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I had jury duty today in Brooklyn, New York, one of the interruptions of our usual lives most of us don’t look forward to at all. My friends told me to bring a book. Jose Saramago’s “Death with Interruptions”, a novel, was the one I brought into the courtroom waiting area.

Here, potential jurors wait after the welcome film, courtesy of New York, that described the ideas of trial by jury. The film showed a history of trials and justice from ancient Greece to England to the U.S.. I was surprised to find myself thinking we have come a long, long way toward justice. After the day long-wait, the court informed me that I was done for the next 8 years.

Waiting is all you do in jury duty most of the time, but having a great book transported me.

I finished “Death with Interruptions” on the bus on the way home, before the chaos hit. On the bus route the seats were all filled and the standing areas packed, when a teenager vomited. Quite a lot, then staggered out the back exit. With no space to back away, travelers’ reactions were extreme. As people exited, a couple were left at the front of the bus, two women who faded in and out of consciousness. Heroin, do you know the look? We have a few areas in New York City where you can’t miss it – crouched or tilted posture, frozen in mid gesture, silent. Neither sleeping nor awake, the women looked completely vulnerable and I felt afraid for them. At their stop they suddenly became alert and stumbled off the bus. And next, my trip was interrupted, as the driver announced the bus was out of service. It was still a long way from my stop, but the driver agreed to let me ride back with him anyway.

The novel “Death with Interruptions” chronicles death, as a character, as a calculating but fickle intelligent being who is neither being nor nothingness. She’s fascinating, feared, and unpredictable. There are so many ways to interrupt life, not so many to interrupt death. But when distracted, even death has “interruptions” in her daily work, and then people stop dying. The story is a delightful thought experiment, a window into another person’s fantastical world.  Music plays a pivotal role in the story, and is woven in beautifully by the author. I could hear the cello and orchestra he described, as if they were beside me. It may have been the music that distracted her, or it may have been love – but the idea is a delicious one. It left me wondering, how can we interrupt death today? Should we, even?

What book would you bring, for an all day wait?

*****

You may also be interested in New Fiction Books From Scientist Author J.J.Brown: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=STwnAVhtSIY&context=C31833e1ADOEgsToPDskLaw2vSukQN0ENTMOk8t-LC