The blog that follows was actually written in February while I was alone with my son watching the Super Bowl. I guess his mom must have been at work, and his big sister at her dad's house. But first, I've been reading Reading Lolita in Tehran for the past few weeks, and it reminded me of all the wonderful books I loved reading, and several still on my to-read list. I love to read. I love to talk about books, read about books, share books with others, stack them, collect them, browse them in the library, and just hold them in my hands. There's something soothing, and even reassuring, about the weight of a paperback in hand or pocket. I guess I'll consider this blog entry a prologue to a few longer ruminations about books and reading.
So, I've been sitting here with my son, Henry, sort of watching the Superbowl, but mostly I’m wandering the house, doing dishes, straightening things up, building forts with Lincoln Logs and crashing them with Matchbox cars to Hen’s endless delight. Right now he’s doing somersaults in the living room. Right now he’s playing with his wooden train set. Right now every Tonka truck, Matchbox car, and toy tractor he owns is in the kitchen, where he races them on the linoleum floor and crashes them into each other, the dishwasher, the fridge, the stove. It goes on and on like this. He’ll help me unload the dishwasher, or he’ll put his favorite car in my hand to admire.
My step-daughter has several Barbie videos from her early childhood (she’s 11 now and way too old for Barbies), and Henry loves to watch them. Right now he’s handing me a video called Barbie and the Magic of Pegasus, which we’ve already watched twice this week. We joke about it a little bit, but honestly I think it’s cool that Hen likes Barbie as much as he likes the movie Cars. He’s two, he likes cars, tractors, milk, the movies Tangled and Coraline, and playing outside. We live on a farm with chickens and cows, fruit trees and a big vegetable garden. Henry likes to smell the fruit when we pick it, apples and peaches especially. He puts his nose right in the stem end and breaths deeply. Earlier today he held on to a maple tree branch and laughed wildly, full of joy.
I hope he grows into an open minded young man who remembers that he liked “girl” things when he was small, and as he gets older he’s gentle, friendly, stands up for what he believes in, and takes care of the people around him.
Then I found out Neil Gaiman has a tumblr so I started following it, and read several entries. While doing that it occurred to me that I love to read but I almost never talk about books on my tumblr, even though I put “book thoughts” in the heading. In order to rectify this infraction, I thought I’d make a list of my favorite books, fiction, comic, non-fiction, and poetry, and then a list of what I’ve read recently, like in the last 6 months or so. I guess I’ll start out with five books for each category, and maybe if you’ve read them too, you can share your impressions with me, or else make your own list, where maybe I’ll meet my new favorite book.
1. Cannery Row, by John Steinbeck. I’ve read this book twenty times or more. You’ll ask why but I can’t tell you without sitting down with a cup of coffee and a whole day to kill talking about it. You’ll say “Steinbeck” like it leaves a bad taste in your mouth and I’ll give you a copy of this book to freshen your breath. There’s a kind of masculine spirituality at play in Cannery Row, at least I think so, a sort of jocular, code of conduct, pay your dues and own up to your mistakes kind of lifestyle I admire and respond to. It’s also funny and tender. It’s short. You can read it two or three times and then go quickly to your favorite parts after that because you know where they are. Just read it. Trust me and give it a try.
2. In Watermelon Sugar, by Richard Brautigan. Another piece of whimsy. Supernatural, wondrous, quiet, unusual. Do you know Richard Brautigan? Let me introduce you. Tied for second is his book A Confederate General from Big Sur.
3. Madame Bovary, by Gustave Flaubert. Another book I’ve read more than a handful of times. I have two copies of it, as a matter of fact. I love Emma Bovary. This novel is made of careful, precise, unromantic prose. It was declaimed in its day for being too real, too cruel, too cold, but it’s not. It’s so well-written you have to draw your own conclusions, and you have to come to terms with the fact that people are like these characters, in any age, in any demographic, and Flaubert showed it, he didn’t tell it. He put that shit on display and it felt real, it feels real, because it is.
4. The Black Cauldron, by Lloyd Alexander. I read it when I was nine, I read it last summer, and several times in between. It’s still trying to teach me how to be a better person. Taran of Caer Dallben is my hero.
5. Ceremony, by Leslie Marmon Silko. This book is no joke. The story of an Native American who returns home from the Pacific Theater following WW II and he’s broken, his home is broken, his world and its symbols are broken. And something out there chose him to fix it all. This book, God, I’ve recommended it a million times. It’s astonishing. It got Silko in a bit of trouble because she PRINTED a story that was supposed to be SAID, not read, and she shared it with the world, though it’s a story that belonged to her people. It wasn’t supposed to be shared. And if you want to know what the story is, you have to read this book.