Friday, April 11, 2014

Marcie And Life

I don't hang around Facebook very much...mostly just to spy on my offspring...but I recently read the post of a dear friend, whose name is not Marcie but that's what I'll call her.  It said, "I love my life.  I hope you love yours..."  I was just about to post a glib response, like "Yeah, I'd love your life too" or maybe "Wanna' switch?"  But I did not.  I did not because I paused and thought about what she said.  I thought about it slowly..."I love my life."  Marcie did not say, "I love life."  We all - well most of us - love life itself, especially considering the alternative.  No.  Marcie wrote that she loves her life.  As I thought about it - and continued to think about it for days - the profoundness of that brief comment settled somewhere very deep.

It lingered.  The thought hovered over my head like one of those dialog balloons and intrigued me so much that I began to ask members of my "team" at work whether he or she loved their life.  Not life, but their life.  "Why...are you dying?" was the first response of a Mr. Smarty-Pants who is in the midst of a divorce, and who then responded, "No, I hate my life right now because I either have to sleep on a friend's couch or live in my car."  Another said he loved his life on the weekends but only if there was beer in the fridge.  Obviously, I was not going to get anything close to meaningful responses from this crowd so I dropped the query and they all seemed very much relieved.  The subject of the conversation changed to something a little more comfortable - I think it was basketball.  Nevertheless, the obvious question - the one I avoided asking was:  Do I love mine?  It's something to think about, isn't it.

I'm not trying to sound all Existentialisty, which, of course I couldn't do if I tried since I remember very little about it from my college philosophy class other than that it made my head hurt.  I do recall something about first existence and then experience...or was it the other way around?  Or was it essence and not experience?  Or none of the above?  In any event, "I love my life" demonstrates a philosophical attitude that is easy to understand if you know the person who holds it.

If you asked her, I do not believe Marcie would ever say her life has been perfect but it is different from the lives many of us live in one important respect:  Marcie really concentrates on doing good.   That is how she lives her life but I'm not sure she goes about it with that intent upper most in her mind.  I think "doing good" might just come naturally to her - like some people can play the piano without taking lessons.  So does looking at the glass half-full.  She reminds me of the phrase, "Getting what you want is not the same as wanting what you have."  And looking back over the years I've known her, I can honestly say that even when things in her life were less than sunny, Marcie has been able to maintain an aura of happiness about her - I guess you could say she possesses that rarest of qualities:  "a touch of grace."  It is fun to be around her and when you part you really do feel better about life - in general and your own.

So, yes, I can see how she is able to say "I love my life."  It's a mighty fine one..mighty fine.

Monday, February 17, 2014

To Everything There Is A Season; And A Time For Every Purpose

A few years ago my sister found a lovely full-color facsimile edition of The Country Diary Of An Edwardian Lady, a nature diary kept in 1906 by illustrator/naturalist Edith Holden who lived in the village of Olton, Warwickshire, England.

Holden began her journal on January 1, 1906 and continued to capture the change of seasons through the use of her keen eye, careful hand, and beautiful artwork.   Not exclusively a diary, as the year progressed she also included a few of her favorite poems (Byron, Burns, Wordsworth, E. B. Browning) and her personal observations of the world around her.  Edith Holden worked as an illustrator following art school and her work has been published in several books, but rumor has it that she never allowed anyone to look at this diary.  And apparently no one did until nearly 70 years after her death when it was discovered on a bookshelf in a country house. I can imagine what a spectacular find that would have been for any book lover!

In 1911 Edith married a sculptor, Ernest Smith and moved to Chelsea.  They had no children.

On March 16, 1920, while she was attempting to gather the buds from chestnut trees, she drowned in the Thames.  She was only 49 years old.

After my sister gave me this lovely diary, I learned that it was a popular coffee table book when first published.  But it is also an inspiration for would-be diarists, journal keepers, bird watchers, naturalists, and just plain folks who like to get outside and observe nature - perhaps even an encouragement to make a record of one's own.

Certainly, few of us have the artistic talent of an Edith Holden, but even without the illustrations, it is delightful to know that on December 27, 1906, "in the paper today it reports that all Britain lies under snow from John O'Groats to Land's End for the first time for six years." Or that on the 30th "[t]he blackbirds and thrushes are usually rather shy, and fly away at the approach of any-one but now they only hop away to a little distance and sit watching with their bright eyes from beneath the friendly shelter of a bush, waiting to go back to their feast of crumbs."

But the promise of Spring is the promise of Spring.  It was so back then, and so it is now.  In 1906, on what would decades later be my birthday, Edith Holden went to Stratford on Avon and "walked to Shottery across the meadows.  On the way I gathered Hawthorn blossom from the hedges and saw fields yellow with Buttercups and banks of blue Speedwell.  The Dandelions were a wonderful sight along the railway cutting."

I would like to have known her and through her diary I almost feel I do.  As it is, I'm not much of a painter, but this might be the year I invest in some brushes and a box of watercolors.  It's never too late to learn, and if this diary proves anything it proves that to everything there is a season.  Edith would approve.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

She Doesn't Care Much For Literature

"She doesn't care much for literature, she just wants to read a good book."  Who said that or something like it?  I read it recently...I don't know...somewhere.  The where and the who escape me.  But when you think about it, unless one is an academic, don't we all just want to read a good book?  It is the reason I read book blogs, and a little of why I write one myself.  It is also how I get myself into a bit of trouble every now and then.

I was looking at my on-line library account this morning and began to realize exactly how out of hand things are getting.

The following Holds are waiting for me to pick up, which I have to do by tomorrow or they will be put back into circulation:

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson
Tell The Wolves I'm Home, Carol Rifka Brunt (a copy each of the audio and the paper book)
Lucky Break, Esther Freud

However, after I do pick them up the traffic backup will get very dicey since I already have the following out on loan:

From Time To Time, Jack Finney
Time And Again, Jack Finney (which I am currently reading);
A Pale View Of The Hills, Kazuo Ishiguro
Started Early, Took My Dog, Kate Atkinson
Caleb's Crossing, Geraldine Brooks
The Time Traveler's Guide To Medieval England, Ian Mortimer;
The Summer Book, Tove Jansson
The English Girl, Daniel Silva
Murder is Easy, Agatha Christie (audio)
Bring Up The Bodies, Hilary Mantel (audio and my current commute read).

All are due at the end of the month, although I can renew them.  Nevertheless, I will probably return the Jansson and the Mortimer unread this weekend, along with Caleb's Crossing, which I was only going to read for a book club.   I wasn't crazy about Brooks' Year of Wonders and I probably would not read anything else by her at my own choosing.  I will probably return The English Girl, which pains me.  Well, let someone else read it and I'll get around to it this summer perhaps. Silva's books are good beach books.  And Agatha might have to go back since I am fully into Bring Up The Bodies, which is over 12 hours long, I only drive one hour per day, and I drive it 5 days per week.  Easy math tells me it will take weeks to finish it.

Since I'm talking about it, is not Hilary Mantel's writing just exquisite?  I mean really.  Today, as Cromwell was remembering the sounds at Austin Friars, he notes that one of those sounds was "the whisper of ink across a page..."  Can't you just hear it yourself?  Can't you see the quill, and the wooden desk, and the precious paper?  All of that in an economy of words that is nothing short of brilliant.  If my car didn't know the way to work without my telling it how to get there I would probably be in Macon at this very moment.  But it does and I'm here. The frustrating thing about an audio book is the inability to rewind to that precise thing one wants to hear again.  I will probably buy a copy of the book in any event, so I'll be able to find it again.

And, of course, there are the books I own.  I couldn't wait for River of Smoke, the second book in the Ibus trilogy by Amitov Ghosh to be published but held off reading it for so long that I may have to re-read Sea Of Poppies first because I can't remember many details other than the fact that I loved it.  But I didn't find it an easy book to read, so I am not looking forward to diving back in.

I have no idea what made me order The Long Ships by Frans Bengtsson right before Christmas, but apparently it was a "must have" and when it came in the mail I had nearly forgotten all about it.  A friend and colleague gave me three thrillers last month which are still on the back seat of my car by authors I never read.  Scott Turow, Baldacci (whose first name I can't remember), and another one whose first and last name I can't remember.   He also gave me The Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling that is currently sitting on the floor under my office desk and has been for several months which makes it one less space for the cleaning crew to vacuum. Although I'd like to read them, none are high priority.  I always worry about being asked about them.  Touchy situation when someone actually hands you a book and expects you to read it.

I am expecting the sixth Flavia de Luce book, The Dead In Their Vaulted Arches by Alan Bradley, to be shipped out to me next week from Barnes & Noble.  [Ah-ha!!  Steve Berry!  That's the one whose first and last name I could not remember. I suddenly did.  Frightening.]  When it arrives I know I'll drop everything else and will probably finish it in a weekend.

I know I need a solid reading plan; but, I would follow it only so long and then someone in a blog would mention something absolutely wonderful...such a good book...a book that you can read read.  You know the kind I mean.  And when they did, I would fly off the handle and track it down with single-mindedness only to find that when I eventually did get it into my hot hands I would be off on another tangent.  It is just, I don't have to tell you.  You know.

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Please Drop In And Stay Awhile

If you would come over to the house and sit down beside the fire - it's cool enough this time of year, especially in the evening, to warrant a nice little fire - I might brew us a good pot of tea.  Earl Grey, perhaps.  I might even take down a bottle of a modest brandy (you like brandy, don't you?) and then we could settle in and talk about what we've read this year.  Please pull up that wing-back chair.  That one right there is quite comfy.

I had these chairs made for me...let me see...25 years ago.  I selected the frame style and then the fabric and waited six months for them to be completed.   The cushions are filled with down - soft on your bottom.  A little less wear on the derriere, so to speak. The cost seemed frightening at the time, but I knew they would last forever - or at least longer than I would - and they have not disappointed.  I clearly remember how old they are because on the very day they were finally delivered my daughter took a crayon and drew a lovely picture of a "princess" on the back of one of them. She was almost 4.  She was also very considerate because she chose the color pink!  At the time, the chairs were covered in a woven fabric depicting thistles in pastel shades of blue, and gray and pink.  The princess blended in after a going over with a soft cloth and some Ivory soap.  I know it sounds crazy, but I wanted to leave just a bit of the princess remaining - a slender finger pointing to a blue thorn; the hint of a happy smile peering above a curling vine.  The chair was officially in the home of a family with children and it was appropriate that it should settle in just as it did.

So please do settle yourself in as well.  If you are still a bit chilly you can wrap that knitted shawl over you.  I don't believe in heated rooms, to the frustration of the gas company, because all the oxygen gets sucked out of them.  They also dry the skin and give me twitchy airways which are things I can live without.

The best books read this year were all great surprises and I never would have guessed they would be the ones to make the cut.   One of the assistants at the office insisted I read a book by Stephen King that she had just finished.  Years ago I read The Dark Half, which by the way I read over a monstrously stormy weekend with all the attendant lightening and cracking thunder.  Perfect for a book that scared the bejeezus out of me.  After that I've never been tempted to pick up another King.  She was so enthusiastic, however, that I actually plunked down fifteen bucks and ordered a copy of 11/22/63 from Barnes & Noble.  It's hefty - over 840 pages - and I hoped I could stay engaged long enough to finish it.  We've all been there.  You're reading a book and at some point you're thinking about fixing the drip in the kitchen sink or how to get that spot out of the rug where the dog decided to punish you for forgetting to pick up his Milk Bones at the grocery.  You drag yourself back to the page and re-read that paragraph again, this time with your brows furrowed in forced concentration when the next thing you know you're wondering if you paid the lawn guy.  That didn't happen with this one.   I had a really hard time putting it down and restrained the urge to find out how it ended by jumping to the back and reading the last few pages early.  But I didn't.  I waited and it was worth the wait.  I seldom suddenly burst into tears on the last page of a book, but I did on this one.  I did not expect that to happen.  I was a mess.

The other big surprise was the audio version of The Invasion Of The Body Snathcers by Jack Finney.  I am not a huge fan of audio books, but I get them from the library because I like to "read" during my commute to work.  This particular version is read by Kristoffer Tabori and his voice and tone are pitch perfect.  I am also not a fan of Science Fiction, or at least I wasn't until now.  The story was a perfect blend of humor and horror and suspense.

I found two new authors this year:  Louise Penny and Jeanne Ray.  I don't know where I heard about Penny (but thank you Mrs. Calabash, wherever you are). Litlove over at Tales From The Reading Room suggested Ray.  (And if I knew how to link to her post on Julie And Romeo, I would do that here.)   As much as I liked the Julie, I loved Eat Cake and cared about every one of those wacky, flawed, funny characters.  That is a lot of what it's all about, right?  Spending time with people you like and cheering for them to be happy.  That one was a real gem.

Louise Penny writes a series of mysteries starring Armand Gamache, Chief Inspector of the Surete du Quebec.  Also known as The Three Pines Series, in the books I've read so far Gamache goes about solving unconventional homicides by sifting through loads of suspects, strange characters, and the requisite red herring or two or more.  In a word, they are good, my favorites so far being The Beautiful Mystery and How The Light Gets In.

There was a little book suggested by, I think, Stefanie over at So Many Books that was subtly magnificent.  Address Unknown by Kathrine Kressmann Taylor is so short it can be read in about an hour.  Not really a book, but more of a short story, it is positively gripping and amazing and all those other superlatives and I hope you will take a little time to find it (I downloaded it to my Kindle) and read it.  There will be almost no investment of time, but it will stay with you I promise.

John Adams, by David McCullough has been sitting on my bookshelves for a long time and I finally got around to reading it early this year.  Do most Americans even realize what we owe this man who became the second President of the United States?  McCullough will educate them.  The book is really a love story.  The love of a man for his country and the love between the man and his wife, Abigail.  What a pair that would be to have over for dinner.  Since I've been reading about time travel, that might be a good destination.

I've re-read a couple of favorites this year which will always be "the best" reads, Goodbye, Mr. Chips, by James Hilton and the Harper Lee masterpiece To Kill A Mockingbird.  The ones we know and love and can almost recite by heart are always on the best list, like the comfy flannel shirt - the one that can't be replaced even when the buttons fall off and holes pop open at the elbows.

Speaking of comfy, may I pour you another brandy?  As I do, kindly tell me what you've been up to and what you've been reading.  You have my undivided attention.  I'll be giving a presentation on the topic of "Communication" next year for a professional organization I belong to, so I had to learn how to do it myself.  It seems I've been doing it wrong all these years.  Did you know that listening is the first step in being an effective communicator?  Who knew?  I guess my mother was right all those years ago when she advised me, "If you're talking, you're not learning." Wisdom,  right there.  Right..smack...there.  So I am listening with all of my ears. What is that you say?  No, I only have two.

Oh...and please help yourself to another cookie.  They're gluten free.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Christmas 2013 And Looking Ahead

We've come to the end of another year.  And, of course, what would the end of the year be without my boring you with a list of my favorite books read this year?

But first, it seems only natural that I should discuss Christmas - not my favorite holiday, I admit.  Oh, don't get me wrong, I love the "true meaning" of the day.  What I have always dreaded is the stress.  But this year I found a way around all that.  It was quite simple really.  Who knew?

1.  What goes up, must come down.  Keep decorating simple.  For years I erected the 10+ foot behemoth that lurks for 11 months of the year in its two coffin-sized Tupperware cases - dangerous to drag down the stairs and difficult to pull back up.  It takes an evening to set up and requires one to concentrate on the alphabet (is this row "W" or "V"?  And although I know the alphabet and have for a very long time, I still have to recite it as I go from row to row to be certain which one comes next.  One year G was attached before F and the result was a very strange looking tree.) A pox on that jazz. This year I opted for a fresh Frasier Fir not too much taller than myself...and a nice sturdy stand and Voila!  I had tons of lights and ornaments left over, but I used the most important ones...the homemade ones.  It turned out grand.
 No outside lights, just a wreath on the door.  No elaborate crystal things hanging from the chandelier.  No life-sized Santas waving hello-ho-ho or reindeer nodding their heads in unison, red-noses twinkling.  Nope.  Just a few orbs that glowed, and flowers from my brother and sister-in-law, and a rosemary bush trimmed into the shape of a Christmas tree.

 (I had second thoughts about the red lights over the fireplace.  Definitely over-kill and a mistake; I took them down but not before I snapped a picture.  I put the glowing orbs on some candle-holders I've had and I think I'll keep them up all year long.  I just won't turn them on.  I figure if people stop suing each other and decide to get along, I'll be out of a job and I can always set up a tent using the glowing orbs to tell fortunes.  You know, to pay the mortgage.  I can blacken one of my front teeth, dress in gypsy attire, and become
"Madame Gradskaya - Seer and Teller of Fortunes".  Credit me with always thinking ahead.)

So, that was about it.

2.  Avoid the Mall.  I tried to do as much shopping as I could on the Island.  What I couldn't find here, I ordered on-line.  But if one pays attention and shows some creativity there are a lot of cool things to find right in one's own backyard.  The WI Farmers Market has a few vendors about whom I am wildly and madly mad. My favorite is a beekeeper - he prefers apiarist - who lives on the Island and sells lovely honey and honey-based soaps (pumpkin spice, frankincense and myrrh, rosemary mint; lavender and mint and on and on).  And then there is the artisan pasta maker who also sells a magnificent red pepper sauce in lovely distinctive jars. Who would not welcome a basket filled with any of that?  I haven't even mentioned the breads, and cakes, and artisan jams and jellies.  Speaking of which, I made my own Hot Pepper Jelly and Savannah Cheese Straws as gifts for some friends this year.

The peppers were purchased at a local farm stand.  And there is always ACE Saturday morning mecca..the great and bountiful land of EVERYTHING...of barbecue accoutrement, sun hats, garden gloves, kitchen gadgets, outdoor clothing - some of which are suitable for safari in the event you are going on one - fishing equipment, scented candles, camping gear, rifles, small appliances, chimineas, night shirts with cute pictures of dozing cats, cushy warm socks, necklaces made of small Christmas lights that actually twinkle, work shirts, jeans, boots, Crocs for men, women and children, dog beds, yard flags, plants, garden ornaments, fountains, long as I'm there I might as well pick up a few paint chip samples since I'm always painting something, right?  And how about a new caulk gun?  I can always use that.  Who needs the Mall?  Not I.

3.  Get invited to dinner.

So there you have prescription for a stress-free Christmas.  And it was!

So on to books...but I've run out of time I'm afraid.  I'll have to save that for another day soon.  In the meantime, But wait!  my my...what is that I see in your future? Come closer, my dear.  Don't be shy.  Look crystal ball is misty...misty...what's this?  The light is breaking through...the mist is becoming clear...and clearer.  I see...what?...I see...Yes!  I see a bright and happy New Year, filled with joy and happiness and many many books for you, my pretty (or handsome) one.  Madame Gradskaya is never wrong...the Orb Sees All!  (You may put a dollar in the jar...all tips are welcome.)

Happy, Joyful New Year, my friends.

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Book Thief - The Movie

I seldom get excited to see my favorite books made into movies; and, I almost always avoid the cinematic versions.  After all, whose perspective can improve upon the reader's (my) own imagination?   The first chapter book I ever read was The Wizard of Oz; but, I may have seen the movie first.  They were similar yet different from each other; I was not disappointed in either one and both remain favorites.

I can see how making a film version of Gone With The Wind and keeping it as intact as I would have wished would have been impossible.  Words like "mini-series" and "television" were hardly a part of the lexicon in 1939.  And in all honesty, the gigantic story that it is, and will remain, would certainly demand a gigantic screen no matter how many advancements to technology were to be realized in time.  Condensing a book such as that one into a movie - even an almost 4-hour movie - required some scrupulous editing of the story.   The movie is a triumph in its own right.

But other really good books have not fared well on the screen - at least not in my opinion.  Never Let Me Go and Water For Elephants disappointed me.  Les Miserables did not.  Sometimes the very things that turn a good story into a great book - detailed character development, building the foundation of background, a deft hand at plotting - do not translate themselves into a screenplay that must tell the same story in a very limited amount of time.

If I was asked to list ten titles I have read within the last ten years which have all the elements I personally look for in an exceptional book, The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak would certainly make the cut.  For me, it was one of those books that, upon reading the last line, one slowly closes and is struck speechless.  Of course, a wonderful thing about reading - among many wonderful things - is that it is a personal experience not necessarily shared by every reader.  But that was my reaction upon finishing the book; I simply loved it.

So when a friend asked me if I wanted to see the movie this weekend,  I didn't hesitate to say, "Yes!"  But almost immediately I began to have doubts.  I convinced myself not to expect too much; I steeled myself to be disappointed.  I need not have worried.  The movie is lovely, poignant, heart-wrenching, beautiful. I am not a movie critic any more than I am a book critic.  However, as far as I am concerned this one was certainly worth the price of admission - with or without the popcorn.  (And since it was my $7.50, I figure that is quite enough.)

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Return Of The Big Book Sale

I promised myself I would stay away.   Certainly, it would take a little self-control but surely my strength of will was stronger than the addiction.  I admit, I had already made plans to take the day off from work.  I convinced myself it was not to make it easier to succumb to weakness, but only because I wanted a little rest.  I reasoned I'd putter in the garden, tinker in the kitchen.  I was not - not - planning on attending the Big Book Sale at the library.  No, sirree.  No, nope. The day broke with crashing thunder, lightening...a real frog choker.  No one in a reasonable frame of mind could have voluntarily ventured out on a day such as that.  But I was neither reasoned nor rational.  I jumped out of bed, brewed a cup of coffee, dressed in clothes made for bending and stretching, put on the most comfortable shoes I had, spent some time checking my list of books and authors, grabbed two canvas bags, and drove off into the deluge for the 45 minute journey - or it is in good weather.

Due to the storm, the crowd was much sparser than it normally is.  Those of us intrepid souls who braved the weather waited patiently in sodden shoes for the magic doors to open.  Some were equipped with suitcases on wheels; some carried mail bins stamped "Property of the U.S. Postal Service - Do Not Remove Under Penalty of Law."  (Apparently for some, prison is a small price to pay.) There were canvas bags, and grocery bags, and tote bags, and a Red-Flyer wagon. As always, there was also an anticipatory air of excitement wafting over the crowd diminished in size, perhaps, but not in enthusiasm.  Here, with dripping umbrellas and hair frizzed with humidity, stood the hard core believers.  I accepted my fall off the wagon and mentally plotted my course, the well-known map of the room branded by now in my brain.  (One might think that frenzy reigns when we are finally admitted, but that never happens - no matter the size of the crowd.  People are quiet, polite and respectful.  Like religious pilgrims in a cathedral, I guess.)

My first stop on these outings is always "Cookbooks."  I opened a Bon Appetite "Hors d'oeuvres" volume and it fell open to "Slovenian Mushroom Turnovers."  I took it as a sign.  My father was a first generation American whose family came from Slovenia at the beginning of the 20th century.  My mother is also a first generation American whose family came from Slovenia.  Since he was from Chicago and she was from Jump Off Joe, Washington, it was an impossibility that they should ever meet, get married, and have three second generation American Slovenians.  Nevertheless, that is exactly what happened.  In my teen years, my father was always casting a jaundiced eye at anyone who might want to date one of his daughters.  Woe be it that the young man in question should be of some ethnicity other than Slovenian.  Our argument that the only Slovenians known to exist in our milieu were relatives simply fell on his deaf ears.  I put the "Slovenian Mushroom Turnovers" into my bag.  With that, the games had begun.

It took about two hours to go through the tables of books; I was determined to be selective.  I was particularly happy to find State of Wonder by Ann Patchett, a novel in which a medical researcher at a pharmaceutical company is sent into the Amazon jungle to investigate the death of her lab partner who had been dispatched to Brazil to unearth news of the elusive Dr. Annick Swenson.  Swenson is a scientist working for the same company and is attempting to develop a miracle fertility drug.  I have not read Bel Canto, but heard so many positive things about it I figured it this one would be worth the dollar.

I could not believe my luck when I spotted The Ghost Road by Pat Barker which won the Booker Prize in 1995.  Oddly, I had just read a synopsis of the book the prior week when I was plotting out my future reading plan and this book had been on my list for some time.  It is the last book of a trilogy, but the reviews I have read seem to agree that it could stand alone, so it went into the bag.

Clifton Fadiman is quoted as saying that in his opinion The Doorbell Rang by Rex Stout was the best of all the Nero Wolfe stories.  Which, if true, would also make it one of the best detective novels period.  Not everyone agreed when it was first published, however:
"Have always enjoyed your Nero and Archie, but I read your story in the April issue of Argosy. Goodbye." ~ John Wayne (to Rex Stout)
Uh-oh.  I take it "the Duke" didn't like it very much but I suspect that had more to do with politics than with the quality of the writing.  We are decades away from the J. Edgar Hoover era so I probably won't have the same visceral reaction. Anyway, I found a 1965 first edition, inscribed with the owner's name in lovely penmanship and dated.  I could not pass it up.

Lingering in the detective genre for awhile... Margery Allingham was an English writer of whodunits - my favorites involving that intrepid detective Albert Campion - whom I "discovered" just a few years ago.  I love the Felony & Mayhem editions of her work and have four of them:  Miracle Mile, Crime At Black Dudley, Flowers For The Judge, and Dancers In Mourning.   Because it wasn't a F&M edition - with its distinctive covers - I almost missed seeing The Tiger In The Smoke.   Not caring whether it would blend in on the bookshelf with its neighbors, I eagerly grabbed it.  I understand Albert Campion takes a bit of a back seat to the villain and serial killer, Jack Havoc - who sounds like the answer to the question, "What's in a name?"

Another title on my bucket-list of books is A Prayer For Owen Meany by John Irving.  Found it, had to have it, put it in the bag (which was growing very heavy at this point).

I have recently become a fan of Louise Penny and the Armand Gamache series, so I bagged A Trick Of The Light.  I enjoyed The Beautiful Mystery so much after renting it from the library that I ordered How The Light Gets In, her newest, from Barnes & Noble which arrived in the mail just the other day.  Anne Perry is also a new-ish author for me, and a favorite of a friend whose taste in books can be trusted without question.  I've enjoyed the ones I've read.  I spotted a copy of  Half Moon Street in a box on the floor beneath a table squeezed next to a wall - which is why one should always wear yoga pants to a Big Book Sale.

Well, I made my way along the miles of spines.  Selected a few more.  Fourteen books - fourteen dollars.  All hardbound and all in nearly pristine condition. Some Philippa Gregory, a Daphne DuMaurier, Jacqueline Winspear.  I picked up, put down, picked up, put down and walked away from Fannie Flagg, Charles Todd, Anita Shreve, Ian McEwan, Margaret Atwood, Amitov Ghosh and a volume of poetry by Ted Hughes.  Could not find any Ishiguro or Hilary Mantel.  Said not this time to Daniel Silva  and Jasper Fforde (although that one hurt) and Barbara Kingsolver.  Barely glanced over at Cornwall and DeMille. Ignored James Patterson altogether.  By the time I got to the audio books, only cassettes remained.

But, you know, the experience wasn't all about finding treasures for myself - it never is.  I loved seeing all the Moms pushing strollers.  Hearing:  "Yes, you can pick out any books you like," and seeing kids staking out their claims to stacks and stacks, in some cases carrying loads that were nearly as large as they were.  I watched the very old gentleman whose wife sat by a big window, in a wheelchair, as he brought one title and then another to her - his slender hands patting her on her shoulder as she paged through them, one by one, and then place the "keepers" in her lap.  I wanted to hug them both.  Teachers standing near the Children's and YA sections complained about the slim pickings offered by the Board of Education and took it upon themselves to buy books for their classrooms.  ("There's no variety in what we have.  How can I interest them in reading with what I'm given?"  Response:  "Well, that's why I'm here too.")  At the "Large Print" section, I heard one lady say to another, "Anything by so-and-so is going to be good!"  And the reply, "Oh, well, then you go ahead and take it."  "No, no.  I want you to have it. Go ahead.  You won't be sorry."  "Thank you."  Books just bring out the best in people it seems.

A person can become crazed with the offerings found at The Big Book Sale. There is truly always something for everyone.  And the books are so inexpensive it is difficult to exert self-control.  The big challenge is reminding oneself that one has to have room for these books to take up residence.  I have run out of shelving, so something must be done and soon.  Perhaps I will re-donate the ones I finish reading, but that's "iffy."  I can't even seem to part with the books I end up hating. I guess it is like any type of collecting.

If I do not buy another book in my lifetime - and if I live to be ancient - I will never run out of something to read.  I will surely run out of time before I run out of books.  Which, like a nice fat nest egg, brings with it a certain feeling of security.  I do not envy my children the task of disposing of it all when I go to that great library in the clouds.   I suspect they would rather I was a collector of precious gemstones - or Qualcomm stock...don't we all, kids.