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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Shaking My Head to Clear the Fog


We had a couple of foggy, misty mornings early last week, but it’s the mist in my brain that I troubles me some days. There is so much going on in the summer! The busy, full days race by so quickly! But it’s important to keep track of each day, and sometimes of each hour, when you’re in business rather than on vacation. My vacation time will come in another season. For now I must keep track of book orders, of author events, of out-of-town visitors, of when the gardens were last watered and how low we have gotten on clean towels and underwear (excuse me!), to mention only a few of the more important items.

But I find time to read. I need to make time to read. If I don’t read myself to sleep, the fog in my brain will start churning and roiling, and if I don’t take half an hour between dinner and bedtime to put my feet up a book in my hands, I’ll be too tired to read at bedtime. Books, whether fiction or nonfiction, easy or difficult, happy or sad, are my escape. They are my travel to other worlds. So bear with me today, because I’m just back from Georgia, and I was there in the 1970s, so it was travel through time as well as space.

There were times when the prose in Praying for Sheetrock seemed almost too literary, poetic and imaginative. Melissa Fay Greene wasn’t there, was she? Didn’t she only put the story together many years later, by interviewing people who had been there? So how does she know how everyone looked, how the place looked and smelled and sounded? Whenever these thoughts intruded on my reading, however, I would think about the book stripped of its detailed, evocative descriptions, and I could not wish it different.
Curled and perfumed teenagers arrived from the far reaches of the county, from the cabins and trailers in the woods, like moths attracted to high-wattage lights. Young men had stood burning in showers till their shoulders seemed to swell and then had worked bare-chested, draped with a towel, ironing their dress shirts on kitchen tables. Their mothers had talked while the sons had ironed and buttoned and tucked themselves in, paying their mothers no mind....

This story of many peoples’ lives is like life itself. At times a heroic note is sounded, then a tragic passage follows, and often there is dissonance. No two people have exactly the same memories or feelings. Forms of corruption are wiped out, and other, new forms appear. Meanwhile, amid the confusion and complexity, as the author notes, the ordinary, simple aspects of daily life go on.

Northerners can only ever see the South with outsiders’ eyes. The view this book gives the outsider is at least close-up and personal.

I shake my head to clear it of fog and heat and turn to focus on Friday’s launch of Al Bona’s book of poetry, Sand. Actually, my focus has already been there for several weeks, whenever the fog has lifted.

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