The reading theme for May is “name,” and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. One of the nonfiction books I’m currently reading is Kate Remembered, by A. Scott Berg. Hal and I have been on a bit of a Katharine Hepburn roll of late and that makes it particularly fun to read. In fact, I was just reading about the making of Adam’s Rib when Adam’s Rib came in from the library (there was a waiting list) but it was damaged and we only got to see the first half. It was a good first half, though. Anyway, I’m nearly halfway through the book and we’re nearly halfway through the Katharine Hepburn/Spencer Tracy oeuvre and the pairing is spectacularly fun.
I’m also reading Hamlet’s Blackberry: Building a Good Life in the Digital Age, by William Powers. It’s a decent enough book, looking at how to manage information overload, drawing on the writings of some brilliant thinkers (all men, all white) throughout history. So far I’ve read Plato and Seneca. Still to come: Gutenberg, Shakespeare, Ben Franklin, Thoreau, and McLuhan.
One of my surprise excellent reads for this theme was What Is Stephen Harper Reading? by Yann
Martel. Yann Martel (author of Life of Pi and resident of Saskatoon) sends Stephen Harper a book or two a month, each with a note attached regarding why it was chosen (and often where from) and how it could help Stephen Harper to be a better leader. (In case you aren’t up on your politics, Stephen Harper is the current PM of Canada, and conservative. Yann Martel is not so conservative.)
I actually started this book several years ago when we were in Canada, but I set it down and when I picked it up again a couple of weeks ago I couldn’t believe I had ever put it down. The notes to Harper are great. In 2008 he sent Harper Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston. Part of his note:
The most significant element in the life of Zora Neale Hurston—even greater than that she was a woman—was that she was black. It is inconceivable that her writing . . . would have been the same had she been white. She was black in a white society that for two hundred years had held blacks in slavery. She was black in a society that was, at best, racial it its thinking, and, at worst, racist. I imagine that every day of her life there was some glance, some exchange, some limitation that reminded Hurston of the colour of her skin and what that was held to mean.
He closes this note saying that the value in reading this book is that, in addition to being entertained, “for the duration of a story you will have entered the being of an African-American woman. You will have heard voices that you might otherwise never have heard.”
The name theme was particularly good for poetry and I’ve been reading a lot of it this month:
- Making her Way: The Search for Helga, by Nancy Frederiksen
- Circe, After Hours, by Marilyn Kallet
- Eva-Mary, by Linda McCarriston
- The Night Abraham Called to the Stars, by Robert Bly
- The Journals of Scheherazade, by Sheryl St. Germain
- How Charlie Shavers Died, by Harvey Shapiro
- Jonah’s Promise, by Adam Sol
- Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis, by Wendy Cope
You can see I’m making good progress on my poetry shelves!
Excepting The Days of Anna Madrigal (which I wrote about a couple weeks ago), fiction reading for this theme has been pretty mediocre. The most interesting is probably a book that for some reason I’ve been hauling around for nearly 50 years, a 35-cent Scholastic book by Frances Hodgson Burnett, Sara Crewe. (Why did I keep this, and not Katie Kittenheart, which I read and reread and loved? Who knows how or why we do these things?)
But I still have another week, so there’s time for another fiction book (or two). And there’s a lot to choose from: Maurice, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Claire DeWitt and the City of the Dead, The Confessions of Mycroft Holmes, Harriet the Spy. . . .