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Monday, May 17, 2010

Reading vs. Working Out: Is This a Fair Contest?

One of the small reading groups in which I participate (How many will there be this summer? Will our Ulysses group choose another book this year? Will the small group willing to read something in French get it together to do so?) chose our next round of books last night, and it’s lucky I’m ahead of the game with two of the titles, because one of them is L-O-N-G! It’s Vikram Seth’s A Suitable Boy, which does not end until page 1,349. There are even family trees on the endpapers, sure sign of many characters and plot complications to keep straight. I must say, though, that right on the first page I was interested and entertained, and the first 20 or so pages move along at a lively pace. Our first assignment with this book was 100 pages, but I can see I won’t be stopping there.

Other books chosen were Wendell Berry’s Bringing It to the Table (my choice); Season of Water and Ice; An American Map; and People of the Book. Three novels and two books of essays this time around--should be a good year for that group, regardless of how far we all get with Vikram Seth.

The Leelanau Township Library book discussion group will meet next on May 26 to discuss The Town, third book in Conrad Richter's The Awakening Land trilogy, and to choose books for the next year’s cycle. Everyone brings one or two recommended books, and all books go on the table. The group circles the table, examining the books, and then people have a chance to give a pitch for each recommendation, after which the group circles a second time, to for books they would like to read. If I remember correctly, there is no rule on how many books a person may vote for, which may sound odd, but somehow the system works out just fine.

Soon Memorial Day will be upon us, and the bookstore will be open seven days a week until Labor Day. Yikes! All those days in the bookstore and all those books to read in the evening—when and how will the bookseller squeeze in cardiovascular exercise and muscle toning? No problemo, my friends, when one lives in the country! Besides hikes with the dog, there are gardens to tend and grass to mow, and behold here the apparatus of my summer home gym, also known in environmental circles as “appropriate technology.”

It is technology appropriate to the worker (moi), to the task and to the scale of the projects. I love the absence of gasoline engine roar and the way I never have to worry about my tools failing to start.

Perhaps you’re thinking that with such slow tools, my reading time is sadly compromised. It’s all in the pacing. Frequent breaks are the answer. My energy for mowing, in particular, seems to last only for short spurts, and then it’s time to switch to reading or weeding.

There is a rhythm that establishes itself with the back-and-forth, accompanied by many tall glasses of cold well water. And after all, I do still buy, sell and read books on paper, another quiet technology needing no batteries, so my reading and my exercise are all of a piece in that way, too.

More country living: A woman at the post office this morning was picking up her box of 25 live chicks! I could only see toes and patches of down through the breathing holes in the cardboard, but their peeping sounded happy and contented. New books in Dog Ears this season, by the way, include Chicken Tractor:: The Permaculture Guide to Happy Hens and Healthy Soil and Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens: Care, Feeding, Facilities. As always, we also have many used books in stock on natural science and agricultural topics. It is gratifying to me to see the increased awareness and interest in these topics, always dear to my heart.


Deborah said...

How does one send live chicks through the mail? Quite curious.

P. J. Grath said...

Hi, Deborah. The chicks arrive in cardboard cartons with many holes in the sides to keep the air inside fresh and not too warm. I think the post office calls when the carton arrives so the chicks don't have to sit around too long in the container. Another way to buy chicks is through a local feed store or farm supply store. The advantage to buying locally is that you can buy as few chicks as you want, whereas ordering through the mail there is usually a minimum order.

Karen said...

Love your tools. It always seemed odd to me when I lived in the city that people bought snowblowers and gym memberships. Shoveling is a great workout, whether snow or dirt.

I tend to be put off by family trees at the start of a book. Not to mention 1000+ pps.

For reading: I'm will into The Fields & will stop in for a copy of The Town soon!

P. J. Grath said...

Karen, I know what you mean about heavy tomes with family trees--and yet, I must say, I am completely caught up in A SUITABLE BOY. Could not stop after the first hundred pages, though I'm probably supposed to be passing the book on to the next person to read up to page 100. No, no, can't relinquish these characters now!

So glad you are enjoying THE FIELDS--at least, I assume you are, since you want the third volume. That Richter trilogy is high on my list.