Sunday, June 10, 2012


From the blog, Business@Bird,

A good book is a gift.

A week ago, while at the library, I ran into Rayna, who I used to live across the street from when the boys were growing up. She told me that she just read and returned a novel that she had found both unsettling and excellent. Together we walked over to the desk and I checked it out based solely on her avid recommendation.

(In return for Rayna's book suggestion, I recommended Joan Didion's Blue Nights, which will shatter all but the most obtuse reader, but is so beautifully and precisely written that one has to finish it.)

Rayna's pick was City of Thieves by David Benioff. It is a slim novel. All but the opening and ending chapters takes place over the course of a week in and around Stalingrad during the siege in World War II.

I started the book in the early evening last Thursday with the thought of reading some that night and some the next night.

Well, that was the plan. Instead, I stayed up late Wednesday reading the book all the way to the end. I was so taken with the book that I wrote Rayna a thank you note the next morning for putting it in my hands and in my life.

On the heels of City of Thieves, I  began reading the first of two volumes of The Making of a Writer, the published journals of Gail Godwin. I had not read any of Godwin's writings, but came across these on my own after reading a recent review of her work, Heart, by Darla, who blogs at Bay Side to Mountain Side. I like journals; I like reading writers on writing. A match made in heaven, I figured.

I figured wrong.

I found Godwin's endless recitation of her life in her mid-20s—working in Europe, dating every man she came across, drinking, eating out, complaining of work, agonizing over her writing—to be so tedious and self-absorbed that I finally threw in the towel and sanchezed* Volume 1 after reading some 75% of it. I have no intention of reading Volume 2: a quick perusal of it promised more of the same.

Godwin writes constantly about the dullards she is forced by necessity to work with, socialize with, or live with. "Dullards" is her subjective analysis, of course. I found myself thinking that if I had to be around her and listen to what appeared to be an endless stream of egotistical prattle, I too may have avoided her at all costs and earned the dullard rating.

As it was, I only had to set down the book and walk away.

To get back on track in the world of book, I read (let's be honest—breezed through) a book I had picked up as a lark at the library: So Many Books, So Little Time, by Sara Nelson.

It turned out to be the perfect tonic.

Sara's romp through a year of her personal reading is lighthearted and humorous (except when it was serious and thoughtful). What made it so appealing is her deep and fundamental love of reading. Sara Nelson gets reading. She gets writing about reading. In writing about her passion for reading, she could have been writing about me. I filled three pages of my current commonplace book with quotes from Sara.

I finished her work in one day (well, Warren had a long rehearsal Saturday morning and that was the only book I brought along). I felt restored by the time I turned the last page Saturday evening. I was ready once again to fling myself headlong into the churning sea of books.

Up next is wild, by Cheryl Strayed. It was already on my "find and read" list on the strength of the recent book review in The New York Times. When a colleague (an avid reader himself) raved about it and offered to lend me his copy, I did not hesitate.

As I write out these words, I am sitting through a second rehearsal before the church service in which Warren is playing later this morning. wild is 25 miles away, waiting for me at home.

"To read a book is to have a relationship," wrote Sara Nelson.

I can hardly wait.


*"Sanchezed" is a verb created by my former law partner, Scott Wolf, an avid reader himself. Early on I explained to him that life was too short to spend time reading books that you were not interested in or had started but lost interest in. Until then, Scott was in the equivalent of the "clean plate club" when it came to reading. After he accepted the notion that one could set aside a book unfinished, he called the process "sanchezing a book." Sometimes a discussion with Scott starts out, "Remember that book about boats I was reading? Sanchezed it." 


Anonymous said...

I have started three books this summer and have yet to finish one...I like this new term, sanchezed. Do you find that you are more demanding as an older reader? I am.

see you there! said...

Oh dear, I picked up the Godwin journals from the library and I So Agree with you. I didn't make it through half of the first one. Dreadful waste of time. I was really disappointed as I've enjoyed a couple of her novels and the book "Heart" that I recently read. I expected her own journals to be interesting. I doubt I'll ever read anything else by her after being introduced to the person behind the curtain so to speak.


Jenny Woolf said...

I love it when I can't put a book down. Strangely, this doesn't always mean the book has a permanent effect on me. I think ultimately it's what the book actually says which stays with me.