Monday, December 28, 2009

After Christmas, and beyond...

I remember the deflated feeling after my childhood Christmases. 364 days until the blessed holiday comes round again! How could I wait that long?

Now I feel more relief, as I'm older. But we had a peaceful, relaxing Christmas at home, and I spent most of my time reading or napping. I did a bit of cooking for Christmas Day dinner, but not too much!

When considering the books I bought myself for Christmas, I decided to begin with something light and fun. I picked up A Thousand Days in Venice, and it did not disappoint. I've read several of De Blasi's books now, and her flowery, romantic style is just the ticket when I don't want to think TOO hard. But she has some real, golden moments in her text, and she knits the story together beautifully with a few repeated images. I enjoyed, too, discovering the beginning of her trek into love, since I'd already read the ending.

My days in Venice over all too soon, I decided to begin on another geographical book -- Dakota, A Spiritual Geography. This book was recommended to me, but I'm reading it primarily because we stand a decent chance of moving to South Dakota, and I'd like to know more about the place if we do. I read perhaps 50 pages or so, but have decided to wait on the rest. It's a harsh book, a sad book thus far. I'm sure the writer desires to be honest, as brutally honest as the Dakotas are themselves, an unforgiving landscape that tolerates no silliness. But emotionally, right now, I wasn't quite up to it yet.

Now I'm over at my parents' home in the mountains for a short visit, and I decided to bring along The Mottled Lizard by Elspeth Huxley. I'd barely begun the first few pages before I knew this was a good idea. Slipping back into Africa with Elspeth was much like cuddling down into a familiar robe. I'm looking forward to many days of pleasurable reading.

So much of my response to a book has to do with the author's style. I do not read what the modern publishing houses and editors insist Americans MUST read. I want a writer whose voice shines out and speaks directly to me from the page. I'm tired of fiction generally; I want real stories from real people, flesh-and-blood accounts where the muscle ripples under the skin of the story. [When a group of modern wannabe writers once told me that you can't use adverbs anymore, I knew I was not destined for publication.]

My mother's house is full of books. She has one here called A Vatican Lifeline '44, by William Simpson. The author is deceased, but his wife attends my parents' church. Mr. Simpson was a British soldier, captured in Italy in WWII. I'm only on page 5, but already I KNOW, I simply know, that I will love this man's voice. Reading him is like eating popcorn; before you know it, the bowl is gone. I'm sure I'll ask myself soon, "How did I read half the book in a day?" You should know too that a movie was made from the account in the book -- The Scarlet and the Black. Although the story and events are kept much the same, evidently in the movie, the protagonist is changed significantly. [Simpson and a Vatican priest are combined into one character, played by Gregory Peck.] We'll watch the movie this evening together. Scary WWII movies with black-coated SS men and terrified Jews are always hard for me to watch. I hope it ends happily.

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