On the Reading Road
You may notice an addition to this letter: What I am Reading This Week. It is after the book festivals links. Every week from now on I will list what has caught my eye, even it’s just the newest issue of Architectural Digest. Some books will be on here for several weeks, others will come and go quickly. I may or may not finish them since I intend to report accurately my reading habits. The section may develop more as time goes on and I get used to it. I may share where I am in the book and what if anything has been of note (good or bad). As of this writing on Sunday afternoon, I am about two-thirds of the way through the Sherlock Holmes stories (and at the beginning of “The Adventure of the Dancing Men” where Holmes says what has become a favorite quote of mine in certain circumstances: “What one man can invent, another can discover.” Another favorite is from “The Sign of the Four” where he addresses Watson: “… when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.”). I am sixty pages in to A Labyrinth of Kingdoms and just beginning The Lion and the Journalist, a gift from the author whom I met through our biographer-columnist, Carl Rollyson.
You may have noticed that I don’t often talk much about what I am reading. I’m not sure why. I’m happy to tell anyone who asks, but I’ve never had an urge to join a book club and my “reading” contributions to the online readers’ forum to which I belong are rare. I have sometimes thought that maybe I feel I don’t read “high” enough for some. Or that what I choose to read is not what everyone else is reading. But mostly, I think, the reason is that reading is, especially for me, an intimate activity, one which I do alone and like to feel the result alone. I have no doubt I could get more out of my books if I did discuss them, but I prefer to savor and digest them privately.
Perhaps that goes back to reading as a child when it was a solitary activity on Saturday afternoons. (Any childhood reader will recognize that, and also maybe have the memory of someone saying, “It’s a beautiful afternoon. Go outside and play!”) Books for me brought huge worlds into my life, which was often filled with family drama. My father was actively drinking at the time, my maternal grandmother was interfering with money and gifts that always came with strings or even ropes, my four younger brothers and sisters were continually and loudly underfoot, and school was no pleasure for this unpopular and sensitive girl. Books were my escape, my own perfect little kingdom where I learned to value not just stories but feelings that I could not share with anyone else because it was “essential” that I not show vulnerability in unhappy situations. So even though those days are long behind me I suspect some of that desire to keep my experiences to myself is still there. I love hearing about others’ experiences and feelings about their books and their reading, though, which may be one of the reasons BiblioBuffet is such a passion for me. I hope as I learn to share a bit more over time that you may come to learn of books I am reading that might excite you too. While a few may get longer reviews from me many will, alas, not. That’s not because I don’t care but because my time and energy is stretched so tightly these day. However, I can at least let you know of them, and perhaps also what I think as I move through them.
Upcoming Book Festivals and Fairs:
Location: Iowa City, Iowa
Evening Post Books celebrates the South by publishing “high quality literary fiction and non-fiction written by authors hailing from and writing about the South Carolina Lowcountry.” City of Ruin: Charleston at War 1860-1865 is an excellent book for those interested in Civil War history. Originally a twenty-part serial for The Post and Courier newspaper from December 2010 to April 2011, it expands the original with additional stories and the perspectives of people of both sides, including residents, shopkeepers, slaves, and freedmen, as the city became the center of the conflict. Dirty Secrets, Dirty War goes outside the U.S. to look into the infamous disappearance of an estimated 30,000 people in Argentina from 1976-1983. The government campaign to root out possible subversives was notorious for its brutality and few spoke out. But Robert J. Cox, editor of the Buenos Aires Herald did. It made him a hero to the families but an enemy of the state, and how he kept going is told in this story by his son, David, who grew up not only under the reign of terror but under the influence of his father “great courage to write what was true.” Swallow Savannah is a novel set in 1950 when a federal government project brought to a rural town opportunity for one ruthlessly ambitious man and grief for those who were close to him—until one violent day when decades of racial conflict and government corruption exploded.
Imaging Books & Reading:
Until next week, read well, read often and read on!