Thursday, February 19, 2015

Parentheticals: an excessively long entry (with a long title) about the books currently seducing me

Today in an email to my friend Alison, I got off topic (we were talking about travel and leaving home) and gave her my current and to be read reading list, though I can’t think why except that we’re building a new friendship and seem to share things that matter to each of us in the moment. Our budding friendship is a labor of love.

I set my list of books inside parentheses and within the parentheses had further parentheses, as if I were going deeper and deeper into why I needed to be reading what I'm reading now, what I will read next and what I will read again (there are all sorts of cold weather noises assaulting my poor, messy house. I will not startle).

I’ll take the list of books out of the parentheses for this bit of writing, but I will let myself climb inside those safe curves when I have more to say, when I want to indulge in excessive self-disclosure, when I need to pause to drink water or pet the cat.

(What a ridiculous set up. As an editor, I would advise myself to cut this lead in. But tonight I’m the writer, not the editor.)

I’m 64 pages from the end of Sue Monk Kidd’s The Invention of Wings and I can hardly stand that I'm almost finished, so I’ve slowed down, taken a break to write this and reflect on things (the continued dissection of my role in the world/community/life). This book is one of deep love, friendship, courage, rage, disappointment, slavery (of the body and mind), obligation, faith, overcoming. I love the main characters and the ones they love so much I start to cry each time they find themselves cornered and discouraged and in pain (physical and mental). It’s gorgeous. I can’t remember reading Kidd’s first book, The Secret Life of Bees, but I did read The Mermaid Chair and hated the main character with a deep, contemptuous heat. I think it’s because of what I was experiencing in my life at the time I read that book. Jessie did not represent me; she represented someone … else, and I couldn't forgive her. But my dear friend Cat recommended Wings to me, and I trust her and her taste. So grateful.

Next in novels (perhaps I’ll start it tonight after I finish Wings but still can’t sleep) will be Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto. I’m also in the middle of reading her book of essays, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. I find that I read nonfiction and poetry while I’m reading other things. It doesn’t confuse me. I guess this is sort of like literary multi-tasking or something. I started to read Bel Canto many, many years ago, but must have gotten stuck in a project or something and had to put it down. I loaned it to a friend who did have time to read it and never saw it again (can’t remember who now, but s/he is welcome to it). My current copy is a library book. It’s such a strange premise, and I remember the characters being those that might fit into a novel of magical realism. I’m excited to start it again, though I don’t want Wings to end.

What should go after The Invention of Wings is a book my brilliant librarian-poet-musician (plus other stuff) friend Scott recommended to me during a sort of “Facebook call-in show.” He invited his friends to give him a situation (some people chose a fictional scenario; others, like me, chose a personal situation), and he would recommend the ideal book. For me in my current mood of desperate winter blues, self-flagellation and the embarrassment of excessive self-disclosure, he recommended Christopher Moore’s Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Friend (I've read several of Moore's books and find them intelligently funny and irreverent). I tell myself I should read Lamb before Bel Canto because I’m experiencing the wretched blues now and may not be next week.

(I lie to myself all the time. These blues will take a couple of months still to conquer (car on the road outside my house. Sign of life, tires on cold pavement a warm sound, though the temperature will drop to -8 tonight, so cold my dreams might freeze. (beware, here cometh a long tangent) This early morning, in dream, I found myself at a combination wedding-funeral at the Greek Orthodox Church where my uncle’s family held his funeral late in December).)

Since Bel Canto is a library book, I’ll devour it next, then I’ll read Lamb.

After Lamb will come Paula Hawkins' Girl on a Train, a novel that fell off the shelf into my hands at Walmart of all places unless I can’t wait to read Carlos Ruiz Zafón's The Shadow of the Wind, a favorite book of my dear friend Laura (happy birthday).

Concurrently, I’m reading a book on the beat poets, doing a rereading of Larry Levis’s poetry collection Winter Stars, and slowly reading Steve Harvey’s devastating and lovely memoir about his mother, The Book of Knowledge and Wonder. Steve teaches creative nonfiction at Ashland University where I fudged my way through an MFA in poetry in 2013 (geez. here comes the self-deprecation again. I could come up with a drinking game related to this bad habit, but everyone I know would be drunk constantly).

Thus endeth my dull listing of things I must read or bust except I’m also reading a client’s manuscript, bits and pieces of things friends share with me and my own bilge (have some wine).

I am writing, too, scraps of poetry, lines of dialogue, dreams (there is a church theme going on in my dreams lately), dreadful journal entries that are less dreadful than I claim (take half a drink)….

Winter “work”? I don’t know. All this read is comforting. The authors and their characters become part of me, and I start to view the world (when I actually leave my house – take a sip) through their eyes, real and fictional.

I don’t know how to get out of this post. I’ve always been bad at endings (chug a beer), but this is ridiculously long (shot of tequila), so I’ll end it here.

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