Sunday, July 29, 2012

There is no friend as loyal as a book - Hemingway

There are books and then there are books.  There are books you read just pass time or it appeals to you for one reason or another. Sometimes it is because  a certain author is your favorite so you read anything they publish. A book club selection or the new books offered at the library. Sometimes  you take the recommendations of friends and magazines, perhaps Oprah. It could even be the shelf at the book store that says "Staff Pick".

However you chose what to read sometimes out of the enormous sea of possibilities a book will rise above the rest  that effects you in some profound way. It could be something as simple as alter the way you think about a subject or a theme or a philosophy. At other times it can be life altering.

I remember the first "life altering" book I read. I think I was around 12. My Mom would take us to this little second hand book store in downtown Lexington called "Dennis Books". We were allowed to go through the mountains of books and purchase what we wanted. (My Mom was/is one of a kind).

I came home with a purple paperback, "The World of Henry Orient" by Nora Johnson. That book rocked my little sleepy southern home town world. 

I wanted to be "Val" and fly around NYC wearing my mothers discarded mink coat and be a brilliant vivacious musically talented neurotic 13 year old. I just fell in love with Val. I think I willed myself to be slightly neurotic ever since!

I re-read the book several years ago. It took me a long time to find a copy! The book had been reissued and I was just out of luck hunting it down. This was very pre-Amazon. Every bookstore I entered I would look, always in vain and leave disappointed. If memory holds correct, I believe the local book store in Lexington, Jo-Beth, special ordered the book for me. Finally (!) I got my hands on it and read it in a single sitting.

Like all magic carpet rides it took me back to the enchanting era of being 12 years of age, sitting in my pink bedroom in the over sized easy chair discarded from the family living room and laid to rest in my second story bed room. I would throw my legs over one arm and cosy up in the soft comfort of its snugness and read for hours.

I was almost relieved that I still felt its charming appeal. And somewhat alarmed that it is considered "Young Adult" fiction. Geez, am I the only person who has actually read this book! 

Do you have any special books from your youth that you remember fondly and have re-read as an adult?

Thursday, July 26, 2012


Just returned home from a trip to the library. I had requested a book from another branch in the very extensive interconnecting conduit of the county I live in. The library system is linked to several other counties in the state of Mississippi including Ole Miss! Very impressive. I still long for a Memphis Public library card though. And I will have it in time. Mark my words!

The book is a 1934 edition of Einstein's "The World as I see it". I am blown away by the condition of the book which is very bad! you could not sell it on Amazon. If you did you would have to note that the spine is broken, front and back, the book is cracked, front and back, no dust jacket, loose pages and lot's of pen marks, bent pages and underlining. A mess! It should be out of circulation, but then again, it was the only copy in the system! Lucky me. Imagine the number of people who have held this book?

I came from " J C Fant Memorial Library, Miss. Sate college for Women, Columbia MS". 
It is second from the top of my current pile of books to read in the next several weeks.
1) Norwegian Wood -Haruki Murakami. Also borrowed from another regional library in Kosciusko, Ms. Must be read and returned by Aug 2nd, so it is first. Read somewhere that this is a very cool book. I shall report back if it indeed is cool and how long it takes me to read it.

2) The world as I see it - second because it also is from another branch and must be read by Aug 9th (I think!)

The rest in no particular order...
As I lay Dying - Wm Faulkner. Because I have just begun reading Faulkner and he is mind blowing good (so far)

The Crimson Petal and the White - Michael Farber - recommended in a book a just read (non-fiction!)

Stuffed -  Adventures of a restaurant family  - Patricia Volk. 

Slammerkin - Emma Donoghue Irish back story and I heard it was very good

Medium Raw - Anthony Bourdain - because I almost picked up this book at a Goodwill and thought instead of shelling out $2.99 I would check out of the library. Actually it was Kitchen Confidential but my library did not have it on the shelf so I grabbed this one.

That's seven books I give myself three weeks to read! Let's see if I can do it!
Do you purchase books? Amazon? Book store? Or do you head to the library?

Wednesday, July 25, 2012


I never was what would be considered a scholar. I was not even a good student after sixth grade and out from under the iron fist of Sister Hildegard, a four foot tall mean relentless ruler wielding spitfire that an 11 year old did not dare to challenge.

I coasted ever since until my second attempt at college.

When I was riding the wave of know it all-ism in High School I was  doing everything possible to just get by. This included copying homework during Home Room. I also was a pro at  feigning illness to hang out in bed all day doing a crash study for Social Study tests.

Even then I loved to read, but only what I wanted to read. Not what was assigned. How I ever got through High School is a mystery and a miracle.

I missed out on reading a lot of terrific literature due to my stubbornness and proclivity to procrastinate. I recently picked up THE GREAT GATSBY. Didn't I read this in High School? Didn't I write a paper about the empty shells of fruit lying in the garbage and comparing it to the lives of the characters?

The reference to the fruit - ah, there it is, around page 40. I will bet the farm that is as far as I got in the book before seizing on that theme. I can see it now, thinking how cunning and smart I am as I happily wrote a couple of pages of BS that allowed me to disregard the rest of the book!

I am so sad that it took so long for me to actually read TGG. Did I love it? Do I consider it to be one of the greatest pieces of fiction ever written? 

What do I know? What I do know is that if I had to write a paper today I would examine Tom, Daisy's husband, and why he chose women from obviously a lower class to have affairs with!! That intrigued me. And I would rail against the symbolism of that green light! I would argue that FSF is laughing at us, where ever he is.

My ambitious endeavor of this reading challenge will include a lot of CLASSICS that I neatly sidestepped as a smart aleck during those formative years.

Did you ever use Cliff Notes in school? Or did you just fake it (like me)?

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


It is sort of quirky that there is no rhyme or reason to how I choose which books to read. I have no particular genre that I prefer over another. At one period in my life it was "the thicker the better" as I read The Drifters by James Michener, War and Peace, Tolstoy, Atlas Shrugged , Ayn Rand...well, you get the picture.

Years ago I was in deep with mysteries, girl PI's  police drama, police beat novels  and courtroom dramas. When I discovered Sue Grafton I began with C is for Corpse and set out to read every one in the neoteric Alphabet series. Ever since, I have collected most of them and of late, checked her last two from the library. I went crazy over Wm. J. Coughlin, Sara Paretsky, Marcia Muller, Linda Barnes, Julie Smith, Scott Turow and Edna Buchanan.   Those are off the top of my head!

I went through a phase where I read all of Anne Rice. I picked up Queen of the Damned and was hooked and began with Interview with the Vampire and keep going and going until I became bored with her. My very favorite being The Mummy which, when I met her, asked if she were writing another Mummy and she told me yes. She lied!! Or else decided to not publish. My favorite last one was Tale of the Body Thief - I became dis-enamored with her trying to get through Merrick and just have never gone back.

I enjoy women writers as opposed to men authors. That is not entirely true since I devoured many  Alexandre Dumas novels. I love H. Rider Haggard and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I had a crush on Sherlock Holmes for a long time. What a man!

But when I decide what to read there is actually no method to the madness. I will saunter into a library or a book store and just browse. Something will eventually catch my fancy. Either a cover or a description of the contents. I do not limit myself to fiction and you will find me equally among the the 916's and 914's. I am not much into biographies though I occasionally will tackle one, as I am now trying to read a Martha Gellhorn but only made it to page 50 and tossed it aside for another book of non-fiction which requires much less labor. There is something so.....cold about a certain type of biography, all the foot notes and the side bars and back story. 

When push comes to shove I will refer to Oprah's Book Club. I have rarely been disappointed.

How do you choose a book to read?

Monday, July 23, 2012

And what will you do with your wild and precious life?

I just had an amazing thought a little while ago. I thought I should be blogging about trying to read two books a week! My trials and victories. The reason why I feel like doing this. What I am learning. Why I choose the books I decide to read. The rhyme and reason. The ying and yang. The method and  the madness.

To begin, and perhaps the important  is the why. Because I don't know just yet. The mystery has not revealed itself. I just know that I am horrified that I can sit in front of a computer and two - three hours will just melt away. I will have achieved nothing. I would not receive much inspiration (if any), I will not be moved to any action, and most of all, I more than likely will be loosing IQ. Not to mention my e-bay addiction!

I am totally bored with TV unless it is Survivor or Justified. I would guess I spend about an hour a day in front of the Boob Tube. My hubs LOVES TV. Loves it. Channel surfing is his thing, his style. He can talk about television shows from eons ago, the jingles of a million commercials, and the directors of any movie ever made since the American invention of the double feature. His favorite line of disbelief when I admit that I have never seen a particular film, "That movie defined our generation!"

I prefer books to movies. I have never seen a movie that was superior to the book. 

Several weeks ago my Mother asked me, "So tell me Mary, what do you do on any given day?" I shrugged and thought to myself, "Is this a trick question to find out why I have not visited the Ewings'" (a friend of the family who moved to Memphis late last year).

The truth of the matter is .....I read. And I have been reading a lot and loving it. Maybe I am trying to escape something. I know there are things I should be doing and could be doing rather than reading the afternoon away, but I do not care.

Maybe I am avoiding the fact that I have to find a better paying job than the one at the Bucket. 

Maybe I am hiding.

Maybe I am reading my life away, but I am not wasting it. I am invigorated and energized by what I read.  And maybe just maybe whatever it is I am seeking will find me. Late at night. With the head lamp on, with the cat sharing my side of the bed as he and Joe give in to the slumber of the lesser possessed, as sleep eludes me and I go along for some wonderful adventure away from all the banality of my every day life.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

A Good Book Has No Ending

I am spending my summer being inspired by assigning myself an enormous reading program to better my mind and grease these rusty wheels.

I have made the acquaintance of several authors I never knew existed which in turn tossed me into a labyrinth of continuous consumption of the Southern Writer genre.

I have discovered Ellen Gilchrist and Michael Lee West and am trying to devour everything they have ever written. I should get on my knees every day and thank God for the public library and inter-library loan system.

I have just torn myself away from William Faulkner's LIGHT IN AUGUST to pound out a few words and give my eyes a break.

The other day while working at the Bucket a lady was searching for a gift to take back to California. She asked me what Mississippi was famous for?

My mind was over run with flashes of The Delta, the Blues, Civil right's and segregation, the Civil War, the Mississippi River and rail roads. But I took her to a display of cookbooks and suggested two of them to her. "We are famous for our fantastic cuisine!"

But in all honesty what makes Mississippi truly spectacular is all the fantastic writers that have emerged from this heady breeding ground of literature.