I’m an old-school reader. An Amazon tablet rests in my desk drawer but has gone untouched for four years. Electronic devices don’t allow me the same experience as holding a book made from cardboard and ink printed on recycled paper. Technology is fine, for some, but for the written word. No.
It starts with the jacket. Most nowadays are in color, printed on shiny paper with the author’s name as large as the title, a nice photo or drawing, and a few lines of publisher praise to capture your attention and to make you feel the $30 plus dollars you paid wasn’t in vain. It’s a dance of sorts, but our money has been collected, so it’s best to continue the waltz.
Then comes the preface or the dedication to loved ones, friends, or contributors. Some are short, sweet, and curt and fail to credit the deserved; others ramble on until I lose interest.
Truman Capote snubbing Harper Lee’s dedicated research with “In Cold Blood” comes to mind. A few excluded words of thanks ruined a lifelong friendship. He wasn’t the first, but his pettiness was unforgivable.
I notice the typeset and spacing information, the font, the Library of Congress notes, the printing dates, and then the first paragraph that sets the tone for the next few hundred or more pages.
Ernest Hemingway said a book should begin with ‘one true sentence.’ He knew it was a waste of the authors and their readers’ time if it didn’t. His advice has taught me well.
My wife, a Registered Nurse, retired last August. Soon after, she underwent major back surgery, and during her recuperation, she re-discovered her love of reading. So now, in place of watching television until the late hours, we both retire early, prop ourselves on our bed pillows, and read our books late into the night.
I recently revisited ” In Cold Blood,” Capote’s masterpiece that so affected his life that he never fully recovered to write another novel. I enjoyed it more this time around than thirty years ago. It was a butt whooping to the end. Every chapter contained a piece of his soul.
Anthony Doerr’s two newest novels are commanding reads. My wife and I have read both, and she is on the verge of starting his third. I am reading Amor Towels and find his storytelling to be in the style of Steinbeck and Hemingway. I was once a James Elroy fan, but his last two books were an effort from start to completion. He is on my rest list for now.
Besides ” Fun With Dick and Jane,” the first real books I read were Mark Twain’s ” The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and then his follow-up “The AdventureHuckleberryberry Finn.”
I come from a family of non-readers, so my love for books comes from somewhere, possibly my elementary school librarian or my father’s sister, Norma. She was a voracious reader that leaned toward romance schlock, Cormac McCarthy, and Micky Spillane noir. I am thankful to both for their influence and guidance. It was aunt Norma that, introduced me to Thomas Wolf. I returned the favor with Joseph Heller and Kurt Vonnegut.
My wife and I are relieved that the year 2020 is behind us. It won’t be missed. No tears from this household, only two middle fingers pointed skyward. Our ages allow us to forget what we wish to and remember the best. I believe 2022 will be our year of reading dangerously. We may, holding hands and a frosty cocktail, step out onto that literary ledge and take the leap; attempt to leave our comfort zone and take a chance or three. Time is of the essence, my eyesight is on the fritz, I have a blister on my thumb, and the books keep coming.