Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Literary Confessions

I have bookshelves in nearly every room.
Sometimes I feel the need to fill the gaps in my education by reading some of the classics of literature. In one of these self-improvement fits I bullied myself through "Pride and Prejudice," and then Dickens’ "Bleak House." I really hated "Pride and Prejudice" (stop gasping. You probably just watched the movie), but "Bleak House" was okay. The main problem I had with BH was that it was so dang long—I had other, probably far more entertaining, books waiting for my attention. Also, as I read new scenes which introduced yet more characters I wondered if I should pay close attention. Were these people important? Were we going to continue with them, or were they once-n-dones?

I’ve always heard that Dickens’ stories are more entertaining than a lot of other old literature. Apparently a
uthors were afforded much mercy at that time. In BH you have to get past the first two dreadful chapters of the book. Readers now haven’t the patience to wade through page after page of a never-ending lawsuit, so writers are expected to jump into a scene and explain—if needed—later.

At a writer’s conference a few years back, agent extraordinaire Janet Reid, a/k/a Query Shark, yanked the first five pages of my manuscript from my novel’s opening and said, “One, two, three, four, five pages about three people we really don’t much care about. Start here where the story gets interesting and we love the characters.” Too bad she wasn’t around in 1853 to tell Dickens to leave off those first boring sections and jump right in with Esther.

My classics-jones is tempered for the time being, and I’m back to new stuff. Well, newish stuff. My reading schedule is similar to my fashion schedule. I don’t reach for the buzz books anymore than I search the mall for the latest style of dress. The dresses I have in my closet are fine.

Books sort of come to me whenever, through the library, friends, gift cards for book stores, and used book sales. I read The Da Vinci Code in about 2010, although it was published in 2003. A little late to that party, eh? And to carry through with the comparison, no, not all my dresses are that old. 

Wait. What year was my nephew married?

I have a blue file folder on my desk jammed full of names of books I plan to read someday, names of authors whose work I've enjoyed. It's not an actual list; There are many lists, print-outs, scraps of notebook paper, whatever. If I read a book a day for the rest of my life I'd never get through the list. But I'm not worried. In my life, plans are very fluid. Which is one of the things that drives my always-planning husband craziest. Opposites, and all that.

How about you? Do you scout the best seller lists? Sign up on library waiting lists for just-published books? Wait for word-of-mouth reviews? 

How do you acquire the books you read? Tell me--because God forbid I should miss a book.



  1. From my wife. She reads them first and tells me what I need to read, and most of the time we will read them together at that point.


    1. It's great that you enjoy similar books. My husband is on a quest to read all of Zane Grey's westerns. Hmm.