Certain physical things help to anchor us in the world, to bring us special comfort. For my dear friend Sam, they included his books about (or written by) the Founding Fathers, as well as his Hebrew bible.
As we prepare to check out, these things can become to us like the binkie and the blankee of a babbling baby. The hospice worker will whisper in our ears, encouraging us to let them go as earnestly as she says that we must let go our very loved ones.
Thus such things become a principal artifice, and take on an outsized role, in literature, in the theatre and even in the visual arts. The writer/artist may seem to choose them casually from a long list of fungibles, but if chosen well they will resonate. (Peter Falk fussing about which hat his character should wear in "Wings of Desire.")
Say good-bye, Professor Nabokov, to your desiccated butterflies, good-bye, Monsieur Proust, to every madeleine, good-bye Mr. Williams to your menagerie that is made of glass.
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