I wrote down everything I read and began writing my own first novel...

This blog aimed to contrast what I was reading in in 1975-79 with the same month, week and day, 30 years later in 2005-2009. I'm leaving the blog up in archive mode, blogging in real time on Live Journal--and still writing novels.

Lynne Murray's Live Journal and Bride of the Dead Blog

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Books, Mountains, Resources

(Wherein the blogger whines or mourns, depending on how you look at it. Uplifting lesson optional.)

I'm thinking a lot about my father's goal for my brother and me. He said "I want you to learn to use yourself as a resource." In World War II, as a bombardier in the Army Air Corps, he was shot down over Germany and held as a prisoner of war by the Nazis. That experience helped form his view that you never know what life will throw at you, and you need to be able to cope with whatever you bring with you.

Those thoughts arose as I reflected on the fact that it's been awhile since I've read a book, even though I've seen a great many I would like to read. Quite simply I can't access them.

The closest I came to reading a book this past month was watching a PBS showing of a 2003 documentary, Touching the Void, based on the book by the same name written by Joe Simpson. It tells the story of his amazing survival as a mountain climber in the Peruvian Andes, thought to be dead by his fellow climber and trapped alone in a crevasse with a badly broken leg. (I have knee problems and I had to briefly turn off the sound while he described his horrific leg break and knee injury)

Touching the Void

Simpson's amazing feat in getting down off that mountain all on his own resonated with me enormously.

My own obstacles are not mountains--well, I have several obstacles but the topic of the day is books--specifically the lack thereof. Mind you, I don't have a shortage of books in my living space--I probably own about 1,000 give or take. I try to winnow down the number when I can. Some I haven't even read, some I've read repeatedly, some I may never read. People in times and places where one book was precious would shake their heads at how keenly I mourn the fact that I can't read what strikes my fancy simply because I can't afford to buy books and I physically can't get to a library to borrow them. But when you can't do what has always comforted you most, it becomes a challenge.

What I miss most is the pure luxury that I had for the first four or five decades of my life of walking into a library and checking out anything that caught my fancy. It was free. I always took home as many books as were allowed, books I could never have afforded to buy.

In the late 1980s and 1990s I worked in the financial district and had less time to go to the library and more money to buy books. So I bought the ones that really interested me (often but not always in paperback) and borrowed books from friends who shared similar tastes.

Now I find myself in a stretch of road where I can't afford to buy books at all and I also can't physically get to a library or even easily go downstairs to the mail boxes in my building to bring up books. The library offers to ship books to the disabled but that program only works for the disabled who can get to their mailbox. I was hopeful when I got an electronic library card, but I had to laugh when I saw that the only e-books they had available were ones I could get online for free at Project Gutenberg. I like books that are out of copyright, but that is a far cry from the freedom to explore the newest books as you wander through a library or bookstore.

For those who hung in hearing my woes, let me say that Joe Simpson's story of survival against incomprehensible odds encouraged me to cope in small increments. That is how he got out of the crevasse, climbing toward the light. That is how he got down off the mountain, sliding through the snow on his butt watching out for the other crevasses in 20 minutes increments. Then at the base of the mountain he hopped on his good leg and an ice axe, often falling painfully on the rocky moraines, until he reached the base camp--a four day journey.

My pain is a mere twinge compared to that, no life-threatening dehydration, blood loss or hypothermia. Not an armed Nazis prison guard in sight.

My own small sadness is that I have to use my own resources, often reading snippets on the web when I would prefer to get lost in a book of my own choosing. I have hopes of getting down off this particular personal mountain, but at the moment I simply keep going, even though I go rather slowly.

From June 4 to July 1, 19788 I read:

The Blue Hammer, Ross MacDonald

Poetry and the Age, Randall Jarrell
Note: very endearing

Call for the Dead, John Le Carré
Looking Glass War, John Le Carré

Big Bad Wolves, Masculinity in the American Film, Joan Mellen

The Sexual Outlaw, a Documentary, John Rechy
Note: not very documentary. Too many exclamation points and artsy "descriptive" passages. Still alive and working and with a website and a my space page at 74.

Shakespeare & the Actors, Ivor Brown

A Guide to Jane Austen, Michael Hardwick

The Rise and Fall of the Well-Made Play, John Russell Taylor

Free to Act, How to Star in Your Own Life, Warren Robertson

Christopher and His Kind 1929-1939, Christopher Isherwood

Vivien Leigh, a Biography, Anne Edwards
Note: Very sad

A Preface to Jane Austen (not sure of the author)

Not above the law: The battles of Watergate prosecutors Cox and Jaworski: a behind-the-scenes account, James Doyle

Jane Austen, Jenkins

Persuasion, Jane Austen

From June 4 to July 1, 2008 no books read.

I did tame some ferocious feral kittens, but that's a different story.