By Heart is a series in which authors share and discuss their all-time favorite passages in literature.
Most novels are never finished, only abandoned. Herman Melville scribbled changes onto the final proofs of Moby-Dick until the printer's deadlines could wait no longer; in her journals, Virginia Woolf announced at least four separate times that she'd finally completed The Waves. Writers often keep writing and keep refining, even as the waiting world hollers that it's finally time to stop.
The reason for this, says author Khaled Hosseini, is that it's terribly hard for a book to recreate the scope and grandeur of an author's ideas before they hit the page. Even for novelists, words only approximate the vividness and urgency of thought. "Everyone is an ocean inside," he told me. "Every individual walking the street. Everyone is a universe of thoughts, and insights, and feelings. But every person is crippled in his or her own way by our inability to truly present ourselves to the world."
So when I asked him to discuss a favorite passage from literature, Hosseini chose the opening passage from Stephen King's story "The Body," which comes from a book of four novellas called Different Seasons (and was adapted for the screen by Rob Reiner as Stand by Me, starring River Phoenix). The narrator, Gordie LaChance, wants to tell the reader about the time he saw a dead body as a kid—but he's sure he won't do the story justice. For Hosseini, this opening beautifully invokes the anxiety that our words will come out mangled and misheard—as well as the joy we feel when people, against all odds, connect.