Thursday, October 15, 2009

Lovely Passages from the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society

Most recent read: City Dharma

I promised Katie that I wouldn't write about the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society until she finished reading it because it is our online reading group pick for this month. However, I could wait to share these little gems from the book in the meantime. I promise it doesn't give away the plot. Only meant to tempt you into reading the book as well because it is splendid. Thanks again to Carolyn for the recommendation.

These passages are all from letters written by the central character, Juliet:

"I wonder how the book got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some secret sort of homing instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true." (p.10)

"That's what I love about reading: one tiny thing will interest you in a book, and that tiny thing will lead you onto another book, and another bit there will lead you onto a third book. It's geometrically progressive--all with no end in sight, and for not other reason than sheer enjoyment." (p. 12)

I adore these quotations about reading. They speak directly from one book lover to another. The first quotation is in response to a letter Juliet receives from a gentleman who bought a book of hers second-hand and found her address inscribed on the inside cover. After loving the book, he decides to reach out to its previous owner. Letters and friendships are then exchanged by a wide array of colorful characters because of that one second-hand book.

I love when I purchase used books with inscriptions. I love to imagine the previous life of my books. I recently started labeling my own books with a little sticker that has my name and e-mail address. It was meant to keep track of books I lend out, but what if it could be a means of communication between myself and the future owners of books that I part with. How delightful! Do you ever think of the past or future existence of books you collect second-hand or donate?

I also delight in the idea that certain books are almost destined for certain people. I love Juliet's thought that books find the right people, instead of the other way around. Have you ever accidently stumbled upon a book at exactly the right moment in your life? If so, please share your story. I plan to write down a few experiences of my own, and would love to make it a bit of a series. Share in the comments, if you like, or it might be fun to feature a few on the blog itself.

This also makes me think of Christine Mason Miller's fabulous 100 Books Project. If you aren't familiar with it, get thee to her delightful blog immediately. She is giving away 100 copies of her recent book, and documenting each place that they are deposited, and inviting the recipients to contact her. This has given me some ideas for a little (MUCH smaller) book project of my own. More details later.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

American Wife

Last month I read American Wife, by Curtis Sittenfield (a woman) with my a couple of friends from college. We concocted the idea to have a virtual book group and it was our first success!
The book is a novel, but loosely (and not so loosely in places) follows the life of Former First Lady Laura Bush. Certain liberties are taken, naturally, but most of the major life events are present.

It is the story of Alice Lindgren Blackwell. She is an only child who must endure a series of unspeakable tragedies early in life. Later, she meets Charlie Blackwell, the youngest son of a prominent political family, and they wed after a whirlwind romance.

The story is written in four blocks, identified by her addresses. First her childhood home, then her apartment as a single thirty-something, next the home she shares with Charlie and their daughter in the suburbs, and finally, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. A series of flashbacks fills in the gaps between those locations, but a large number of years passes between each installment.
I enjoyed the book. I more or less knew what was going to happen (or so I thought), because I was vaguely familiar with the events of Laura Bush's life, but it was still shocking in parts. The writing was powerful, and the characterization vivid. I found myself with much more sympathy and interest for real-life political figures that I never previously care for after reading this book. I feel like I know Laura Bush better after reading this book, although that's probably a false impression. I am dying to know if she's read it, and what her reaction is. Although it shares raw moments and emotions, overall, I think it portrays Alice in a very positive, yet honest, light.

Our online chat about American Wife was delightful! The discussion covered a number of topics and included a little friendly disagreement. My fellow readers helped me to see how much this book is about relationships. Friendships, marriages, siblings, parents and children...they are all in this novel, and they are all complicated. We also had an interesting conversation about whether or not Charlie would have ascended to such high political office if he had not married Alice. I'm quite certain he wouldn't have.

Has anyone else read this book? It's long, but reads pretty fast, and I would definitely recommend it. As a work of fiction, it is entertaining and thought-provoking. However, it's link to reality makes it all the more fascinating. Katie, please share your thoughts if you like!!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Poetry and "April Rain Song"

Currently reading: The Know-It-All by AJ Jacobs

Apparently there is a crazy cold front heading for South Texas.  The weather on the evening news said it was 55 in Amarillo and 85 or something in Abilene and everything south of it.  You could literally see the front coming on the map.  So all that by way of saying that we're to expect rain tomorrow.  We seem to be making up for a season's worth of rain in a few weeks.  

I was flipping through my current favorite children's poetry book (A Family of Poems by Caroline Kennedy) and found this lovely poem by Langston Hughes. 

April Rain Song

Let the rain kiss you.
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops.
Let the rain sing you a lullaby.

The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk.
The rain makes running pools in the gutter.
The rain plays a little sleep-song on our roof at night--

And I love the rain.

And I love this poem!  My 7-year-old nephew wrote a Haiku about the rain the other day.  My sister read it to me and it was really good!!  I've never been very good at writing poetry.  I'd like to be though, but I've simply always been more comfortable with prose.  When I was cleaning out the garage, I found an old book by Susan Goldsmith Wooldridge that I never read: poemcrazy.  I love the subtitle: "freeing your life with words".  Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, writes of it "You're going to love it, and love writing poetry more for having read it." 

And finally, while I am in a poetic mood, you should all read my darling Katie's latest post.  She shares her favorite 11 poems and they are gems!  (At least the ones I've read--there are several I need to read.  But as a dedicated English major, Katie's poetic taste can surely be trusted.)

Upcoming posts:

The Journey That Saved Curious George
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
American Wife
A Walk with Jane Austen
And several others that I promised weeks ago...

Absent again...

I seem to have had a mental block when it comes to my blogs in the last month.  I have thought about so many awesome ideas for blog posts.  I was excited about them.  More than once I sat up late into the night scribbling a blog idea onto an index card so it wouldn't float away before morning.  I've read some fantastic books!  I've been dying to share them with you all.  So why haven't I been writing?  

I suppose you could say I have a touch of the writer's block.  I also think I might be a bit paralyzed by the volume of things I want to say.  I sit down to write a post, and I can't decide where to begin.

I have this trouble sometimes when choosing a book.  I literally have dangerously teetering stacks of books on my night-stand--begging to be read.  But I stare with no direction.  Then, when I finally do take action--what a relief!  The past two books I have finished have been complete delights.  I adored them and could hardly put them down.  When I feel that way about a book-I know I need to share.  

I'm hoping the same feeling applies for blogging.  Perhaps once I get back into a rhythm, I'll be compelled to continue.  My blogging experience over the last 9 months or so has been immensely rewarding.  I've been in touch with some fantastic and amazing people.  The writing has just been in fits and starts.  Every time I get on a roll, I seem to get knocked off again.  

This last month has been great.  It has been very special, and although I haven't been writing on the blog, my reading and literary life has been active.  I'd like to think of that period as one of absorption.  I've been reading great books and writing reflections in my commonplace book.  I've been devouring favorite blogs--both new and old--and reaping great inspiration from them.  I've been making notes and writing pages in my notebooks.  Maybe I needed a time for filling up before I starting blogging again.  At least that's what I'm going with for now.

So, I'm back--for the time being anyway--and quite excited.  A deluge of backlogged posts may be coming your way!