Friday, July 17, 2020

Reading Books from My Own Shelves

Book lovers can justify adding to our book collections at a pace faster than we can match in our reading. The idea of finishing one book without another to start next is a minor terror. 

We voracious readers fantasize about being stuck at home with nothing to do but catch up on reading. Snow storms--we're prepared! Pandemic--ditto! 

While I use my public library account continually, placing holds on the waiting list for new releases, I have focused on books I've missed on my shelf in the last few weeks and months. 

I loved Austin Kleon's little book Steal Like an Artist, so when he visited Parnassus Books last year, I picked up another of his books, Show Your Work. In it, he points out that one's "work" is more than the finished product; it's the process too. It was one of my June reads, and in this book, he includes some of his "black out poems" --  created by removing all but the operative words on a page of prose.

I also had a copy of Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's for years without having read the book. It's actually "a short novel" with three other stories, one of which, I was delighted to discover was his beautiful story "A Christmas Memory." When I read the title story, though, I came across a page that set my 2020 alarm bells. The narrator and Holly go shopping -- or shoplifting -- and pick up masks. It seemed perfect for a blackout poem:
I'm probably one of the few people in America--at least of my generation--that hasn't seen the Audrey Hepburn movie, so I was able to read the story with very few preconceived ideas. Now I can watch the film and complain, "The book was better."

I also located Mark Mills novel Amagansett, set in an east coast fishing village shortly after WWII. The novel opens with a pair of fishermen pulling in a net and discovering the body of a woman identified as Lillian Wallace from a wealthy, powerful family.

Mills follows some of the major characters involved in the aftermath of what may or may not be an accidental drowning. Readers learn that the protagonist Conrad Labard, a first-generation Basque fisherman and war veteran, had a connection to the dead woman. 

Deputy Chief Tom Hollis, recently transferred to the East Hampton Town Police Department, has a gut feeling that doesn't accept the coroner's ruling of accidental drowning, to the dismay of his supervisor Chief Milligan.

There's a wedge between the long-time local fishermen and the moneyed new arrivals, whose development is encroaching on property and fishing rights, so Labard and Hollis follow their own suspicions separately. The death of another local girl in an unsolved hit and run before Hollis' arrival in town presents a clue to Lillian's death.

With glimpses into the past of major and secondary characters, Mills weaves a plot that is both suspenseful and character driven. 

Another book I found waiting on my shelf was Elizabeth Berg's The Art of Mending. I had read Berg before, most recently the charming The Story of Arthur Truluv. This book follows the protagonist Laura, a seamstress who makes unique quilting projects, setting the stage for the controlling metaphor in the book. She and her immediate family are joining her brother and sister for a reunion in their parents' hometown for the Minnesota State Fair. 

While they are together, Caroline, her sister, wants to confront her family with claims of childhood abuse. Then a family crisis arises that makes the confrontation more difficult, especially since Laura and their brother had no memories aligning with Caroline's.

While I continue to read new releases and book club selections, I am happy to know other promising stories are already waiting in my study.


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