Thursday, December 28, 2006

What I'm Reading, end of 2006

Let us go back a long, long way. The summer between 5th and 6th grade I read POLYANNA, then returned it to the library and took out POLYANNA GROWS UP. I couldn't finish the sequel and returned it half read. For many -- maybe 30 -- years after that I felt guilty if I didn't finish a book, except textbooks which were in a different category. I felt I owed it to authors to stay with them and see how they had finished their stories. At some point in my advancing adulthood I read that it is a sign of maturity to be able to throw away penciils shorter than four inches and to toss books that are boring. I went through the house and threw away a bunch of three inch pencils -- also thin slivers of soap. But I continued to have trouble not finishing books.
I have begun reading TRAVELS WITH ELSA CLOUD; possibly 50 more pages will be the end of what I read. I'm charmed by the title. A mother is writing about her daughter who once said, "I'd like to be the jungle, the sea or else a cloud." Thereafter the doting mother, author Leila Headly, often called her daughter "Elsa Cloud". Lovely. Except Headly is a very spoiled rich girl/woman whose writing is so self-indulgently discoursive that I'm muttering, "come on , already." She is so indulgent of her beautiful, manipulative, spolied daughter that I am getting nauseous. They are in India, the daughter is studying Buddhism in Dharmsala. But after 75 pages, the essence of India has not made a dent in anyone's narrow sensibility. I'm fnding mother and daughter insufferable. I found India a powerful place, deeply moving and life changing. If I don't begin to see these self-indulgent people reacting to the power of India by doing something more meaningful than spend money within another 50 pages, it will have to go the way of POLLYANNA GROWS UP. I can't read 500 pages of Ms. Headly's prose to learn nothing new about how people react to India.
I am also reading, THE VOICES by Susan Elderkin, an Australian writer. I wish her main charcter were a young girl instead of a young boy, but other than that, it is a powerfully written, deeply imagined work. Every so often I have to read about the Aussie outback, the difficult meeting of whites and aborigines, the desert and the exotic birds and the roos. I've never been to Australia but I've read so much, I'm almost afraid to go. How can it be as intense as books such as this? Or as the vivid moive, THE WALKABOUT?
Also, I'm reading BAD TRIPS, an anthology of travel writing [a used, and fairly old book] by Keath Fraser, a Canadian. The pieces are fairly and most very fine writing -- majority Brit or Canadian and they tend to have higher standards for prose in general. However the book is a bit of a cheat since some of the pieces are from works of fiction. This doesn't seem fair. Not all the so called "Bad trips," are so very bad. But then the war zone ones are nightmarish and only readable because the writing is graceful and one knows it's a filter from some time well in the past after the awful events occurred.
Of course, I'm still chipping away at the poetry books. And I have a new play by my Chicago friend, Wm. Lederer, a most prolific writer with a unique imagination that befuddles and amazes me. I will read it this coming weekend. Of course, there's the magazines and newspapers ... Yes, as Ellen reminded me this afternoon, when books became widely available, they were considered just as bad for human health and mind as we now consider computers ... "the kids spend all their time with [their noses in a book/in front of a computler] and get no exercise, never help around the house and are becoming flabby lumps of flesh. " So be it.

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