Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Holding Court

I admit that my attitude toward books borders on obsession. Sometimes for self-discipline practice, I visit a bookstore just to see if I can leave emptyhanded. I suppose other people have their own weaknesses. I don't love shoes or purses. But I do love books, and it doesn't take people long to know that about me.

This weekend I enjoyed two distinctly different experiences. First, I helped to host a regional one-day conference of the North Carolina English Teachers Association on the campus of the community college where I teach. Although I was far more involved that usual with the details, I did have a chance to participate in one session that applied archetypes of the hero's journey to literature. Sure enough, as we were sorted into small groups, we quickly began talking about books. (To be fair, we were asked to choose a work of literature--or a song or cartoon--for our model assignment.) In no time, we were swapping and writing down titles to add to our "must read" list.

The highlight of the day was the lunch session during which we honored our student writing contest winners and our 2009 Ragan-Rubin award author Sheila Kay Adams. Poet Kathryn Stripling Byer was also on hand to present awards to the student poets, so we had language zipping throughout the room. I left with one of two more books and a couple of storytelling and ballad CDs as well.

I spent Sunday at the High Point furniture market, a trip I make at least twice a year to see the culmination of my husband's work throughout the year, preparing new product and displaying it for dealers. Sometimes, if I have another visiting spouse along, I visit other showrooms. This year, though, I stayed in the Fairfield space and visited with the sales reps, many of whom I only see once or twice a year.

Throughout the day, they will come over, sit, and talk about our families, my teaching, and then I know to expect the question: What have you been reading? I try to sift through my memories for books that are best suited to the different personalities. Debbie, the regular receptionist, is an avid reader and book clubber, so she alwys has a list for me as well.

By the time I returned home Sunday night, I was ready to read a few pages in Richard Russo's That Old Cape Magic, but not before I checked my shelves, picking out a few volumes waiting to be read, moving some closer to the top of the stack. I may not always be able to judge a book by its cover, but I know whom to trust.

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