More Time to Read and a Different Way to Write

 

I love reading. I always have. I have fond memories of the old Dr. Doolittle books and Ben and Me and oh, so many other great kids books of ages long gone by.

As I entered my teen years, my tastes matured as well, although I don’t recall what I read then other than science fiction. Especially space travel, which at that time seemed like an impossible dream.

Then I ended up majoring in English in college, and I HAD to read so many books that I seldom (if ever) had a chance to read for pleasure anymore. I’ll never forget the course on the 20th Century Novel I took in my very last semester. We studied some pretty weird books, but one of the slightly less weird books really caught my fancy…John Barth’s The Floating Opera.

As it turned out, I moved to Cambridge, Maryland, after college and taught there for six-plus years. And that’s the setting of The Floating Opera. I was fascinated to reread that book and walk down the street from my boarding house and look more closely at the places Barth described so vividly.

Teaching 9th grade English, I got caught up in handling book club orders for my students, and I fell in love with some of the best of teen fiction at the time. Who could ever forget The Pigman or any of the other popular teen books from the late sixties and early seventies? Not all of them were pleasant. Like Go Ask Alice.

michener

Once I got away from teaching, however, I also got away from the teen book influence. James Michener’s novels captivated me. Not just because they were excellent reads, but because he was living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland at the time, and that fascinated me.

Especially when my former wife  came home announcing that she’d gone with one of our church members (who did secretarial work for Mr. Michener) took her to his home to meet him. What irony. She wouldn’t have waded through one of his novels to save her life.

For what it’s worth, she did introduce me to Mrs. Michener when she saw and recognized her in a department store one day. Nice, but not the same as meeting him would have been.

After writing my first novel, I discovered how much novels had changed over the years. Those books I’d barely tolerated that last semester of college were pretty typical. Gone were numerous introductory pages (or in Mr. Michener’s case, multiple chapters) of backstory. The author needed to hook the reader in the first paragraph. Preferably in the first sentence.

Modern life is fast-paced, and the contemporary novel must maintain the reader’s interest from start to finish or be thrown away or returned. Although I have an almost complete set of everything James Michener wrote (the picture above is of just some of my collection), even I no longer have the patience to plod through his books again.

I could tell you more, but I think you get the idea.

Not only did I have to learn to write differently than I’d learned to write in college, I learned to read and enjoy a different style of fiction.

And one of the joys of retirement is having the time to read as much as I want to. Not that I ever expect to return to James Michener. Like the man himself, my interest in that kind of reading has died.

Do you read fiction or non-fiction? What’s your favorite book? Do you still remember a favorite childhood book? Please share a comment with the rest of us.

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

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I Cannot Live without Books

CannotLiveWithoutBooks

I think Thomas Jefferson said it for many of us when he said, “I cannot live without books.” He owned one of the most extensive private libraries in the United States and read every book he owned. Then he contributed his entire collection to get the University of Virginia library off to a good start. After that, he started building his own home library all over again. No wonder the souvenir shop at Jefferson’s home, Monticello, sells t-shirts with that saying on it.

I can still picture several of the children’s books I read at a very early age. And I’ll never forget favorites like Ben & Me and the multiple books in the Doctor Doolittle series. And later when I fell in love with Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Alice in Wonderland. As a preteen I started reading science fiction.

When my grandmother died, I had the pick of some of the books in her collection. Even though Tom Swift was out of fashion by then, he still fascinated me.

One of the most astounding things about my childhood and teen reading is the fact that I was never introduced to Charlotte’s Web or any of C. S. Lewis’s Narnia series. Fortunately, adulthood has made up for those lacks.

In college I had to do so much reading for my classes that I didn’t have time to read for pleasure, but when I started teaching school and got involved in handling book orders for my students, I fell in love with some of the books they were reading. The Pigman is one of the most interesting of those.

As a senior in college, I’d taken a contemporary fiction class that introduced me to John Barth’s The Floating Opera. Little did I know I’d end up living and teaching in the town that book takes place in, much less the same neighborhood.

I had several favorite authors in my mid-adult years (in addition to John Barth). Especially James Michener, who lived in the area while writing Chesapeake. My ex- got to meet him (at his home at that!),  but at least she was able to introduce me to Mrs. Michener once while out shopping. Nice, but not the same.

I still own nearly all of his books. I have no desire to reread any of them, but I can’t bare to part with my collection, either.

Another favorite was Nevil Shute, who was best known for On the Beach and A Town Like Alice.

I’d be hard-pressed to tell you my favorite authors and books now. I have too many. Not only do we have three or four bookcases filled mostly with fiction, the one in the living room is double-stacked (i.e., one row in front of another).

You said it, Mr. Jefferson. I cannot live without books.

What are your favorites, past or present? How about leaving a comment?

NOTE: I’ve only talked about fiction today. But the Bible is by far the most important book I’ve read and continue to read.

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger

A Time to Read

michener

I love reading. I always have. I have fond memories of the old Dr. Doolittle books and Ben and Me and oh, so many other great kids books of years gone by.

As I entered my teen years, my tastes matured as well, although I don’t recall what I read then other than science fiction. Especially space travel, which at that time seemed like an impossible dream.

Then I ended up majoring in English in college, and I HAD to read so many books that I seldom (if ever) had a chance to read for pleasure anymore. I’ll never forget the course on the 20th Century Novel I took in my very last semester. We studied some pretty weird books, but one of the slightly less weird books really caught my fancy…John Barth’s The Floating Opera.

As it turned out, I moved to Cambridge, Maryland, after college and taught there for six-plus years. And that’s the setting of The Floating Opera. I was fascinated to reread that book and walk down the street from my boarding house and look more closely at the places Barth had described so vividly.

Teaching 9th grade English, I got caught up in handling book club orders for my students, and I fell in love with some of the best of teen fiction at the time. Who could ever forget The Pigman or any of the other popular teen books from the late sixties and early seventies? Not all of them were pleasant; I remember Go Ask Alice, too.

Once I got away from teaching, however, I also got away from the teen book influence. James Michener’s novels captivated me. Not just because they were excellent reads, but because he was living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland at the time, and that fascinated me.

Especially when my wife (now my ex-) came home announcing that she’d gone with one of our church members who did secretarial work for Mr. Michener to their home and met him. What irony. She wouldn’t have waded through one of his novels to save her life…

For what it’s worth, my ex- was able to introduce me to Mrs. Michener when she recognized her in a department store one day. Not the same as meeting him would have been, though.

Once I’d written my first novel, I discovered how much novels had changed over the years. Those books I’d barely tolerated that last semester of college were actually typical now. Gone were introductory pages (or in Mr. Michener’s case, multiple chapters) of backstory. The author has to hook the reader in the first paragraph. Preferably in the first sentence.

Modern life is fast-paced, and the contemporary novel must maintain the reader’s interest or be thrown away or returned. Although I had an almost complete set of everything James Michener had ever written (the picture above is of just some of my collection), even I no longer had the patience to plod through his books again.

I could go on now, but I think you get the idea.

Not only did I have to learn to write differently than I’d learned to write in college, I learned to read and enjoy a different style of fiction.

And one of the joys of retirement is having the time to read as much as I want to. Not that I ever expect to return to James Michener. Like the man himself, my interest in that kind of reading has died.

Do you read fiction or non-fiction? What’s your favorite book? Do you still remember a favorite childhood book? Please share a comment with the rest of us.

<>

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, just go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” isn’t my only blog.  “As I Come Singing”check it out here–posts lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years. Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. Check here to see the list.

Best regards,
Roger