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Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Readers, All of Us

Yesterday was my birthday. No foolin’. I’ve been campaigning for a May birthday for years now, but David insists I can’t change the date, so an April Fool I remain; however, to ease the pain of a milestone birthday this year, he gave me a fabulous party at Fischer’s Happy Hour Tavern, just down the road. (Yes, very near the tree that received such heavy “visits” from the pileated woodpecker.) “There’s no place else I’d rather be,” I told Paul Fischer, quoting the old song, and it’s true. David had even made the (old) little girl’s dream come true and gotten me a tiara! He is full of surprises, my sweetheart! And of course there were a couple of books amidst the bottles of wine and other lovely presents from dear friends, all of whom looked especially beautiful to me last night.

After my day of grading student papers and quizzes and before we left for the party, I found time to finish reading Walter Mosley’s BLONDE FAITH and was blown away by the last page. Don’t expect me to reveal it, but I could not have been more surprised or amazed and still don’t know what to think. In retrospect, I see that this novel leaves nothing out of the life of Easy Rawlins. It’s all there: his mother, all his friendships, his war experience, the women and children he has loved and continues to love, books he’s read, thoughts and ideas and values and his struggles as a black man in a world that all too often can’t see anything in a person but color. If a reader who had never met Easy Rawlins in any previous novel picked up this book and read it, that reader would have Easy’s life and character in full. My advice, then, if you are that reader, is to start with this novel, then go back to the beginning and read the whole series. In order, out of order, it doesn’t matter. Mosley’s mystery novels transcend the genre while offering everything a mystery reader expects in terms of character, setting and plot. Don’t miss them!

My birthday party and murder mysteries? How do those go with the picture I’ve posted today?

I grew up in a family of readers. We were five people (we lost my father two and a half years ago) living in a house with one bathroom, and my father often, somewhat ironically, referred to the bathroom as “the library.” There were always books and magazines on the floor, tempting one family member to occupy the little room for longer than was comfortable for others waiting to get in. “Are you reading in there?” would come the suspicious question from the other side of the door. I doubt I’m the only one who would hold a book in one hand, splashing water in the tub with the other to simulate the sounds of industrious bathing. My mother introduced us to ANNE OF GREEN GABLES and to Agatha Christie. My father devoured short stories and loved a surprise ending. We all read poetry. The youngest of us, my sister Bettie, is a public school reading specialist. My sister Deborah taught communication for a time and now has two sons in college, one of them majoring in (gasp!) philosophy.

Joe Borri recently jumped on the six-word autobiography bandwagon, inviting readers of his blog to contribute theirs. It’s a challenging idea and takes some time and thought. Finally I remembered the t-shirts a former philosophy chairman had made for his children: “Philosophy—I’m in it for the money.” Ha! I thought of everything and everyone I’ve loved—people, dogs, poetry, philosophy, books, bookselling—and there was my six-word biography: “Not in it for the money.”

Some people advise you to follow your passion and say “the money will come.” I say, don’t count on the money. It may come, and it may not, depending on what your passion is and how you pursue it. You might have to do something besides what you love, just to support yourself and your passion. The question is, if you have to choose--as sometimes you do--between a life of love and a life of money, what can you afford to live without?

I’m grateful for the values given to me by loving, reading parents. My life with my artist husband is the life I would choose again and again and again.


P. J. Grath said...

This is my own comment, in the form of a P.S. to the original post. April 1, along with being my birthday, was the first non-smoking day at the Happy Hour. Paul said that on his last visit to the U.P. he found one bar had gone non-smoking and another was planning to go, and he figured, if they can do it in the U.P., he can do it here. Yea, Paulie!

Anonymous said...

From Susan: A beautiful post, Pamela, and a wonderful gathering last night. Others don't know, but you do, that we wouldn't be in Northport if you hadn't greeted us so warmly at Dog Ears on that first blustery November day when we visited. "If this town can have a place like that, open on a day like this, it's got to be a great place to live," I told my husband. I was right.

Anonymous said...

Alas and alack, regrettably we missed the big celebration. Nevertheless, be assured that we extend our warmest wishes and congratulations on your (post) birthday. As Susan said, you are certainly a wonderful emissary for Northport. You are a bright spot in our weekly visits north and I am sure that many others are warmed by your friendship and presence in their lives as well.


P. J. Grath said...

Someone asked me last night if I'd met most of the party guests through the bookstore. I had to look around and think it over. The first few were no, no, no--then suddenly, "Oh, Susan and Larry!" So you, Susan, were the first identified as met through Dog Ears Books. Then Big Steve, met when Dog Ears was in Traverse City and he was the substitute mailman on the route. So zx2, did I first meet you guys at the bookstore--or was it, perchance, Barb's Bakery? Anyway, thank you both (all) for your warm appreciation of my modest endeavor.

Deborah said...

How I wish I'd been at your celebration Pamela! Of course, I did manage to attend many of your birthday parties, didn't I? When I think about moving to TC to be close to you I think - what about family in IL? Even my college son - the Philosophy major - has recently claimed that IL is indeed his home and that since his family lives here, he should consider doing so too.

Happy post-birthday! Knowing you for as long as I have (thought not all of those 60 years) I understand completely why people are drawn to live were you live.

Z said...

Actually, I think we first met at Dog Ears, but it could have been across the table at Barb's. Das macht nicht, what matters most is we met!

Anonymous said...

Well, I've only met you online so far, but I wish you a very happy post-birthday, too! That light waving around in the trees across the Bay? That's me, walking the dogs and saying hello from your fans in Eastport. When I get my brakes fixed (!) and find an afternoon free to go over to Northport, I'll bring you an autographed Mosley and tell you the story behind it. Then I'll buy a copy of Blonde Faith. Hope to see the tiara.

Joe Borri said...

What a lovely experience to share with all of us who are fortunate enough to call you a friend. Happy Birthday, Pamela. To sound slightly philosophical, you sound so...enlightened. Hope you have a prosperous and wonderful year, and that our paths cross again one day soon.

P. J. Grath said...

Well, wow, folks. It was worth coming out of the birthday closet to get all your wonderful comments and greetings! Yes, Deborah, you and I have shared a lot of birthdays! z, we met, indeed! Gerry, you've got my catlike curiosity completely engaged with the promise of a Walter Mosley story. And Joe, the truth is that enlightenment comes and goes. At least, that's the truth for me. But thanks, all of you, for being part of my life!