Friday Book Whimsy: Once is Not Enough

I recently read an article written by someone unknown to me who said that during the recent months of quarantine, people have been re-reading books at an unusual rate. Interesting observation, though I have no idea how she knows what books we are all reading. Perhaps since Apple and Amazon and Pinterest and Instagram all seem to be fully aware of what we are doing at all times, they spilled the beans to this particular writer (who they interrupted while she was re-reading Little Women for the 27th time). 

I don’t want to disappoint the writer, but I haven’t re-read a single book for quite some time. It’s not that I don’t re-read books; I have my favorite books that I have read on many occasions. But I continually put e-books on hold at two libraries, and they have been keeping me busy. I think people are reading more than they normally read because they have nothing else to do while they’re drinking their Bloody Marys at 10 o’clock in the morning. So the books are coming to me at a furious rate.

According to the writer of the article, the reason people are re-reading is that during this time of restlessness and insecurity, readers enjoy their familiar authors and the memorable story lines. That could well be true in my opinion. For me, there are certain novels that make me feel like I’m sitting with an old friend or a beloved family member.

One of my favorite novels, and a book that I re-read regularly, is the first novel by Colorado author Kent Haruf entitled Plainsong. The story is good, but I will tell you the truth: I don’t love the book because of the story. The plot isn’t remarkable. I love the book because of the dialogue. One hundred percent. As I read the words written by Haruf and spoken by the two bachelor brothers who raise cattle outside of the fictitious town of Holt, Colorado, it’s like sitting and listening to my uncles talk. The dialogue is the most accurate and comforting of any other book I’ve ever read.

Voice is really important to me. I discovered that when I used to listen to books on tape (and yes, they really were on tape) as I commuted to work. It never took me long to figure out whether the book’s author had a gift with dialogue when you hear someone reading the book out loud. There are books where every person’s voice is interchangeable. If the sentence wasn’t attributed to a character, you wouldn’t know who spoke.

The books in the Mitford series by Jan Karon are another wonderful example of books that I could (and do) read again and again. Perhaps the characters are too good to be true, but what’s wrong with that? I want each and every one of them to be my friend. I want Fr. Tim to JUST ONCE come and pray with me. Or pray for me. The author has given each character a unique voice.

So, though I have admitted to being too busy keeping up with my library holds, I can certainly see why people are re-reading their favorite books. It’s like hanging out with someone you love.

Here, by the way, are SOME of the books I have re-read…..

Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott
At Home in Mitford, by Jan Karon
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, by Betty Smith
Plainsong, by Kent Haruf
My Antonia, by Willa Cather
Rebecca, by Daphne du Maurier
True Grit, by Charles Portis
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte
Hercule Poirot books by Agatha Christie
To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

What have you re-read?

 

Friday Book Whimsy: Book Challenge, Part II

Today’s post will continue the Book Challenge I found recently on Pinterest. Read last Friday’s post for Part I.

A book that made you laugh: I often find author Bill Bryson to be smug and mean-spirited. But he’s often enormously funny. A Walk in the Woods is a book that caused me not only guffaws, but often laughing until I had tears rolling down my cheeks. It’s a book that makes me forgive him for his smugness.

A book you thought you wouldn’t like but ended up loving: I purchased the Kindle version of Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple when it was first released without knowing much about the book. When I took a look and saw the format, I was immediately uninterested in reading it. The book is mostly a series of text messages, memos, school documents and so forth. There is very little narrative. So it sat in my library for months before I dove in. I loved the book, as I indicated in my review.

The first novel you remember reading: What else? Little Women, by Louisa May Alcott. Oh, I read Nancy Drew and other kids’ mystery books, but Little Women was my first real novel. I loved it the first time I read it, and the many times I’ve read it since. And I always cry when Beth dies. Oh, spoiler alert.

A book that you wish more people would read: I have no way of knowing how many people read any given book, but I have a general sense that author Julia Keller is hugely underappreciated for her dark and richly textured Bell Elkins series. The stories take place in West Virginia and feature a county-prosecutor-turned-private-detective in partnership with the former sheriff and former deputy. The novels are not cheerful, but the characters are interesting and likeable, and Keller’s descriptions and stories ring true.

Favorite title of a book: I’m a sucker for a good title. I’ve also been known to pick a book from its cover. One for the Blackbird, One for the Crow has both. The book, written by Olivia Hawker, will be one of my favorites of 2020. Read my review here.

A book you love but hate at the same time: There has only been one time that I can recall that upon reading the ending, I literally threw the book across the room. Thank heavens I wasn’t yet reading on Kindle, because I’m not sure I would have been able to resist the impulse even then. That book is Gone Girl, by Gillian Flynn. The story was so compelling that I couldn’t put the book down. But that ending. Oh. My. Goodness. And that’s all I’ll say in case you’re one of the 10 people in the world who hasn’t read the book or seen the movie.

That’s all for this week. To be continued.

By the way, I would love to get your answers to these same questions. Last week’s too.

Friday Book Whimsy: Was the Ending the Same?

First posted on March 28, 2014

I often say life is too short to read a bad book. And of course, by “bad book” I mean a book I’m not enjoying. There are simply too many books out there that I want to read to spend any time reading something I don’t like. That philosophy has probably caused me to miss out on a lot of books that get better after the first 100 pages. Oh well.

Having said that, it is probably inconsistent to say that I will, however, reread a book. Using the same logic, it would appear life is too short to spend time on a book when you know how it ends. For some reason, that fact doesn’t trouble me at all.

So here is a list of 5 books that not only WOULD I reread, but frequently HAVE….

manhattanbridge01b1. I was between books one evening recently. I finished what I was reading and didn’t want to get up out of bed to download the ebook that the Mesa Public Library had notified me was available. So I went on my Nook’s library and saw with great delight that I had purchased A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith some time ago, a fact I had totally forgotten. It was like running into an old friend, right there in my own bed!

The book is about the Nolan family who lives in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. At the beginning of the book, Francie Nolan is 11 and the story is told primarily through her eyes. The Nolans are poor and struggling, but survive despite obstacle after obstacle, much like the tree that somehow survives in the desolate empty lot Francie sees from her bedroom window. A metaphor. Get it? I probably first read the book when I was 12 or 13, and loved it so much. I have read it many times since, but there’s nothing like the first time you read a good book, is there?

2. I was probably only 8 or 9 when I first read Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. Oh my heavens, did I love that book. I probably read it three or four times just during my adolescence. The first time I read the book, I can’t even begin to tell you how I cried and cried at one particular sad event. I was heartbroken.Annex - Leigh, Janet (Little Women)_01

Little Women is the story of the four March girls, who live quiet lives in New England as their father serves as a chaplain during the Civil War. They are guided lovingly by Marmee – their mother. (I seriously wanted to begin calling my mom Marmee, but knew that wouldn’t fly, even as an 8-year-old.) Each of the girls is very different. I think every girl who reads the book identifies with one of them. I identified with Meg. I wasn’t quite adventurous enough to connect in the same way with Jo. By the way, the story has been made into a movie three times – 1933, 1949, and 1994. The movie made in 1949 is far-and-away the best. The 1994 movie? Susan Sarandon as Marmee? Nooooooooooo!

3. One book that I have read, oh, I don’t know, ten or twelve thousand times is Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. From the get-go, my heart absolutely broke as I read about poor Jane’s childhood, both as the abused ward of her aunt and then as a

Comb your hair for heaven's sake! What are you, blind?

Comb your hair for heaven’s sake! What are you, blind?

student at the Lowood School. The child couldn’t get a break. Even her beloved friend Helen dies – in Jane’s arms no less. She becomes the governess for little Adele, and – yada yada yada – she and Mr. Rochester live happily ever after (despite the fact that he’s scarred from the fire, bitter, and permanently blinded.

I remember thinking that the book was the most romantic story I had ever read. After all, it isn’t like Jane was some gorgeous woman; she was just a Plain – well – Jane. Still, Mr. Rochester loved her from the very beginning. And oh, the back story! Does it get any better than that?

great plains4. I think that My Antonia was required reading when I was in high school, and I loved it immediately. It helped that the story took place in Nebraska (where my high school was located), and in fact, not even too terribly far from my home town. Willa Cather’s writing is glorious, and I frankly love all of her books. But there was something about Antonia herself that makes it my favorite.

Antonia comes with her family from Bohemia to settle in the Nebraska prairie. The Shimerda family had not been farmers in Bohemia, and have a hard time surviving in this new and terribly hard life in Nebraska. She is befriended by Jim Burton, and their friendship is a critical element of the book. I love the descriptions of the Nebraska prairie, and the development of Antonia through the years. She might be my most beloved character of all books I’ve ever read. Might be. Not committing. For a review I did of this book, click here.

5. There is actually a book I read once a year. At Home in Mitford, by Jan Karon, is the story of an Episcopalian priest who lives in the North Carolina village of Mitford. It’s not exactly accurate to say the story is about Father Tim, though he is the main character. mitfordThe story is about the entangled lives of all of the quirky people who make up this town. They are caricatures, no doubt about it. Still, I love them all and I never get tired of them. But mostly I embrace Father Tim’s absolute love of God and trust in him. I love the way he turns to the Lord in all things. I read the book every year to help me learn to pray. By the way, I read the Karon’s Mitford Christmas book Shepherds Abiding every December as well.

There you have it. There are more, but these five were top of mind.  I didn’t include the Bible, because it goes without saying that it is a part of my life.

Nana’s Note: All these years later, I still agree with my list; however, I would add Plainsong, by Kent Haruf, which is perhaps my favorite book ever.

Road to Perdition

Road_to_Perdition_Film_PosterBack in the early 2000s, Bill and I went to see the film Road to Perdition at the movie theater. Very uncharacteristically, neither one of us knew the plot of the movie, knowing only that it starred one of our favorite film actors, Tom Hanks. We had seen him in many movies of course. In fact, we had seen him a couple of years before in Castaway. Though Bill probably wouldn’t admit it, we both liked him in Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail. (Bill was a big fan of Meg Ryan before she got so much plastic surgery that she looks more like Bozo the Clown than Meg Ryan. He always used to say she reminded him of me. I cling to that very thought. And at least most of my face isn’t tucked behind my ears.) Hanks had been the voice for Woody in Toy Story, for heavens’ sake. We seriously anticipated a lighthearted film, in fact had not a single notion that it would be anything but a sweet movie.

The film, of course, is the story of a mob enforcer and his young son who are out to avenge the murder of the rest of their family. It is horrifically violent, concluding with Tom Hanks dying in the arms of his son after successfully shooting their enemy in the face. About three-quarteres of the way through the movie, Bill leaned over to me and deadpanned, “Well, this is about the worst comedy I have ever seen in my life.” I began giggling so hard I thought they would kick me out of the theater.

So, just as Road House has become synonymous in our eyes with bad movies, Road to Perdition has become the term we use when a comedy isn’t funny.

Yesterday afternoon, Bill took a rare afternoon off from yard work. It was kind of chilly and overcast, and he mentioned he was feeling caught up with outdoor chores. I suggested he sit down with me and we could watch a Netflix movie. Much to my surprise, he agreed. After perusing all of our choices, we selected Million Dollar Baby, a 2004 boxing movie starring Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, and Hilary Swank. It’s not easy to find a movie we can both agree on, but Bill likes the sport of boxing and I like Clint Eastwood.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Neither one of us was anticipating a comedy. The story line was about a grouchy boxing manager who was estranged from his daughter, and who agrees to train Swank’s character for the title fight. It was fairly graphic, and got me wondering why on earth anyone would ever CHOOSE to be a boxer.

But about halfway through the movie, I began getting a bad feeling. Things were just moving along too positively for an academy-award-winning movie. Hollywood doesn’t do cheerful.

I have mentioned before that I hate books where a character to whom you have gotten attached dies of cancer or anything else. It simply irks the living daylight out of me. It is for that reason alone that I refuse to watch Steel Magnolias or Terms of Endearment. I hated Love Story. As many times as I’ve read Little Women, after my first reading, I skip the chapter where Beth dies.

As my bad feeling continued to grow, I picked up my iPad and googled the movie. Here’s what I learned….

SPOILER ALERT SPOILER ALERT

In the title fight, Swank’s character trips over the stool that had been placed in the wrong position in the ring and BREAKS HER NECK. She becomes a quadriplegic. After months in the hospital, she develops such severe bed sores that she has to have one of her legs amputated. Her family comes to visit her ONLY after visiting Disneyland first, and ONLY to have her sign a paper signing all of her money to them. She apparently spends the last part of the movie begging Clint Eastwood to kill her, which he eventually does. The end.

I say “apparently” because it was about that time that I told Bill I was going upstairs to work on my computer.

“Why?” he asked me.

“Do you really want me to tell you?” I responded. He assured me he did.

“Well, let me put it this way,” I said. “It makes Road to Perdition look like a comedy.

And that, my friends, was the end of that. Life’s too short to go through that kind of movie-watching misery, even if it’s an excellent and award-winning movie. Bill put on his jacket and went outside and found some yard work to do, and I wrote this crabby blog post.

I’ll take Doris Day and Rock Hudson any day of the week.

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