Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Read 'em if you got 'em

Like most book people, I have books all over the house that I've bought, borrowed, been given, hoarded and carried around from one house to another in boxes...but I still haven't read them. And, of course, I go on acquiring, reading some, but my acquisition outstrips my consumption. So, while mulling over what to read and changing my mind, or my mood, I decided to gather all those foundling children up from their corners and bookshelves all over the house, and I put them all in one bookcase by the bed. To read. What a notion!

So, now I have my cache of unread books, mostly fiction, but maybe a couple of non-fiction titles mixed in, and by god, I'm going to read those books before I get any more (okay, I won't return gifts!). I also decided to read rather randomly, so I've been kneeling in front of those two shelves, closing my eyes, and picking off whatever my hand landed on first.

I started with Continental Drift by Russell Banks, a book I had him sign for me when I worked at the local book store. I first read Rule of the Bone and later The Darling, and I really admire him, but he tangles with some intense material. I have to spread him out because of that. A couple of his novels were adapted into equally weighty movies, The Sweet Hereafter and Affliction. CD was good and god-awful depressing. I was so relieved to finish it that I thought that might do me for Banks, but actually, I always meant to read Cloudsplitter about John Brown, so maybe just one more!

Next, Larry Brown's Dirty Work, which I just finished tonight. This was his first novel, and the only one I've read by him. It was really engaging -- a tragic story about two Vietnam veterans who meet up and trade stories in a VA hospital, one black and the other white, both from Mississippi. I loved the voices of the characters -- they seemed pitched just right -- earthy, funny, heartbreaking. Larry Brown died young, unfortunately, of a heart attack at age 54 in 2004. What I didn't know about him was that he was friends with one of my favorite musicians, Alejandro Escovedo, and even played with the band a few times. He also was friends and played music with fellow southern writer (and a very funny man), Clyde Egerton, who I also met at the bookstore where I hosted the authors who were doing the requisite PR reading/signing.

I immediately picked my next book, which will be Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. I don't think I've read anything by her since Beloved. My new system is amusing me for the moment, anyway.