Friday, June 20, 2008

Book Juggling

I have always been a one-book-at-a time reader, but I find that is changing. Perhaps I have been overcome with the realization that I cannot possibly read everything I want to read, so I need a new strategy. Probably I have just adapted my reading to my different settings.

If you asked what I was reading right now, I'd mention my bedside table book, Mr. Sebastian and the Negro Magician by Daniel Wallace, the author of Big Fish, the book on which the movie was based. The structure of the book is one I enjoy when done right: the author uses different narrators or formats to reveal the story so that readers gradually get a sense of what is real. Since the books is about illusion, the structure works.

Meanwhile in the car, I'm listening to Digging to America, Anne Tyler's story of two families, one American and one Iranian, who build a friendship after meeting each other at the airport when picking up their adopted Korean daughters in the late 1990s. I was especially interested in the story since I'd travelled with Debbie and her family to China in 1997 when they adopted Allie. In the story, one of the families eventually goes to China to adopt a second daughter. So much of their account reminds me of our experiences--from the luggage to helping the baby adapt to being held close.

I also have a book going on my Sony Ebook that I take to the gym to read while riding the bike or walking the treadmill. Right now I'm reading David Sedaris' collection When You Are Engulfed in Flames. It's outrageous, as most of his writing is, but it makes me laugh at loud quite often. I love to see how he pulls together the threads of his stories. Ideally, I'd do all my reading on the ebook, since it's light and convenient, but I can't ignore the books on my shelf, and not everything I want to read is available yet. I do keep a backlog of reading though. I went through the list of 100 classics Sony offers free with the device and downloaded Count of Monte Cristo (which I haven't read since ninth grade) and Brothers Karamazov (which I intend finally to read.)

Last week I finished another good read, The Outlander by Gil Adamson. This is her first novel, one of the Lemuria First Editions that appear monthly at my doorstep. The book has something of a Cold Mountain feel--the setting is important, the protagonist is on a journey and encounters a variety of characters--good and bad--along the way. The main character is usually simply called "the widow," even though her name is revealed and occasionally mentioned. She is a self-made widow, a nineteen-year-old who has killed her husband and escapes through mountains pursued by his twin brothers. There's a little romance along the way, and some mining tales in the camp where she settles. The author seems proud of a couple of words in her vocabulary, using vertiginous often enough to catch my attention, but overall, she tells a good story and uses description well.

Now is the time I need to turn some of my reading attention to texts for fall semester. I've read Glass Castles, but I was reading for pleasure. I look forward to rereading with an eye toward using the novel in the classroom. I think the author is going to be ASU's convocation speaker this fall too. I also want to read up on Holocaust literature, since I've agreed to work with Holly Korta and Matt Williams and their ensemble of presenters for the Holocaust class.

I am also reading Boomer Burden, by "the estate lady" Julie Hall. I think it's a must-read for people our age who face our own parents aging and our own. She seems to present to all parties (the elderly and their aging children) with some good suggestions for sitting down and having those conversations we tend to postpone. Some of the true horror stories of what happened to the belongings of elderly as they were leaving their homes made my skin crawl. (Imagine the neighbors coming in and paying Grandma twenty dollars for her silver.)

Right now, I need a beach trip during which I can shuck off guilt if I choose to read for hours at a stretch. That's what I love about summer.


Cerrillos Sandy said...

Once again, dear cousin, you've out-distanced me in the reading category. I keep a couple of books going at a time, but nothing like the number that you manage. I read Digging to America. I wasn't captivated by it, but I liked it. When I can put a book down and not return for several days, I don't consider it one of my favorites. Surely have enjoyed others by Anne Tyler, though.

You'll never what I've finally started: The Mitford Series. In part because of you and your mother. Barbara showed me her collection in April, and I was a bit ashamed that I'd never read them. A friend in our neighborhood couldn't believe that I was so "ignorant." She's buying all of them at Goodwill for me, and I'll pass them on to another friend in the 'hood.

I have read the first of Jan Karon's new Holly Springs Series, though, and enjoyed it very much. I think I'm falling in love with Mitford!

The way my Favorite Blog list reads, I can tell exactly how long ago each of my friends wrote the last post on their blogs. Cool, huh?

Happy Weekend!!


Laura said...

Definitely must loan me the Sedaris book when you're done. I've been wanting to read it. I'm so eager to have a moment to myself to read -- anything. Thanks for the Boomer Burden reference. I hope it takes off!