Sunday, August 10, 2008

Keeping My Stories Straight



My friend Josie gave me this wonderful book by the illustrator Maira Kalman. Josie saw it at a library book sale and, though she already owned a copy, bought this one in order to give it a good home. "I read it all in one sitting," she told me, and as soon as I opened it, I saw why. It's delightful, beautiful, thoughtful, funny, mysterious, and wacky -- all at once.

I didn't want to race through it so I put it in the bathroom -- stretching out the reading to any number of . . . er . . . sittings.

And then I got to thinking about how many different things I read in a day -- Isabel Zuber's beautiful Salt is my primary book at the moment -- what I'm reading when I have a decent block of time. Isabel is a poet and the beauty of her language has me going slow with this one too. Moreover, the book is new and autographed so I don't try to read it while I'm bathing -- Vanity Fair by Thackery has already fallen in once (note the curve of the cover) so it keeps me company on the edge of the tub as I re-read my way through it yet again.

Books follow me everywhere. If I'm in the car, I'm listening to Douglas Adams' posthumous work The Salmon of Doubt; yesterday, while I worked in the kitchen all day, I listened to Twain's Huckleberry Finn. Two wise and funny men from very different times.

And then there's the reading material I pick up when I have a few minutes to kill -- waiting for the coffee to drip, for the computer to download something, the rice to cook --catalogues, magazines, and a book I picked up at a library book sale for no reason other than insatiable curiosity about . . .well, almost everything . . . but religion and other cultures are always particularly fascinating.

So, when the occasional reader tells me that he or she has trouble keeping track of the the two stories, past and present, in my books, I realize that our minds must operate very, very differently.
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12 comments:

Susan M. Bell said...

My husband fusses at me all the time because I read so many different books at once. I can't stand to have just one thing going at a time. (And I too keep books in the bathroom. Don't we all?)

Your book on "How to Run a Traditional Jewish Household" sounds interesting. I'll have to see if my library has it as I am working on a character who is a former Rabbi. I have an online friend who is a Rabbi and am getting some info from him, but a book like that would be a great reference.

Isn't it great what you can pick up at book sales and thrift shops? Especially the ones you grab simply because the cover looks interesting. I have found some wonderful books that way.

Tammy said...

I think I have four or five going right now too--all strategically placed around the house and in the truck. Heaven forbid, I would ever have a moment to read and not have a book handy! Waste! Pure Waste! :-) Our local library has a little house next to it, that they've turned into a re-sale book shop. It's only only from 10-Noon on Saturdays though, so I don't go as often as I'd like. The books are dirt cheap and since they are donated the possibilities of what might be there are endless! I love it...
Tammy

Pat in TN said...

My husband is always amazed how at any given moment I can have my nose in a book, even if only to read a paragraph or two. I think like Tammy does ... pure waste if a moment is to spare and no book is handy!

Vicki Lane said...

Obviously, it's an addiction. But I, for one, refuse to kick the habit.

Amelia Walton said...

I love the Principles of Uncertainty! That was a Christmas gift and one that I devoured on a plane ride home with nosy seat neighbors asking what I was "looking at". Drew and I were just talking about reading this weekend, because he was saying that he wishes he read as much as I do (school reading aside, of course) and yet here I am wishing that I were able to read more than one book at once. I get so involved with the stories that I have to know what's going to happen before I'm able to think about my precious reading time being dedicated to a new story-although books on tape are certainly a good option! My solution is my on-going night stand pile prioritized in order of interest so that I can close one cover and reach for another, but as the reading rhythm goes, I'm a purist and have to stick to one at a time, even if it means standing over the stove with a book in hand or, as I was doing on Friday, sneaking a peak at a paragraph at a red light so that I can find out what happens next and jump to the next one.

Liz said...

Hey, Vicki - I am currently reading "The Monster of Florence" by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi - Clark Snell's "Building Green" (is the photo on page 120 the same house that was the inspiration for Gudger's Stand?? (eerily similar if not), also "Master and Commander" plus there's always a book of Sudokus to work on - So my thoughts are in the hills around Florence, on the high seas and how to be a good steward to our land - I can't imagine what it must be like for people who don't read - Where do their imaginations go??

Kathryn Stripling Byer said...

Vicki, I'm so glad you are enjoying my friend Isabel's SALT. Right now I'm reading Adam Zagajewski's New and Selected poems and find it challenging and energizing. I'd also suggest Margaret Atwood's The Door. Poetry, yes, but what's better to read while standing over the stove stirring tomato sauce!

Vicki Lane said...

Okay, Amelia -- you need a book on tape (or CD) in your car.

I once looked out our kitchen window to see my older son reading a book as he drove (DROVE!) the truck up our road.

When I began to express my shock and dismay, he assured me that he knew the road really well.

Talk about multi tasking . . .

Liz, I don't have a copy of Clark's book so can't answer your question.
He and his wife Lisa have an incredible house they've built -- wildly creative.

I'm intrigued by THE MONSTER OF FLORENCE . . .let me know how you like it.

I adore all the Patrick O'Brian books -- the only thing better than reading one is listening to one read by Patrick Tull. Amazing!!

Vicki Lane said...

Kay, I love M. Atwood's prose -- will have to try her poetry.

And I am, indeed,enjoying SALT -- don't want it to be over.

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful book!! Those cute illustrations inspire me :>

Miss_Yves said...

It's obvious that Maira Kalman is a talented illustrator !

Vicki Lane said...

She's wonderful! Her work is featured in the New York Times online edition from time to time.