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Saturday, February 26, 2011

Larry McMurtry and Pat Conroy's brief, enjoyable memoirs about their reading lives

By Hugh Gilmore 

December 22, 2010  

Writers on reading and writing

            Novelists Larry McMurtry and Pat Conroy have both recently published brief, enjoyable memoirs about their reading lives. The book bug, it seems, bit them early and bit them hard and they never got over the fever. For McMurtry, born on a ranch in Texas, and Conroy, born on a Marine base in Georgia, the literary life lifted them from childhoods of hungry, regional isolation to national renown.
           McMurtry's memoir actually comes as a trilogy. "Books: A Memoir" appeared in 2008, followed in 2009 by "Literary Life, A Second Memoir," and in 2010 by "Hollywood: A Third Memoir." Together they reveal what in retrospect seems like an inevitable path from being a bookish boy in Archer City, Texas to being an Academy Award Best Screenplay winner in Hollywood. He's written such works as the "Lonesome Dove" series for TV, and the screenplays for "The Last Picture Show," "Hud," "Brokeback Mountain," and "Terms of Endearment." He also enjoyed several runs on the New York Times Bestseller list along the way. 
            Conroy's recent memoir is titled "My Reading Life." He too has enjoyed time on the New York Times Bestsellers list, and has also known the pleasures and frustrations of seeing his books go from print to movie screen. Among his better known works made into movies have been "The Great Santini," "The Lords of Discipline," "The Prince of Tides," and "Beach Music."
            None of these memoir installments is particularly heavy or philosophical, nor written with much depth. Conroy tries harder, in his determined, gritty way, to lift his story to a level of literary refinement, especially when he writes about the great teachers he had (James Dickey, for one). McMurtry has better name-dropping stories, but writes so casually, almost lazily, the stories feel as they they've been lifted from diaries with scarcely any amplification -- kind of like he's saved Reader's Digest the trouble of condensing his life.
            Oh well, you pays your money and you takes what they give you. I love reading biographies of writers, especially when they talk about the ways in which other writers have affected them. American career paths fascinate me. Why did these two fellows achieve such success when many hundreds of others -- some just as talented -- remain unread and unknown? A topic for another day.

A Walk on the Wild Side with Alfred Owre, fellow militant

Such bliss: An older man, a dreamy hillside and a book!

Let's Get Wild

            You probably think that the life of a Books 'n' Reading columnist is a rather placid one, a life "of quiet desperation." But you'd be wrong. Occasionally we cut loose -- as for example, witness the fact that I've just finished reading "Alfred Owre, Dentistry's Militant Educator" (by Netta Wilson, 1937). Like most of my wilder experiences this one blindsided me.
            Here's what happened. A few months ago, as part of my antiquarian book business, I bought several boxes of old books from an estate. In going through them at home, a book about touring the Irish countryside piqued my curiosity The book itself was nice enough, its bookplate was what really caught my eye.
            Take a look at the picture I've provided above. What a portrait of bliss: an old man, lying on a hillside, the very picture of relaxed contentment as he holds his book. Let the world roll by! he seems to say. The dream of every dedicated reader.
            This was no ordinary bookplate. I'd never seen it before. The owner of the book must have had it designed. Who was he, this "Alfred Owre"? How could I accidentally come to possess this bookplate without wanting to know more about its original owner?
            Thank heavens for Google and the other search engines. I did no other work that day. Hour after hour slid quietly by as I tried to reach into the past and know this fellow, Alfred Owre (pronounced "Ow-er" or "oar," most of the time. I don't know which form he used).
            An immigrant to America from Norway in the early 1880's, a boy burdened with being the brilliant oldest child in a destitute family, he'd been a disciplined, hard-working, honest person who'd lived out the American dream. Drawn to dentistry, he rose within the ranks of academia to become Dean of the schools of dentistry at the University of Minnesota, and later, at Columbia University. And he fought a life-long battle to convert dentistry, which did not require its practitioners to receive much scientific training in those days, into a branch of medical science.
            Each Internet site I found teased me with additional bits of information. Owre was a compulsive, dedicated walker who walked across America. He built the world's greatest personal collection of cloisonné (I know: "be still my heart," but I am always fascinated by people of humble origins who acquire exquisite taste). And he was forced by hard times to sell his collection at auction for a fraction of its worth. His home library was extensive and incredibly broad in its contents. I found some photographs of it in the University of Minnesota's archives and downloaded one to my desktop to use as a screensaver.
So, I might actually own of the books shown here– what and honor!
In trying to reconstruct his library's contents, I found here and there a reference to a bookseller offering a book "ex-libris Alfred Owry." By noting the titles I gained a small sense of what his personal library had been like.
            And here's what I imagine to have been the path whereby the book came into my hands. The Irish tour book was published in the 1820s and must have passed through several hands before Owre purchased it, either at auction or from a used book seller. He put his bookplate in it probably at some point after he'd earned enough to afford it, maybe around 1910. After his death in 1935, his library was sold at auction in New York. From the presence of auction notices in several of the books I'd bought, I'd guess that the owner of the estate I purchased this book from is the link between myself and Alfred.
            Who'll be the next custodian?
            In the meantime, I used the Philadelphia Free Library's inter-library loan system to borrow and read a copy of his only biography. 
            And, in case you want to know, my final verdict is that he was not at all like the fellow depicted on the bookplate (!) He was hard working, driven, as stubborn as he was idealistic, and probably not one to waste time lying on a hillside letting the rest of the world go by! In fact his drive to be in motion probably killed him. He insisted on hiking even after his final illness had laid him low.
            The whole process, from spotting that bookplate to hounding his Google trail, downloading photos of his library, reading his biography, and writing this piece has been fun from start to middle. A hoot, as we say here in Chestnut Hill. Who dares say we don't know how to have fun out here on the peninsula?


Friday, February 25, 2011

Europa Editions # 2: Dropping the quest to flee from the teddy bears

By Hugh Gilmore

January 26, 2011
This graceful stork shall be our search image for today

            In Part 1 of this series I sought a theme to guide this year's reading. Rejecting the classics, or re-reading old favorites, I decided to read everything published by Europa Editions. Founded in 2006, they publish English translations of European writers. Their books are sleek, pleasant to touch, offbeat, and wisely entertaining. They've published 90 authors so far and will publish their 100th title this May. I thought that number was doable in a year.
            Reading only fiction for 12 months seemed as appetizing as a liquid diet. But I hoped it might pull me away from my typically crass cravings for adventure yarns, and adrenalin-squeezing survival-after-disaster stories. And hence make me a better person and easier to live with.
            Such a quest meant stockpiling a bunch of Europa Editions. I'd need to have five at hand at all times, with plans for more. But on New Year's Day I had only one Europa title, "The Jerusalem File," by Joel Stone, a detective story of marital disintegration with romance and politics embroiled in it.  It turned out to be quite satisfyingly philosophical also. (How could it not? The author was born in Brooklyn! Who knew?)
            I thought I'd probably finish "The Jerusalem Files" on January 3, but that was the day I promised to take my dear sister (Gilly Phipps, whom many of you know) down to the Perlman Center for Advanced Medicine. Her first day of chemotherapy. It would be a long day and I knew that at some point Gilly would fall asleep and I'd go take a walk.
            When the time came in mid-afternoon I stepped out to the sunshine and cool air and walked up to Penn Books at 3601 Walnut Street. What could be better than an hour spent in a university bookstore?
            I walked over to the fiction section, found the A's, and began looking for Europa Editions books. But that's not so easy with so many thousands of books. Leisurely browsing would take forever. I needed a system. Maybe I could form a "search image" of what a typical Europa book looked like so if there were any here, they'd practically leap off the shelf at me. I took "The Jerusalem File" out of my shoulder bag and studied it, trying to absorb its "gestalt," as it were. Europa Editions books have a distinctive, branded look. And at the base of the spines of all their books stands their stylized logo, a stork.

     That's what I'd look for. Like indoor bird watching.
      I probably missed a lot of good books, but once I started stork hunting, I moved quickly. In the B's I found Muriel Barbery's "The Elegance of the Hedgehog," but I'd read that last year. In the C's I made my first hit, Rebecca Connell's "The Art of Losing." Thank goodness -- the process had become tedious already. With thousands of books ahead.
        By the G's, my aching eyes were tired of being used as optical scanners, but I kept going. At the M & N's I had to step around a female employee who knelt beside a triangular, half-filled book cart. I said hello. She looked up. I told her what I was doing and asked if she knew an easier way of finding Europas. No, she didn't. 
      Thanks anyway, back to work. In a half-hour I'd finished and had found only three Europa books. I'd expected more. Surely, in a college bookstore ... I went back to the young woman, now kneeling in the O's. I watched her for a few seconds. At first I'd thought that she'd been resupplying sold stock. Now I realized she held a list of books to pull.
            "Are you filling orders?" I asked. (That's the way we used book sellers think -- why else would a bookstore remove brand new books?)
            "No, these are going back to the publishers."
            "How long have they been there?"
            "It varies, but usually about three months."
            I walked away. Holy cow, three months, and one of them had been Christmas break for the University. What a cruel world when you think about all the work and all the hopes and dreams an author puts into writing a book. Very discouraging.
            The antidote to this downer would be to buy my wife, Janet, a gift book. I walked through the gift mugs, teddy bears, license plate holders, sweatshirts, and novelties to go upstairs to the Foreign Literature section. Up there, back in a sloppy corner, I found only a single shelf of French Language books. "French for Dummies" and some dictionaries. That was all. I asked for help. The two employees I talked to were equally stymied. Not a single work of literature in the French language. An old-timer was consulted. She said they stopped carrying foreign language literature about three years ago.
            I walked away stunned. A university bookstore ... in a major American city ... an Ivy League university, that carried dozens of teddy bears and a hundred sweatshirts and mugs ... and not a single book in a language other than English!
            I'm not sure why -- maybe my sister's chemo, maybe the disappointment that always follows when you decide to buy someone you love a gift and then can't find it, maybe disgust that a university bookstore allots more than half its space to non-books, maybe the idea that the young woman with the book cart downstairs was enacting a version of "bring out your dead" -- I don't know, but I put the books I'd labored to find back on the shelves and left the store. Darned if I'd give them my business that day.
            I knew I was taking a risk. What if I woke up tomorrow morning without a Europa to read that night?  That was a chance I'd just have to take: I aimed my steps toward a land where books are valued as something more than "inventory"  -- the used-book shops on campus.
            To be continued.


Europa Editions # 1: A reader's hesitation ... join the Trollopians, or push on alone? (Part 1)

Hugh Gilmore

January 29, 2011


          What to read, what to read? There are so many wonderful books in the world and they keep piling up, unread and clamoring for our attention. I am always tempted as January approaches to declare some rules that will guide my reading choices for the coming year.
            Maybe, I think, I'll just read neglected classics -- most of Dickens, for example. I don't think I've ever read "Anna Karenina." I know I haven't read "The Brothers Karamazov." And other than "Barchester Towers," (as a school assignment) I have no idea what all the 'Trollopians' (fans of Anthony Trollope) are fussing about. Maybe I should find out. (But what if they're boring? the little voice within whispers.)
            So then I think, maybe instead of filling the gaps in my knowledge of literature, I should reread books I quite definitely enjoyed in the past. I've kept reading lists since college. I could come up with quite a good list. Even the act of composing it would be enjoyable.
            (I could even arrange to have the list scrolled and put in my hand as I lie in state in my coffin someday. You know, "That's his book list. Our Hugh: always had his nose in a book. Right up until the bus flattened him, sniff sniff. Great list, though."
            But the road not taken always beckons me. As dense as I am, I'm sure I got something out of all those books I read. Enough to say that my hunger to hear new voices drives me forward. But what to read? What to read?
            For this year I also considered reading all the Pulitzer Prize winners in fiction, perhaps sprinkling in a few from the Biography and History winners. From 1918 to the present. Not a bad idea, but then, why not do National Book Award winners? I'll bet I'd like most of them. Or gee, why not be more international? I should read at least one book -- ideally the seminal book -- written by every Nobel Prize for Literature winner.
            Then I think, wait a minute: instead of reading only books awarded a prize by a committee, maybe I should rescue some unjustly neglected writers. There are hundreds, thousands I'm sure, of wonderful books that were published only to fade into obscurity. I'd do the authorial equivalent of puppy rescuing. I went Google and tapped "unjustly neglected books." I got 185,000 hits. The choice problem again. And nothing's more tedious than getting buttonholed by someone with an agenda, as many of the claimants seemed to be. Somewhere in that pile of manure there must be a magic mushroom or two, but I passed on the effort.
            But just by luck I found a link that led to a list of someone's (I can't remember whose) "Ten Best Novels of 2010." It mentioned "A Novel Bookstore," by Laurence Cossé. The plot centered about the efforts of two literature lovers to open a bookstore in Paris that sold only "good" literature. Of course, being French they debate openly and thoroughly all the issues related to that controversial question, "Just what is a 'good' book?" Having owned a bookstore myself, and still being an antiquarian book seller, I felt both obliged by and attracted to the idea, so I ordered the book from the Free Library. It arrived just before Christmas and became the last book I read in 2010.
            I enjoyed it enormously, despite its occasional tediousness, and weak plotting. The central idea of this book -- thousands of people drawn to a bookstore because it offers a bulwark against the mind pollution spewed by mainstream publishers -- enthralled me. I was reminded of all those wonderful scenes in "Fahrenheit 451" where booklovers secretly congregated to celebrate and keep alive the miracle of great literature. I was so caught up by his feeling I wanted to read all the books discussed in this novel and deemed worthy of being sold in the novel's ideal bookstore.
            That was nearly what I decided to do for 2011, but I held back. I wasn't sure I could trust the author's taste. She, Laurence Cossé, seemed just a bit too inclusive of any book with 'attitude' and I wasn't sure I would personally enjoy reading them, even if I acknowledged that they were "good" books.
            Then I noticed that "A Novel Bookstore" was published by Europa Editions, a publisher that had issued four other novels I'd enjoyed last year. ("Old Filth," by Jane Gardam; "Clash of Civilizations over an Elevator in Piazza Vittorio," by Amara Lakhous; "The Elegance of the Hedgehog," by Muriel Barbery, and "The Tokyo Fiancée," by Amelie Nothomb). All quite unique and enjoyable. Moreover, this house's books are sleek and physically elegant. And their settings quite sophisticated and international. They're so open-minded they even publish Americans!
            Europa Editions was founded in 2005 by Sandro Ferri and Sandra Ozzola Ferri, the owner/publishers of Edizioni E/O, based in Rome and one of Europe's most prestigious publishing houses. They publish literary fiction, high-end mysteries, illustrated children's fiction, memoirs, and narrative non-fiction. They currently publish 90 authors and this May will publish their 100th title. About two-thirds of their titles have been translated from another language into English.
            Yes, why not? It was time I expanded my taste beyond the Yahoo American fiction I've been reading for years. So, yes, that was it. I would try to read all, and only, books published by Europa Editions. Pumped up, excited, ready to face the new year, I set out to stock up on Europa Editions titles.
            Almost at once, I ran into the problems that nowadays beset anyone who decides to get off the beaten track.
            To be continued ...


Some say the world will end in fire, others say in ice: a Darwinian struggle

By Hugh Gilmore

February 10, 2011
                                                             (Photo by Hugh Gilmore)
What I fear my kitchen will soon look like

            Common sense told me not to go, but the lady had mentioned "an old Darwin" book, so I bundled up and left home on a frigid day hoping to go treasure hunting. Six steps later I slipped on the ice next to my car and fell flat on my back. Always a surprise. Got the wind knocked out of me and lay there stunned, contemplating the wonder of it all, especially the wonder of what would happen when I tried to rise.
            I pushed myself off the ice into the snow and stood up and. My elbow hurt sharply and I'd wrenched my back, but my moveable parts followed commands, so I got in the van and headed off to Conshohocken, Land of Darwins.
            On the scene: a freezing, nasty, enclosed-but-unheated porch. I could hardly bear to touch the cold cold (SIC on "cold cold") books and had much trouble turning pages to check for edition, etc. Had to keep blowing on my hands. Books were ordinary. The Darwin was a sixth edition, with scuffed corners and a spine tear, but I bought it anyhow. Not much of a souvenir. The pain of my fall now made worse by disappointment. 

            Came that night, I couldn't lie down without feeling bad back pain. Actually, lower rear rib cage pain. Slept in gritty installments.

            Gimped around on Friday. Just as I thought things couldn't get worse, the furnace died. I heard it shut off. Pilot flame was on, but furnace wouldn't turn over. Just hummed. Our heating guru came at 4 p.m. He tinkered, lashed some parts together with cable ties, told jokes, shined his flashlight and said the parts place wouldn't be open again till Monday morning. Before he left, he'd managed to get the heater running. He even did some on-and-offs and it came back on each time. So: toodles.

            An hour later: Off. Pilot was out this time. I had the sudden realization that the ice outside was not satisfied with what it had done to me in the carport. It now wanted to move inside. Fire and ice are natural enemies, but now they seemed to be collaborating in pursuit of a common prey: me. I would have to fight back if I myself did not want to revert to the cold, motionless state that all mobile creatures are destined towards.

            But, I'm scared to death of the idea of causing an accidental gas explosion because I have too much college and not enough knowledge. Kneeling before the heater, I took a deep breath. Didn't smell gas, wished myself luck, and lit the Bic. I did not blow up. Mirabile dictu! I lit the pilot. Seconds later, the furnace roared backed to life. What a jolly little homeowner am I. Just so handy to have someone like I around.
            A half-hour later the furnace kicked off again. No pilot flame again.
A quick look out the window confirms what I suspect: the ice field is moving closer to the house.
            Three tries this time. Got the pilot lit. Mr. Competence. Just an ol' Jack London survivor type.

            My wife, Janet, is involved with the the local Stagecrafters Theater production of "Private Lives," by Noel Coward. Tonight is opening night. We had to go. We left at 10 of 8 and just made the curtain.
            All through the witty repartee (on stage) I was thinking. Has my house blown up yet? Has the furnace gone out? Has my car been towed from the last-minute parking spot I chose, right beneath the Tow Warning sign of a local store (closed for the night, but sometimes Snow Emergencies bring out the mean-spirits of tow truck drivers). But anyway, ha ha ha, hurray for Noel Coward. So funny I actually forgot my miseries, including a very sore back, for minutes at a time.

            Show over. Time for answers to my life's mysteries. Car: ah, not towed. Home: colder than it should be. Yes: furnace off, pilot out. Tried to light it three times, unsuccessfully. Now smelled gas. Cowardly retreat up the stairs. Accepted the inevitability of having to sleep in an unheated house, wrapped in crushing ice.

            Called furnace man and left message so he'd respond first thing in the morning. 
            Got the electric space heater, pulled another down quilt from the closet. Put on sweatshirt, sweat pants, knit cap and got in bed to read latest Europa Editions book I'm enjoying, "Mosquito," by Roma Tearne. (Set in sultry Sri Lanka.) I'm actually quite warm, but dreading waking up to a house where the temperature will be about 35 degrees by sunrise. I really should try to light the pilot one more time.

            I did it ! I hurry back upstairs, remove my sweatpants and sweatshirt and knit cap and extra quilt. Read a little more, fall asleep. Wake up an hour later, my back and ribcage killing me. When I lie on my side I feel like I'm lying on a brick, or have a baseball inserted under the ribs (take your pick). So it goes. The room is now too warm. The air smells like baked dust. I hesitate to tinker with the thermostat. I remove one layer of covers and try to get back to sleep, but can't lie on either side without pain (and can't ever sleep on my back or stomach). Why did I ever leave my warm home and walk on ice, just to buy a Darwin?
            I lie on my right side, in terrible pain that I choose to regard as an opportunity to practice will-power-over-muscle-pain. I will the knot to relax. It doesn't work, so I decide to simply accustom myself to the pain. That sort of works. I sleep an hour on, an hour off, till sunrise. Then I get up.

(Photo by Hugh Gilmore)
            The furnace is still holding back the lusting ice. That's good. Tenuous but good.
 I'll take it over the alternative. My back hurts. I'm making coffee when the phone rings.

            It's the lady whose cold books I visited on Thursday. The lady I should not have gone to see on the morning of the ice storm. The lady whose mention of "an old Darwin" book made me risk the trip. The lady who set the fate that I should have a wrenched back and lose two nights' sleep in motion. 

            She wants the book back. Her grown son, who lives in another state, wants to read it. He's never read it. He yelled at her and told her she should not have sold it and she should get it back from me so he could read it.
            Moral of the story -- deduced from Robert Frost's poem, "Fire and Ice" ("Some say the world will end in fire. Others say in ice."): Between the slip on the ice and the failing furnace, I can't wait for summer when it's time to complain about the heat.

More on Europa Editions and my firm lack of resolve

Feb 17, 2011

By Hugh Gilmore
One of the best so far this year

            Sometime between 11:59 p.m. and midnight this past New Year's Eve I decided on my reading challenge for this year: try to read all the books in the Europa Editions catalog. Europa Editions is a young press that publishes handsome, sleek books that in most cases were written in another language and translated into English. They'll be issuing their 100th title this May and are planning a big celebration. By then I'll have probably read close to 50 of their titles.
            Since most Europa Editions books are fiction, I'm now taking a road I don't usually travel. Normally, two-thirds of what I read is non-fiction. In choosing titles I just follow my nose, reading whatever captures my interest at the moment. In a given year I'll read a lot of books, but most of them, in hindsight, are not memorable. The idea of having a programmed plan this year excited me. After all, sometimes the hardest part of being a reader is finding a good book to read. 
            By January 3, I had finished Europa's "The Jerusalem File," by Joel Stone -- a mischievous story spiced with delicious insights. On my night table sat "The Sexual Life of an Islamist in Paris," by an Algerian woman named Leila Maroune, "Sorry," by Gail Jones (set in Australia), "The Goodbye Kiss," (Italian crime noir) by Massimo Carlotto, "Broken Glass Park," (a young Russian woman living in Germany) by Alina Bronsky, and "Between Two Seas," (a multi-generational tale set in Calabria) by Carmine Abate.
            Just to jump ahead for a second: I enjoyed all of these books, with "Broken Glass Park" being my favorite. It's inspiring and sad and the heroine/narrator's intelligence, pluck, and pain reminded me of Lisbeth Salender in the Stieg Larsson "Girl Who" trilogy. My least favorite was "The Goodbye Kiss," mostly because contemporary noir seems to be getting long on violence and short on character -- though the genre's saving grace is the deep vein of social criticism that usually runs through it.
            But back on January 3, five Europa Editions at the ready, another half-dozen on order at the Philadelphia Free Library, I was in Pig Heaven. I was happy, determined, and confident I could get through the entire Europa Catalog before the year ended.
            Then I went to the dentist.
            I had just emerged from the land of Novocainia, mouth numbed and tongue thick, when I ran into Carol Michaels here in Chestnut Hill. Carol and I taught school together, in Abington, back in the day. If you know her, you know she is intelligent, friendly, effusive ... and persuasive! (partly thanks to a million-dollar smile our mutual friend/dentist, John Carabello, helps her maintain)
            "Oh Hugh, I've got a terrific book for you that's just the kind of thing you like."
            "Mu-umph," I replied, but a second later she was writing "'God's Funeral' by
A. N. Wilson" on my dental appointment card. A few more words from her and grunts from me and we parted.
            One of the pleasures of writing a reading column is that people recommend books to me. I usually read them. As I drove home, however, I began reminding myself that I couldn't afford that luxury this year. Not if I seriously hoped to accomplish my publicly stated goal of reading all the Europa Editions catalog by December 31, at midnight. I began practicing my excuse for the next time I ran into Carol.
            When I got home the mail had arrived. A check for a book I'd sold had bounced. I called my bank. The fellow who took my call was friendly and in the spaces between computer commands we talked a bit about books. He loved reading too. Mostly non-fiction. He'd just finished "The Kennedy Detail," a memoir by Gerald Blaine, one of the Secret Service agents who'd guarded JFK during his presidency. Very exciting, he said, lots of backstage stories and insights into the protocols of the Secret Service.
            I wrote the title on a sticky as soon as we finished talking. Sounded like a good book, but "I had promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep." Tempted, I'll admit, but distraction is the enemy of achievement.
            In the early afternoon I walked down to the Chestnut Grill to meet Greg Welsh, its owner, and more relevantly, the caporegime of the Chestnut Hill Book festival. We had a "sit down."
            "What's up?" I asked, curious, since he'd called me -- my position with the Book Festival is nonpaying and non-status, but that doesn't mean I couldn't be fired for general stupidity and shiftlessness.
            "Nothing," he said, "just wanted to say hello, see what's new...."
            I sensed a trap. He lifted something from the seat beside his. Was he going to "whack" me? Would I be sleeping with the fishes tonight?
            "Remember that author I was telling you about?" he said as he put a book on the table.
            The book was "Ishmael," by Daniel Quinn. One of the most interesting and thought-provoking books Greg had read in a long time. The author's distillation of a lifetime of experience. Wise, profound, humorous and moving.
            "I'd really like to know what you think of it," Greg said, as he handed it over for me to borrow. I opened it: a signed copy. Something he prized. I was touched. What could I do but accept? We talked amicably for a while and parted.
            Walking back up the Hill, I thought, That's one of the remarkable things about good books: You want to share what you read with others. Good books are as powerful as any viral video meme. Even better, because they make you want to know what others think about the human lives portrayed in them. They provoke you to care what others think. And their beauty is too compelling to keep to yourself.
            And so, of course, the camel's back was broken by the time I got home. I ordered "God's Funeral" and "The Kennedy Detail" from the library when I got home. "Ishmael” was already sitting with the Europa Editions.
            How I'm going to manage, I don't know. I fear I'm a man with tons of hope but only ounces of will.
            To be continued ...