Saturday, January 31, 2009

Saturday Evening Ramblings

I cleared out the apron of my driveway this morning. That's always such a nightmare of a job since the city comes by and plows all the yuck from the road...snow, ice, salt...into the apron. And I'm really running out of places to put the snow. In the eight years I've lived in my house, I've not had to shovel this much ever! And we still have to get through February and maybe March. My dad, bless his heart, came over and cleared my sidewalks with his snow blower. Typically I have the "God put it there, God can take it away"mentality when it comes to snow, but God -or Mother Nature - is having a great laugh at my expense this year! My dad said their saying maybe another big hit on Monday? I sure hope not!

I've been remiss in discussing my attendance at Frost/Nixon. I have season tickets to the "Broadway Series" here in Cleveland at the Cleveland Playhouse Theater. Each season has one play in with the musicals. This year's play was Frost/Nixon, and Corey asked me to talk about it. First of all, the acting was fantastic. Stacey Keach did an extraordinary job as least as far as my knowledge can appraise. The music made me laugh. I kept thinking an episode of Charlies' Angels was going to pop up on the video screens. But, it's apropos! Having been born in 1974, I felt a little in the dark. I wanted to have more background to better understand the play. I realized at that point that my history courses in school didn't really ever make it to the Nixon era. All in all, it was a top-notch play. I highly recommend seeing it if you have the opportunity.

Anyway, let's talk books. I was reading this article from the New York Times. It's a rather interesting article. My niece and nephew don't really access books online, so I don't have much to compare it to, but I do know that reading is a snuggly time for us when we read. My nephew likes to either cuddle up right next to me or sit on my lap. And at bedtime with both of them, we hunker down on the bed and share stories. And it's so essential. That's the first step in making reading a fun, special experience in a person's life. Plus, it's fun for ME, too!

Corey, at The Drowning Machine put this next topic in my head a couple days ago and I haven't been able to get it out, so I'm going to talk about it here and put it in YOUR brains as well! He was reading Declan Burke's blog post (do you think this will ultimately make the blog rounds even though it isn't a meme?) about what you would re-read if you knew you were going to die:

For simplicity’s sake I’ve kept it to one book per author, and the idea is that the last book on your list is the book you’d most like to die reading, if you had to die reading.

To wit:A long, long time in the future, in a galaxy far away, the doctor says, “Sorry, but you’ve only got a month to live.” What ten books would you re-read in your last month?

What immediately came to mind for me was Pride and Prejudice and To Kill a Mockingbird. I know those would definitely be on my list. I commented to Corey that I would pick books that made me laugh or made me feel good when I read them, but as I contemplated it more and more I wasn't so sure. I started to think I wanted to reread books that were monumental to me, had some kind of real impact on me, and those weren't necessarily the ones that made me laugh (i.e., A Prayer for Owen Meany - o.k. many parts made me laugh, but the conclusion wasn't an "everyone feels great" kind of book). But, you know, the ones that really "getcha" when you've turned the last page. Pat Conroy's Lords of Discipline fits in that category as well. I've since added Mind Scrambler to my list. I think I want to be buried with that one actually; if there's any chance of taking something with me to the next life, that's what I want to take. In my living room, I don't keep very many books, but I have a small shelf of books and it is filled with Shel Silverstein's poetry and short stories, plus my Dog-Ear Mutts collection - those are the books I choose to display for all my visitors. I'd definitely need a Shel Silverstein book on my list. And I think I'd have to have The Mouse and the Motorcycle on my list. When I think back on my childhood, that's one of the very first books I ever REALLY LOVED. So, I'd definitely re-read that one.

So, at this point my list DEFINITELY includes these books:

1. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen)
2. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)
3. Mind Scrambler (Chris Grabenstein)
4. Where the Sidewalk Ends (Shel Silverstein)
5. The Mouse and the Motorcycle (Beverly Cleary)

I'm still contemplating the John Irving and Pat Conroy - and Ken Kesey. I, like Corey, would probably also need to have a Charles Dickens on my list. He was hugely influential in my love of reading and English literature. As a matter of fact, in our book club meeting the other night, since we had read a time travel book, someone asked where we would want to go if we could time travel. My immediately thought was Victorian England, I want to meet Charles Dickens (plus, I figured if I timed it right I could jet over and meet Mark Twain at the same time!). But, the reason I hesitate to put a book on my list just yet is that there are still a few of Dickens' books I want to read, so that title may change. At this point, it would probably be A Tale of Two Cities, but Oliver Twist would be a contender, too.

By now you can probably see why I've been contemplating it for several days. I over-analyze, I know. But, now it's YOUR turn! What would you read if you had a month left?


Corey Wilde February 1, 2009 at 12:02 PM  

I think you get a lot of that lake-effect snow that we miss down here in the central part of the state. So since it's been awful here, it really is possible Mother N really has singled you out.

Timothy Hallinan February 1, 2009 at 12:25 PM  

Hi, Jen --

Great question, and not one to be answered off the top of my head, but here goes:

1. The Recognitions, William Gaddis: this is the book that I used to get my real education while I was wasting my time in college. I used it as a launching pad for years to read about art, religion, art in religion, forgery, Greenwich Village . . . on and on. One of the great American novels of the 20th century.

2. Randall Jarrell, Pictures from an Institution: The best book ever written about academic life, the story of what happens to a bunch of smug liberal-arts professors in an exclusive women's college when a real artist (a very disagreeable female novelist modeled on Mary McCarthy) suddenly lands in their midst. Funny, sad, and uplifting all at the same time -- makes it impossible for me to believe that the man who wrote it committed suicide.

3. Straight Man, Richard Russo: The second-best novel about academic life ever written, and certainly the funniest. At several points I had to put the book down and get up and walk around because I was laughing so hard I was afraid I'd die.

4. The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler: Because it's the bible of private-eye writing and even now every word rings true.

5. The Woman Warrior and China Men, Maxine Hong Kingston: Memoir and cultural history woven into lace, and in some of the most beautiful language I've ever read.

And now I can think of twenty more. I may do this on my blog, too, if it's all right with you -- as a breat from the creativity guest pieces.

Jen Forbus February 1, 2009 at 6:38 PM  

Go for it, Tim. I'll be interested to see what your readers have to say as well.

Corey, I'm thinking I'm going to need a boat soon. We had a little bit of melt today, but when it really melts, we're going to flood. This is absurd!

Anonymous February 1, 2009 at 9:55 PM  

I have no idea what I would want to read then. My reading mood changes so fast. But Shel Silverstein sounds like a good idea, and maybe some Oscar Wilde. Has anyone ever read the poetry of Samuel Hoffenstein? It's kind of like Ogden Nash's work but meaner. I haven't read it in a long time but I remember it made me laugh which is what I'd want to do if I knew I was about to bite the dust.

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