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On Reading

For as long as I can remember, I've been a reader. You sure about that Gail, after all, your memory, or lack thereof, is famous? Yes, I'm sure about that. Aside from my family, almost nothing in life has given me greater pleasure than written stories.

When I was younger, I always felt that once I'd begun a novel, I had to finish it, regardless of whether I liked it. Happily, in later years, I've discarded that notion, if something doesn't suit me, I close the novel, moving on to the next one.

Some people seem to feel that fiction is a waste of time, however, I beg to differ. In my humble opinion, which, because you are reading my blog you'll have to endure, storytelling rings truer than most non-fiction. Who can't still identify with the  characters of Dickens, Tolstoy, Hardy, Austen, and the list goes on? That said, can you imagine reading a non-fiction book published from the same eras?

Lots of times I get on a subject kick. For instance, I've read countless tales of coal mining, Jews, of course WWII and the Holocaust, and Southern literature. I'm not much of a mystery reader, mostly because I'm not clever enough to see where things are going. While our mother lay dying, one of the tasks I took on was going to the library, choosing fifteen books for her to pass the time. Believe me, when I carried those stacks, I got lots of looks!  A lot of the great books I've read have just been plucked from the library shelves--I can almost feel that I'll like something. This proved much more difficult to do for Mom because she was a lover of great mysteries, thus my intuition failed me a great deal of the time.

I may have mentioned previously that through the years I've attempted and failed to keep a journal going for any length of time, which makes this blog so remarkable for me. I can hardly believe I've been at this for years now. That said, I've really nothing to show for my efforts except a flat screen with photographs and words.

Which brings me to my next point. I don't want to sound like a curmudgeon, well, then again, maybe I do. I'm getting very anxious at the prospect of books going the way of so much of what was familiar to the previous generation. I'm talking about the e-readers. I'm partial to well worn pages, dog eared and covered with age spots. This suggests a book is well-loved, although all books that are well loved aren't to my taste. I rarely read best sellers. I guess that makes me weird.

Oscar Loveland's 1882 diary
Digressing for just a moment here--what I wrote in the previous paragraph used to be how we viewed getting older. These days, lots of folks, particularly women, are in such a rush to erase their years, something I find very unappealing.

By now you're probably wondering how we got from posts about Gail and the gang, to this. I can't say as I blame you. An explanation is forthcoming.

Completing the novel, Zoli, this afternoon, written by this amazing author,, forced me to think about my reading, and in turn, made me want to write about it.  Set in Czechoslovakia, the story is loosely based on the life of a Gypsy poet during the difficult years of not only WWII, but the Russian takeover, and fascism. Not really even realizing that I'd read one of his books some years ago,  I gave Matt his latest novel,  Let the Great World Spin for Christmas. Reading it on one of his trans-continental flights, he raved and raved about the writing.  Because all copies of that book were checked out of our library for the last month, I read a book of his short stories, and now Zoli. Today, our wonderful library delivered the novel to my front door. Fantastic, right? Here come's my humble opinion again--Mr. Colum McCann may just be one of the finest writers working today. His prose is elegant, his stories imaginative, the dialogue pitch perfect, as well, he requires/demands something from his readers--their full attention. Have I convinced you yet?

While at Valencia, I disliked writing papers about books, mainly because I figured most of the time there is no really deep meaning, mostly the authors have a story to tell. Possibly this is because I'm not deep, rather shallow actually, thus I'm missing something.

Years ago, when having a computer was somewhat of a novelty, I kept a book list with the name of the novel and a two sentence description. I've just located the printed copy of the books I read in 1996 and 1997. Sadly, on the first page I see that three of the authors have since died.

If you're up for it, I'll share the first page just as written--surely you'll recognize a few:

Carolina Moon--another fine book by Jill McCorkle. Ferris Beach revisited with a cast of quirky characters.

To Dance with the White Dog--Fantastic book about an elderly gentleman and his "white dog" after  his wife passes away. Loved it--cried.

Cured by Fire--Interesting book about two homeless men and their dependence on one another. North Carolina writer.

Models--Lengthy book about the business of modeling by a NY Times writer. learned more than I wanted to know about it!

I Love You Anyway--good story about two sisters and their love life. Current reference to music were amusing.

Suspects--murder mystery, well written, two sets of cops, surprise killer. Liked it.

Fathers and Son--Larry Brown's new book. Set in Mississippi, always painful to read because the characters are so tough. About an angry young man returning from prison and the havoc he wreaks on the folks back home. Great writer, should be a movie. Good over evil. (He is one of the deceased authors--died of a heart attack way too young)

The Christmas Letters--a novella by Lee Smith. Just what it says. Lots of truth about life and how we live it. I love Lee Smith. 1/4/97

Hoopie Shoopie Donna--Great book by the author of Selling the Light of Heaven. Polish girl and her relationship with her family and her forming of an all girl polka band.

The Stone Diaries by Carol Shields (deceased)--Wonderful writing. Biography of Daisy Goodwill daughter of Mercy Stone. Mrs. Greenthumb. Birth to death. Marvelous.

Good Evening Mr. & Mrs. America--A fine story of a young man's dream to become President like his hero Kennedy. His experiences in radio school and affairs with girls discourage him.

What's It All About? --a 79 year old trailer park resident philosophizes about life.

The Patient--Ben of "Everything But the Girl" relates his harrowing experiences recovering from a rare small bowel disease. Poignant.

Independent People--took me forever, Icelandic saga, re-released, won Nobel Prize in 1954. Sheep farmer and his travails both physical and phycological. Well worth the time!

Angela's Ashes--Frank McCourt's harrowing autobiography of growing up in the slums of Limerick, Ireland. Pulitzer Prize winner! Fantastic!

Dear readers, you may be bored by now, however re-typing that list was a complete joy for me; many of the voices from those novels came back to me loud and clear.

I suspect you have your own thoughts on reading--care to share them? And, if you've actually read to the bottom of this post, you can imagine what I'll be doing tonight.

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