Sunday, August 17, 2014

Sometimes You Just Get Lucky

photo by Anna Reavis
 
"The sun was up when I awakened and the world was remade and shining.  There are as many worlds as there are kinds of days, and as an opal changes its colors and its fire to match the nature of a day, so do I."  John Steinbeck in Travels With Charley

I decided a long time ago that whoever I chose as a partner needed to be a reader.  Unfortunately, until now, I have never enforced that rule.  I had no idea what I was missing.  Since we started dating, K has read several books from my library, and we have consistently read aloud to each other.  A couple of weeks ago, after perusing my hundreds of titles, he came into the kitchen having chosen two of my favorites to read.  It was like a Magic 8 Ball coming up "All signs point to yes."  But what I have enjoyed the most about his interest in reading is our reading aloud to each other. 

Our first read aloud was Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz.  It's been on my TBR pile forever, and I was so thankful to have an impetus for finally reading it.  Given K's profession (minister) and my own belief ambiguity, I thought it would be a good starting point for our discussions about faith or lack thereof.  It did serve that purpose somewhat, but the book was disjointed and lacking real depth and insight for me.  I did love reading aloud together and being able to discuss ideas and process our thoughts together. 

Our second read was Woodrow's Trumpet by Tim McLaurin.  I had remembered really liking this years ago and thought I remembered its being laugh out loud funny.  Isn't it odd how your expectations affect your experience of something?  We both did enjoy the story, but I didn't find it nearly as funny and entertaining as I had remembered it. 

Next up was Steinbeck's Travels With Charley, which I had read before and loved.  Here my memories were true.  I love Steinbeck's voice and outlook on life.  And what a dream to amble around the country with an old dog.  Travels is different from his novels, but an entertaining read and a nice insight into the mind of one of our greats.

K's love for Africa led me to choose our current read, Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa.  I read Green Hills maybe ten years ago and thought I remembered liking it, so here again my expectations were high. There is so much minute detail in the book about big game hunting that K and I are both having trouble getting through it.   To our pacifist, naturalist sensibilities the descriptions seem almost obscene.  We may have to abandon this one.

Funny thing about expectations...you go into something expecting marvelous and you get mediocre, but sometimes, when you get really lucky, you expect mediocre, and you get marvelous.   Read aloud with someone; it may change your life.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Sometimes Seeing Isn't Believing

NC Mountains from Elk Knob State Park
 
"Is there no pity sitting in the clouds
 that sees into the bottom of my grief?
 O, sweet my mother, cast me not away!"
 from Romeo and Juliet

What if this picture was a lie?  A complete fabrication?  I happen to know it's not because I took it about a month ago.  But in the world of Wool by Hugh Howey, it would be.  In the world of Wool, nothing like this exists any more...and it is all our fault.  Well, maybe not mine or yours specifically, but ours as a species.  And, as it turns out, the world as we know it disappeared for the most sinister of reasons.

This novel was a reality replacer -- one of those books that you fall into and emerge out of hours, if not days, later.  Once in a while, it's a relief to lose yourself in another place, another time, another world...to forget your own place, your own time, your own world, even if the replacement is not a desirable place to be.  Depending on the replacement world, this kind of forgetting can make you wistful, inspired, thankful, hopeful, and maybe even cautious and aware in ways you haven't been before.  A novel like Wool will make you pause and appreciate the sunset and savor the air you are still able to breathe.  But it will also make you aware of how deeply human we all are and how much we rely on each other for our very survival.

Our Dirty Glass Castles

photo by Amy Brandon   "Why, Mr Stevens, why, why, why do you always have to pretend?" ~Miss Kenton in The Remains of the...