Today’s blog post is dedicated to my long-time friend, Barbara Tinsley. A score of years ago or so—when our grandchildren were children—Barbara was a regular reader of one of the papers in the City News Group trio, and she became a fan of my weekly column. Over the years, we’ve had great conversations about life, kids, grandkids, and other joys. Her official duty as the unofficial president of my fan club is to poke and prod me when I neglect my blog (which has now taken the place of my weekly column). Thank you, Barb, for your friendship, which is so dear to me, and Happy, happy birthday!
People have asked if, when I retire, I’ll still get up at 4:00a.m. No. Absolutely not. I’m planning on sleeping in until 5:00 or maybe even as late as 5:30. Because “we were meant to see the beginning of the day/Ibelieve it was planned to lift us this way.” And because the best quiet time to write is before my head is filled with the daily news and dire predictions. I still won’t use an alarm clock (as I do not now), and I will still spend the last moments before I drift off with nothing electronic going except a soft bedside light—to illuminate the pages as I read myself off to dreamland. Here’s what I’ve been reading lately, in no particular order of love:
Plainsong by Kent Haruf. If you read novels for the sheer joy of discovering characters, read this book. I tried to read it slowly as it is not terribly long, and I fell in love with the characters so immediately, I never wanted it to end—and when I finished, I couldn’t start another book as I missed my newfound friends. Love, love, loved it. I want every reading friend to read this book, and I might have to guilt some people into it. (Barb, I put this one first as I really think you would love it.)
Ordinary Grace, by William Kent Krueger. See the description above, and add a couple of murders and a plot twist or two. If you’re sharp and you read a lot of mystery, you’ll connect the dots before the intense climax, but that doesn’t really matter to this novel; it’s all about the characters. My bestie Donna sent this novel to me as a sweet gift, and I loved it so much I don’t think I can ever repay her.
Millersburg, by Harry Cauley. I am proud to say that actor, writer, director Harry Cauley is my friend, and we became friends because, well, I was a gushing fan girl over his novel, Bridie and Finn, and his memoir, Speaking of Cats. When I finished Plainsong, I dropped it off with Harry because I knew he would love it, and we subsequently had a phone conversation or two about it (Harry agreeing that it is “just lovely”). When I started Ordinary Grace, I remarked to him that it was similar to Plainsong, but with murder, and he replied, “That sounds like my novel, Millersburg.” How did I not know of this other novel of Harry’s? I hit Amazon immediately upon hanging up the phone. So once again, see the description above. Yes, there are two murders that occur, but the novel isn’t about them. Its subject is the people whose lives surround the circumstances of the murders, and it is Harry’s inimitable style and grace that makes this little book so satisfying. Again, I didn’t want it to end. (Harry also had a birthday this week. At 85, he is still writing up a storm, and I am the one who pokes and prods him to finish another novel because I just love his writing.)
The Buried Giant, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I would not have come to this book were it not for my book club. (Bless you, ladies.) If you’re a reader of great fiction, you may recall that Ishiguro is the author of The Remains of the Day (from which the screenplay was adapted). This book is nothing at all like that one. This book…. Oh, shoot, I don’t even know how to describe it. This book is imaginative fiction in its most brilliant and haunting form. Ishiguro, truly, is a genius, and is considered one of the greatest contemporary British novelists. (He was born in Japan but grew up in England.) This novel, to me, is an allegory—of sorts. And I really don’t want to comment further, other than to say there is an amazing storyline here… and ogres… and pixies… and dragons… and, of course, the buried giant. Here are my two favorite passages:
[King] Arthur charged us at all times to spare the innocents caught in the clatter of war. More, sir, he commanded us to rescue and give sanctuary when we could to all women, children and elderly, be they Briton or Saxon.
We must hope God yet finds a way to preserve the bonds between our peoples, yet custom and suspicion have always divided us. Who knows what will come when quick-tongued men make ancient grievances rhyme with fresh desire for land and conquest?
These books have sustained me in recent times. It is always heartening to know that, whatever calamity befalls me in the course of a day, at long last—in the remains of that day—I will rest upon my bed, a cat on either side, a dog nearby, and immerse myself in the brilliant stories of others. That, indeed, is lovely.