Book Sense

I’m about fed up.

I’ve whinnied and whined. I’ve philosophized and theorized. I’ve sought advice and given over to the random voices. And still, my reading list for this semester fails to dazzle me.

The reading list of twenty books (in five months, mind you) is a collaborative effort between my advisor and I. I had a few in mind, she had a list of musts, then we tossed in a few more and the list grew to twelve. We stopped at that and agreed we’d find the other eight as the semester progressed.

Fine. Fair enough.

But now I’m past twelve and I have to say that almost 50% of the books I’ve read this semester either lack metaphorical and literary significance, lack a clear and eloquent voice, and/or fail to make meaning of a series of experiences.

Today, I started two books on polar opposite ends of the spectrum, one approved by advisor and the other a must-read that my advisor will deem acceptable even though it’s a novel.

A sample from the first, Edward Hoagland’s Compass Points: How I Lived: “In my anti-modernist ebullience I was not, I think, a Pollyanna. I saw the South with a Yankee’s acidulous eye and the North with Thoreauvian impatience.”

A sample from the second, Dorothy Parker’s Bastard Out of Carolina: “You better. You better just watch yourself around her…Watch her in the diner, laughing, pouring coffee, palming tips, and frying eggs. Watch her push her hair back, tug her apron higher, refuse dates, pinches, suggestions. Watch her eyes and how they sink into her face, the lines that grow out from that tight stubborn mouth, the easy banter that rises from the deepest place inside her.”

I’d take Parker over Hoagland any day, which is why I’ll proceed in this bi-polar manner, swapping storylines with the completion of each chapter. Somehow, I’ll find a rhythm, I hope. Somehow, I’ll focus and find a sense of ground even amidst the packed boxes, the overflowing recycling, the lingering chill of our April mornings in the cabin. Yeesh, what a time of upheaval!

  • Victoria

    Dorothy ALLISON is the author of “Bastard Out of Carolina.”

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