing the pictures, certainly enchanted me.

How could that be after all?

That’s why one of those afternoons, when my grandmother was busy with other things, I was caught with heavy, dark-rimmed glasses, precariously balanced on my nose, with a book in front of me.

For me, what made reading possible were the glasses because, whenever she went to read, she took them, as if carrying out a ritual.

What – I quickly learned – was a mistake.

A short time later I became literate, as every child should be, and in a short time I myself deciphered the stains on the paper – which I came to know through letters . And they were not just in the books, but in the world around them. And, like every kid at that stage, I read every sign and sign I could while the car was running. Out loud. For initial delight, intermediate boredom and later despair of those who took me for a walk.

The fact is that reading, I mean, the mechanical act of reading is a trick. I saw the artist pulling a rabbit out of his hat and I wanted to learn. I thought the glasses would instantly teach me how to read.

But in reading, the real magic lies behind the tricks. What matters is not the rabbit coming out of the hat, but what he says after he has left.

The tricks, I learned by joining lyrics with lyrics with Aunt Marise. The desire to make them came when I saw my grandmother with her glasses.

And magic, who likes to read – or listen – knows what I’m talking about.

But I suspect – I still suspect – that those heavy, dark-rimmed glasses were a secret and indispensable ingredient in this spell.

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