Reading coffee grounds

At my parents’ house, there is an old hand mill coffee grinder. As a child, every morning I would wake up to the sound and the smell of my Dad grinding the coffee for his morning brew. When I was a teenager I found myself joining him; then I started university, and I was the first soul awake in the quiet, gloomy hours, grinding the beans to start the day.

I hate instant coffee. Not because it doesn’t taste good (although it sometimes is horrible), but because I love the ritual of coffee. Boiling the water, grinding the beans, pouring the fresh coffee into my cup, and watching the steam melt into nothing. This ritual reminds me that even in a day of chaos, there are pockets of space for quiet.

Whether a book is written through the fueling power of coffee, the characters meet over a cup, or readers enjoy it while reading, coffee and books go together.

Just as I do, characters love coffee, but of course, everyone has their fix in different ways:

Andy in The Goldfinch is the teenaged, caffeine fueled, Starbucks fiend:
‘It’s completely ridiculous that you won’t let us have coffee,’ said Andy, who was in the habit of buying himself a huge Starbucks on the way to school and on the way home every afternoon, without his parents’ knowledge. ‘You’re very behind the times on this … it’s very unreasonable for you to expect me to go into Advanced Placement Chemistry at 8.45 in the morning with no caffeine.”

Eliot’s Prufrock is the ‘uses coffee as a metaphysical metaphor’ drinker:
For I have known them all already, known them all:
Have known the evenings, mornings, afternoons,
I have measured out my life with coffee spoons;

Charles Bukowski is the nostalgic coffee drinker: 
“I will remember the kisses
our lips raw with love
and how you gave me
everything you had
and how I
offered you what was left of
and I will remember your small room
the feel of you
the light in the window
your records
your books
our morning coffee
our noons our nights
our bodies spilled together
the tiny flowing currents
immediate and forever
your leg my leg
your arm my arm
your smile and the warmth
of you
who made me laugh

Amy March from Little Woman wants someone to stop talking shit and just make her coffee:
“I’d rather take coffee than compliments just now.”

Virginia Woolf knows what’s important in life:
“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table… Let me sit here for ever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.”

In Kafka on the Shore Oshima is the drinker that knows the best cup is made with care:
“Around nine Oshima roars up in his Miata, and we get the library ready to open. He’s taught me how to do it just right. You grind the beans by hand, boil some water in a narrow-spouted pot, let it sit for a while, then slowly – and I mean slowly – pour the water through a paper filter. When the coffee’s ready Oshima puts in the smallest pinch of sugar, just for show, basically, but no cream – the best way, he insists.”

And finally Thomas from Extremely Loud & Incredibly Close knows that a cup of coffee is the best companion:
“I like to see people reunited, maybe that’s a silly thing, but what can I say, I like to see people run to each other, I like the kissing and the crying, I like the impatience, the stories that the mouth can’t tell fast enough, the ears that aren’t big enough, the eyes that can’t take in all of the change, I like the hugging, the bringing together, the end of missing someone, I sit on the side with a coffee and write in my daybook, I examine the flight schedules that I’ve already memorized, I observe, I write, I try not to remember the life that I didn’t want to lose but lost and have to remember”

Images from Kinfolk.

4 thoughts on “Reading coffee grounds

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