Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My Life in Books, Part the Second.


"You monkeys, you! You give me back my caps!"

I forgot to mention Caps For Sale in my list of favorite Captain Kangaroo books. My brain nattered on about it all night and most of today. I hope the book is now duly noted, cerebrally, and we can move on. Sheesh.

I've always been somebody who reads everything, fiction, nonfiction, magazines, soup cans, cracker boxes (mealtime Desperation Reading). . . so I started a list of my significant books, hoping to sort them all out before blogging about My Life In Books. This was a mistake. One book memory led to another and soon I was drowning in titles. I'm ready to write about my early adulthood books but all the adolescent-era books keep bubbling to the surface.

Take, for instance, the books my grandparents owned. They subscribed to Reader's Digest and had a massive collection of condensed books. I read 84 Charing Cross Road in one of them. I read it again years later and wondered what those Reader's Digest editors could possibly have taken out since it was already a short book. My grandparents also had a bookshelf devoted to gems and minerals, treasured aids in their rockhounding. They owned several volumes from The Five Foot Shelf of Books and a number of classics (heavy on Dickens, Stevenson, and Verne). Grandma still had a lot of the books she'd used in her classroom and Grandpa had a shelf devoted to humor (Robert Benchley was one of his favorite humorists.) Then there was the Miscellaneous Shelf, containing titles like The Winning of Barbara Worth and What Kinda Cactus Izzat?, along with Pilgrim's Progress and other inspirational writings. There were a lot of books in their home. I read them all.

I enjoyed building my personal library once I was out on my own. Portland was (still is, actually) a great city for readers. Powell's was a weekly stop, of course, but I particularly loved a little nook of a bookshop tucked into the basement of an office building, a shop that specialized in authors who were wonderful but unsung. That's where I discovered Zenna Henderson, a science fiction writer. She wrote books about The People, a race who had to flee their planet (it was self-destructing) and who landed unintentionally on Earth. She also wrote short stories, stories written with warmth and a level of spirituality that was rare in science fiction.

It was around this time that I became a Wodehouse nut, thanks to a garage sale purchase. I was beguiled by a sealed box of paperback books priced at $2.00, buying it just to see what was inside. Mulliner Nights was buried in there and it inspired a fresh Author Binge. Wodehouse is still a hot author for me. We raised our kids on his books (aided by PBS' Wodehouse Playhouse.) We visit the Random Wodehouse Quote generator on tumbler. Hm. I'm losing focus here.

1973 was a huge reading year. A friend handed her copy of Lord of the Rings to me, saying "Read this now." I did. I've reread it every three years ever since. Reading Tolkien led me to C. S. Lewis and George MacDonald. I finally read Wind In The Willows and Mark Twain's The Innocents Abroad and Gibran's The Prophet. I read a bunch of Harlequin Romance novels on a dare issued by a roommate. Believe me, you haven't experienced "formulaic" until you've read one of those.

Gosh. I'm only up to 1974. I knew I couldn't be brief.

Overheard on Twitter: What's that technique where you pan-fry cold pizza? Is there more to it than just "pan-fry cold pizza"?

Next time: My Life In Books, Part the Third. Stay tuned.


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