Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Sixty-Day Challenge

Greetings! First here's my reading update: Not content with the dose of plague reading I had in Follett's World Without End, I picked up the audio version of Geraldine Brooks' novel Year of Wonders, which recounts the experience of an English lead-mining village in 1665-1666, dealing with the bubonic plague. Anna Frith, the narrator, is a young widow who works as maid at the rectory. At the encouraging of the rector, after the plague strikes, they villagers take an oath to remain in the village and not to allow outsiders, in order to stop further spread of the plague.

Some of the explicit details of the plague are horrific, though evidently very accurate. I was most interested to learn in the Afterword that the story, though fictional, was based on the experiences of a real English village. At one point near the end of the story, I was afraid it had taken a "romance novel" turn, but rather than tying it up all too predictably, Brooks throws a curve and builds an ending I didn't anticipate. In all fairness, a plague novel can't have too tidy a "happily ever after" ending, now can it?

No less somber is my other nightstand book right now, Doris L. Bergen's War and Genocide, which traces the rise of Hitler and the Nazi power through World War II and the concurrent mass killings of Jews, Roma, Communists, homosexuals, and others considered undesirable or a threat to the New Order.

In order to sleep at night, I needed some more pleasant fare. To that end, I decided to accept the challenge I read in a recent blog on Robert Lee Brewer's site Poetic Asides (to which I have a link). In this particular interview, contrary to the conventional wisdom that one who wants to write poetry should avoid reading others' poetry, poet Bill Abbott suggests that any aspiring should read a book of poetry every other day for sixty days. See the interview here: http://blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides/Selfpublishing++Slamming+An+Interview+With+Poet+Bill+Abbott.aspx

I have just begun the challenge, but I have read so far Ron Rash's collection Eureka Mill, which follows his grandfather's move from the family farm to a textile mill in South Carolina. I heard Rash reading from this work back in the spring at CVCC. It tied in with Hickory's Big Read, The Bridge by the late Doug Marlette.

Next I read Flying at Night by the former national poet laureate Ted Kooser. Already a fan of his poems, I was especially pleased when he appeared at the fall conference of the National Council of Teachers of English three years ago. A small, unassuming man, he writes poems that evokes poem-worthy memories of my own.

Yesterday I completed Sarah Lindsay's Primate Behavior, a quirky collection that draws from primitive worlds, archeology, and even circus life. I liked "Life on Earth, Part Twelve: The Business Salmon."

I love the challenge of choosing what to read next. My bookshelves have an ample offering, but I find myself scanning them for the ones I don't see. I am particularly eager to read again a collection by Miller Williams (whose daughter Lucinda is a recording artist I enjoy.) It may be in one of the umpteen boxes in my garage or in my attic, taken from my old classroom when I left high school a year ago. Meanwhile, the offerings are rich, and I'm ready to immerse myself in the memories, inventions, cadences, and diction of others.

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