Saturday, December 14, 2013

Another Week, Another Blog…NOT

     I’m starting to think this whole blog thing might be becoming just a wee bit easier for me. What I mean is, I’m starting to have more ideas earlier about what to ramble on about, instead of panicking as I face a blank page the day of posting. This one came to me earlier in the week from a post on FB. 

     If you follow me on Facebook, or anyone else in this small corner of the literary field, you couldn't possibly have missed that list that went around, asking for the top ten books that made a difference in your life or some-such thing. I think I got pinged on that one about ten times, so I finally broke down and did a list. I also stated that I wasn't going to tag anyone else, but everyone seemed have done it already and quite honestly, I was really kind of sick of seeing it. So, here is the list that I made. 

1. The Pearl by John Steinbeck; Not sure why this has stuck with me all these years, but it has. 
2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee; This was a powerful story and I liked Boo. 
3. Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell; I can’t remember how many times I’ve read this book. 
4. Cry to Heaven by Anne Rice; I should actually just list this author as there are so many of her books that I've read that have impacted me in one way or another. 
5. Maurice by E. M. Forster; Major change in my life after this book. I wasn't alone. 
6. The Lord Won’t Mind by Gordon Merrick; Another author that should be listed. This book though really changed me. It was also the first gay themed book to hit number one on the New York Times best seller list. 
7. Tales of the City by Armistead Maupin; I loved this whole series. They were just fun.
8. Etiquette by Amy Vanderbilt; Yeah, I know there are some who are shaking their heads over this one. I have my reasons. 
9. Fannie Farmer’s Cookbook; by (duh) Fannie Farmer. What can I say? I’m a foodie geek. 
10. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bordaine; I actually cheered when this book came out. It is all so true! 

     What does this have to do with anything you may ask? Well, just chill out for a minute and I’ll tell you…sheesh… There are many things on this list that shaped, formed, and directed me through my life as a young person/adult. That’s why this list reveals a lot about me. 

     You may have noticed that my list includes cookbooks. Yeah, I’m that kind of foodie-geek and always have been. As I get ready to pack up and move, again, I look at my bookshelf and am now glad that I only unpacked about a quarter of my books from when I moved last year. I knew this wasn't going to be a permanent residence, so I knew this move was coming, but still, I don’t have to like it. The reason I mention this, is that I only have a few cookbooks to pack away.

     As crazy as it seems to some, I would say seventy percent of the books I own are cookbooks. Quite a few were gifts over the years, but there are quite a few that I purchased myself. Now here is where it gets a little weird and I know some won’t get it, but I almost never buy a new cookbook. I want them to be well used. Loved. I want to see the stains on the pages. Pages that stick together from previous owners concoctions. If there are notes in the margins, I’ll probably buy it no matter what kind it is. If I see a used bookstore, chances are I will go directly to the cookbook section. Yeah, I know. It’s a little weird, but that’s who I am. 

     I’d like to explain ‘Cry to Heaven’ if I may. Yes, it was a wonderful historical book that I've read several times, and still enjoy it to this day. It had all the elements that I love. Venice, so romantic, classical music, hot sexual situations, and then that something special that fascinated me, drew me into the book like few ever had. There is a passage where one of the main characters was noticing a man’s hand. The description of just that hand had me drooling. The power of words, right? 
     Now I've always had an attraction to hirsute men. Don’t know why, just wired that way. I remember being enthralled by my Uncle Mac’s very hairy legs (uncle by marriage). I was about five years old at the time. Although I didn't understand the attraction, it was there even then. I guess it didn't hurt that he looked a lot like Tyrone Powers either. Of course I would be remiss if I didn't mention ‘Interview with a Vampire’. That was the first Anne Rice book I read, and fell in love with her then. 

     My grandmother was born in 1880 on the family farm in Tennessee. She was somewhere towards the middle of the pack of thirteen children. I still remember going to that family farm, which is still in the family, by the way, when I was very young. Her eldest brother was still alive at the time, and very old. As I try to remember, I think he was somewhere between twelve to fifteen years older than my grandmother. With those figures in mind, he was born not long after the Civil War. I would sit on the porch while he would tell stories of when he was growing up and all the things that our family endured and how they had barely been able to keep the farm. This led to my fascination about the Civil War era and the traditions of the Old South. Think of the Uncle Remus stories. Oh, I forgot…NOTE: for those who don’t know about Uncle Remus, you should check them out. In all our trying to be politically correct, poor Uncle Remus and his teaching stories have pretty much been censored right out of our history books, all because he was perceived as an outdated ‘Uncle Tom’ type. Hey, it was part of history. We need to embrace it, accept it, and take the wonderful words of wisdom in those very intuitive tales. 

     To say I am a fan of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind would be a major understatement. I remember the first time I read the book. Here is a little story from my childhood that y’all might find amusing. I was in fifth grade which made me ten years old. The new big modern library had just been finished in my home town, which wasn't far from where I lived. 

     To truly understand my love of reading and books, you would have to understand my mother. She was constantly putting a book in my hand. Up until the age of four, I was read to constantly. My mother, sister, father, grandmother, nanny (yes I had one) and various aunts and uncles, were always reading to me. My mother and sister started to make me read to them when I was about four along with forcing me to tie my own shoes. Very demanding women in my family, but I digress. (There is a reason why I call this ramblings, remember?) 

     Off we go to the new library to check it out. The place was huge to a ten year old. Row upon row of books, as far as I could see. I’m sure my mouth was hanging open. My mother set me loose to go and find a book or two. I was first directed to the kids section. I looked around and immediately turned my nose up. These books are for little kids, I remember thinking to myself. 

     Next stop was the ‘Young Adult’ section. After looking around I saw a few things that kind of interested me, but nothing that I wanted to be my very first book from the new library. I wanted something special. For the life of me, I will never forget that day. I can remember the smell of the place and all its newness with the scent only old books can have floating above it. The way the brick floor felt under my feet and all the light from the high windows. 

     Then I saw it. There on a table in the middle of the ‘adult’ reading section was a display of Gone with the Wind. It had recently been re-released into theaters and I guess the library thought it timely to display it. That was it. I went and picked up a copy, of which there weren't many, and took it to the checkout counter. The lady looked at the book, and then looked at me over her half cat-eye glasses, the little chain that held them draped around her neck. I remember thinking how pinched her face looked. 

     “Don’t you think this may a bit above your reading level?” She asked. Her name tag said Silvia Shipe. 

     That is how much of an impact this had on me. I still remember her name. When I said no, her face scrunched up. She decided that she knew better and suggested some other books that would be more ‘age appropriate’. I remember two that she suggested. Little House on the Prairie, which I’d already read, and the Borrower series, which I’d already read. When I informed her that I’d already read all of those a few years back, it was clear to me that she thought I was lying. 

     Anyway, she said that she thought it best that I go and choose something else, and took the book away from me. Poor, poor Silvia. Little did she know what a can of worms she had just opened up. 

     I went right to my mother and told her what happened. I knew from the look on her face, her mouth going kind of crooked, that poor, poor, Silvia Shipe was in for it. My mother took me by the hand and walked me right back up to the counter. She addressed the pinched faced lady by asking her what right she had to dictate who had the right to read a certain type of book? I’ll never forget the shocked look on that poor, poor woman’s face. My mother demanded that she give me the book back and check it out to me. 

     I went through that book like a house-afire. There was one point when my mother found me still reading at midnight and took it away from me for the night. I could easily see my great uncle Dewitt in that story, which may be one reason why I could feel that book. He just seemed to fit there. Of course now I know he couldn't have been, but then, I just knew it to be true. 

     When I returned the book, ol’-pinch-faced Shipe wasn't there, but Mrs. Laughlin was. She had been my teacher in second grade and I had loved her. I handed the book over and she didn't bat an eye. Instead, she put her elbows on the desk and asked me to tell her about the book. See why I loved her? I think I was there about an hour telling her all about it. 
The End...get it?  ha ha ha
     Okay people, I’m going to leave it off there. I’m going to make two more installments about my book list. I may not be around much on FB for the next few weeks as I’ll be packing it all up for my move to Florida! YAY!!! But I’ll try and keep the blog posts going during this time. In keeping with the season, remember it won’t hurt you none to be nice or do something nice for someone. I’m going to give you a little example of how this works. A friend of mine and his partner recently went out to breakfast. Someone anonymously bought them their breakfast. In turn, they went and gave the money that they would have spent on breakfast to the Lost-n-Found so that a kid could have a winter coat. Life would be so much nicer and a lot more exciting if we all did this, don’t you think? 

     Go forth and have a great week! 

     Max ;-)
Because I can.