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Thursday, November 1, 2007

The Company I Keep

How’d you like to hang out with this guy? His face looks a little mournful, but Bonnie and Woody felt we needed something to attract trick-or-treaters to our candy lair. By 7:30, when the gale-force winds had laid Hat Rack Man prone on the sidewalk, he looked even creepier, but he had done his job, luring the children in for Reese's peanut butter cups and the grown-ups in for Kilcherman's fresh apple cider, made just up the road at Christmas Cove Farm.

Robert Gray wrote in the booksellers’ daily newsletter, “Shelf Awareness,” on October 4:

"I thought about how I choose the next book I'm going to read, a ceremony that has a lot to do with 'voice.' In the first few pages of a book, I consider two important questions: Is this is a special place? Do I want to stay here for awhile?"

The authors whose works we read and the characters who inhabit those works are, after all, part of the daily company we keep. I’ve thought about that a lot this past week as I moved from May Thielgaard Watts to Robin Maxwell to Valerie Trueblood.

READING THE LANDSCAPE proclaimed itself a special place, calling me to visit, from the moment I opened the book and saw the wonderful line drawings illustrating the text, and the text did not disappoint, either. I loved walking the woods and dunes with Ms. Watts. Being with her also meant being with her teachers and mentors, so the likes of native-born Michiganian Asa Gray were my companions, too, in the special place of this book.

As far as “historical novels” go, I’m never sure what any particular reader means by that category. One thing that frequently puts me off even the best period novels is their length. Dipping into THE WILD IRISH, however, I was almost instantly hooked. Yes, this was a special place, and I wanted to stay there a while! The characters were alive! I found the “end” immensely satisfying, too, because--though I imagine some would find it inconclusive--it was the truth.

SEVEN LOVES, by Valerie Trueblood, a contemporary novel, likewise grabbed me right away with the truth of its characters, and I am glued to it every time I pick it up. The quality of the writing is poetic, the sense of characters interior, given more through their impressions rather than their actions. Nothing less than sleep could have taken me out of that world last night, and nothing less than duty will keep me from it today. But at the end of the day, when the time comes again to enter a special book place and stay there a while, I will be returning to this novel, sad to see the number of pages diminishing as I near its end.


Dorene said...

The company I currently keep is Bigfoot, Kenneth Wylie's wide-ranging and elegantly written investigation into the mystery and allure of Sasquatch. His research is impressive and the prose precise and engaging. On Halloween evening I curled up with the book and was summoned to the door only 12 times by ghosts and goblins, but this year I didn't mind the dearth in visitors as I was happily immersed in the physical and psychological landscape of Bigfoot country.

P. J. Grath said...

Wow! I'll have to give Ken the heads-up to read your comment! He'll be thrilled!