The low-budget English production Is Anybody There? is now reaching screens in the United States, thanks to the presence of Michael Caine in the lead role. The action takes place at Lark Hall, a family-run nursing facility. As one aging resident dies, another arrives to take over the bed—a cycle of life and death accepted mostly with a nod and a shrug.
That here in the deepest water, beyond even rags of light, nearly transparent creatures glitter and flash like neon signs floating down the Las Vegas strip;
That as recently as seven years ago liquid water flowed down an arroyo on Mars, shifting sands and turning small rocks, a pattern like a palm print on a rusting door;
That on a cold night water vapor makes visible the breath of small children, who laugh to see themselves breathe,
and makes visible the broken breath of old men forgetting their children in refugee camps, and the drying breath of prisoners in stone cells, whose mothers and sisters believe they’re long dead;
That in the beginning the Spirit moved over the waters like a mighty wind; that the spirit moves through water even now, even now through the straw held to a sick man’s lips, blessed from basin to scallop shell to the forehead of a crying child; That we are from conception almost entirely water.
The way Herod liked to listen to John the Baptist, summoning him from his cell for private chats but could make no sense of what he said; the way Festus kept the apostle Paul locked up for two years because he enjoyed hearing him talk, although his words made him afraid; the way the German guards, terrified by night bombings, sought out Pastor Bonhoeffer, even though he was, by his own account, a provider of cold comfort, writing to a friend, “I can listen all right, but hardly ever find anything to say. Yet perhaps the way one asks about some things and is silent about others helps suggest what really matters”—did not stop the sharp rap on the prison door or the words “get ready to come with us” as if for one more quiet conversation about what really matters.
There was a shallow moss gray basin set with bunches of grapes. The grapes were chiseled green with the ripeness of their September harvest. There was a pert glazed pitcher, black as obsidian, filled with cold water. There were six linen napkins with red diagonal strips laxly laid by earthenware plates.
But no one sat at the low walnut table. There was no shepherd or mastiff nearby. No, Old Pritchard’s family—bless them!— was casting about somewhere below for his lean body, his cracked bones.
Print books remain significantly more popular than digital books, according to a recent Pew Research Center survey. The bad news is that the number of people who reported reading a book in any format last year was 73 percent, down from 79 percent in 2011 when Pew first started gathering data on the reading habits of America (Publishers Weekly, September 16).