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All the Pretty Horses

by Cormac Mccarthy

Miriam reminds me how stale my reviews are. I read All The Pretty Horses over a month ago, then got halfway through The Crossing before I got tired of the wolf (if you’ve read The Crossing, my guess is you really like the wolf or you don’t… after a while, I wanted it to be a beagle or a collie). Then I tried hard to read A River Runs Through It, which without famous actors on the big screen turns out to be an extremely well-crafted fishing story–great art, yes, but there’s those fish and the men what fish for them. They should really get together with that wolf.

Somewhere along the line I reread several collections, such as Didion’s The White Album, Best American Essays 2005, and In Fact: The Best of Creative Nonfiction. And then, quite honestly, I have read books I don’t remember anything about, and had many days when my only reading was the newspapers and a magazine or two–at that, sometimes, People.

The best book deserves a review, but I’ve been too scattered to formalize my thoughts. Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel, is astonishing. I have read it twice through and will probably read it again as soon as I get home. It’s not my first graphic literature, but it’s the first graphic book that left me pulled taut between admiration and envy. As the subtitle says, it is tragicomic–a devastating body blow of a book about family life, family lies, and the heartbreak of growing up.

So what am I reading on the trip, asks Miriam? My airplane reading falls into two categories: reading I absolutely must do (the quality of the writing is not the issue here; it’s the question of this being required reading, which makes it much harder to attend to), and reading I really want to do. I do the first so I can earn the latter… unless, an hour into the trip, I order one of those cute little airplane cocktails, and with my defenses down, tear into the candy first. (Alone on a big trip, it’s between me and my conscience.)

In the first category is the remaining half of Marylaine Block’s forthcoming book, which is a fabuwonderful must-read about how to do libraries good, and which with the grandiosity of anyone in a major household move I confidently predicted I would have done by mid-August so I could write the forward before we moved. That, and knit a cozy for the top of the space shuttle.

Once that is done (last week, MaryLaine thoughtfully provided Word files so I don’t have to lug a verrrrrry large mss. on the plane), I am plowing through some classic reading about Web 2.0/Library 2.0, including Michael Stephens’ new report from TechSource, the original O’Reilly article about Web 2.0 which I have choked down but never really studied, and the original Wired article about the Long Tail which I have heard is as good as the book and 90 percent shorter (I had the article in a fancy edition OCLC gave out at a presentation, but I never finished it and don’t have the flossy version any more, so I’ll hope I can snarf it up legally through local databases).

Then, in theory, I have pleasure reading: Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried, and the Rough Planet’s guide to South Africa. I ordered fresh new paperbacks from Amazon, paid a little extra to not send them by aged turtle, and by way of the package-tracking widget in Bloglines, watched my package arrive in Jacksonville on September 30… and it still hasn’t made it here. (Yes, I got my library card, but I don’t lug hardcovers while flying–and I like books I can write in. You may have a great paperback collection, but do you want me writing in your books?)

We live a mile from a Border’s, so I could venture in there Thursday early afternoon and buy some emergency reading. Naturally not the books I ordered, which of course are the only books in the world I would possibly consider reading right now (even though I have a list of recommended reading), but something a notch above the typical fare at airport bookstores, and books the right shape and heft for flying: thick enough so you know it will last most of a long flight, but thin enough so you don’t regret bringing it along.

I thought about bringing old favorites, now that my books are up, but if I bring anything from my collection, it will be new favorites. An intercontinental flight is not the time to discover that I don’t like an old favorite any more. Mrs. Gaskell, keep sleeping on my shelves–we’ll always be college buddies.


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