Old Postcard Wednesday (On Thursday): Reading!

Hello my darlings. It is, once again, time for Old Postcard Wednesday, the baby and brainchild of the charming and singular Lydia at Writerquake. Some of the more churlish among you may point out that today is Thursday, not Wednesday. And then I will point out that I never liked you very much really. After all, I am a poetess, today is the full moon, I am always hormonal right before that, and it is September still, in which month I am always a little wiggy. You want dependable regularity, get an accountant and fill her with Activia. 

Now then, about today's postcard! This is a reproduction of an ad for Huntley & Palmer's Biscuits. These are "superior reading biscuits"! Sounds like a non sequiter to me. I am picturing a rare volume ruined by crumbs. But in fact, these are superior Reading biscuits, Huntley & Palmer having been originally based in Reading, Berkshire. This sets off my anglophobia, but it is a fact nonetheless. Still, I love nothing better than to blithely ignore facts and do what I will, and so I am going with "reading" biscuits.

I love reading, and I love books. It is a girl thing and I love girl things. Oh, I know, there is a rumor that some men read, too, but I think that only applies to Jane's auto parts catalogs and Sports Illustrated. Nothing in which our tormented but beautiful heroine braves terrible obstacles and heartless lovers, only to arrive at the season's most important soiree in the nick of time to win Best Gown and marry the doctor and become pregnant before the last page. Or, in my mental rewrite, in time to marry the female woodworker who won Best Tuxedo and they move to Northampton together and live happily ever after with seven cats and two dogs. 

Okay, I am about to reveal something nerdy but wonderful about myself. I keep a book journal, and have done so since late 1987. The picture above is not the very same journal, but is extremely similar. I have recorded every book I have finished for over 22 years. And then I count the paper clips and tap my left elbow twice while spinning to the east. All right all right, I made those last things up. I'm telling you, a little bit of fussiness never hurt anyone. I am my mother's daughter to at least this small extent.

In the front of my journal, I like to write down quotes that I come across and like. This one, from Thoreau, is my favorite:

"How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book! The book exists for us, perchance, which will explain our miracles and reveal new ones. The at present unutterable things we may find somewhere uttered. These same questions that disturb and puzzle and confound us have in their turn occurred to all the wise men; not one has been omitted; and each has answered them, according to his ability, by his words and his life. Moreover, with wisdom we shall learn liberality."

While the notion of "wise men" may seem like an oxymoron, I still love this quote. (and people say I rush to meet trouble half way....I don't know what they're talking about.) 

I am not a fast reader. Thoreau also said that "books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written." I'm going with that, rather than what Miss Stumpf, my third grade teacher, spouted. Something along the lines of "I despair of this dim and fractious child!"

WARNING: this is where my post momentarily devolves into fussy, self-involved number crunching. I have to do it. Skip ahead, and save yourself. That's my advice. Now then. Every year, my goal is to read 26 books, or one every other week. I have achieved my goal 8 times. My high was 41 in 1988, when I was off my feet with a blown knee. My low was 13 in 2002. This year I have completed only 9 books so far. Miss Stumpf is going to have my head. 

I have read the most books by authors whose names begin with "B"...61. As yet, there has been no author whose name begins with "X". I have finished the most books in January and May, 52. I have finished the least in April, 33. I know why this is. Two reasons. For thirteen years, I was married to a person with bipolar disorder, who went dependably cuckoo every April like clockwork. I had my hands full. The second reason is that baseball season begins in April. By May, the Tigers are done, and I am back to my books. 

Lydia, the aforementioned Queen of Postcards (It's in your tarot deck. Go ahead, look, you'll see that I'm right. Why would I lie?) has bestowed upon me a blog award, pictured above just before being placed upon my bookshelf. I am to reveal seven things about myself. I will try to maintain the reading theme I have established, but, for the reasons outlined at the beginning of this post, I may suddenly veer off into Railroad Legends, or Common Diseases Of The Spleen or any number of other ridiculous subjects. Here goes:

1. I sometimes fall hopelessly in love with a fictional character or characters. Then, when the book is done, I miss them, and mope for days. I do. 

2. This happened with my most recent novel, Robert Girardi's "Madeliene's Ghost", which I heartily recommend. I fell completely in love with the character Antoinette, who is a charismatic, pill-popping, raven-haired, lost Louisiana rich girl. Right up my street! Come back, Nettie. I miss you.

3. The first entry in my journal was Henri Troyat's "Peter The Great", on November 15th, 1987. I read it on the plane on the way to California, where my then-fiancee and I had a date with Disneyland. I love biography, have loved it ever since I was a grade schooler. I can still recall my pure, fascinated joy upon finding and devouring bio's of Teddy Roosevelt, Chief Black Hawk, and, um, Orlando Cepeda that I found copies of in the school library. The pages of these books were soft and rounded with age and handling, and were kept in a low corner, on powder blue metal shelving. My Happy Place. These days, I lean more toward Annie Oakley, Lily Langtry and Evelyn Nesbit. Less baseball, more bustles!

4. My favorite book for a long time was John Steinbeck's "East Of Eden." I still think it is, in my estimation, the greatest book ever. But it has dropped down to sixth or seventh on my personal favorites, because there are no gypsies, sexy lesbians, or ghosts in it that I recall. 

5. My favorite now is Sylvia Brownrigg's "Pages For You." It is about 18 year old college freshman Flannery, who falls in love with an older, female, graduate assistant. It is the truest and best description of first love that I have ever read. It absolutely broke my heart. Really, I was a wreck for a week. My favorite, ever.

6. ....which replaced my previous favorite, "Keeping You A Secret" by Julie Anne Peters. This is a novel written for young adults (I like those; I must be young at heart) about a high school senior named Holland, who has a boyfriend and a mother who has big plans for her future. Then she notices new transfer Cece, who is wearing a tee shirt that says "IMRU." What does it mean? It means that everything is about to change. The most heartbreaking part is when Holland's mother throws her out, for loving Cece. This happens to LGBT youth all the time. I loved this book and it is still my second favorite, ever.

7. Number Seven is that, if you have read all the way to here, I love you. That's all.






Sherry Blue Sky said…
I so love this post! I am a hugely voracious reader as well, have brought home a huge, tipping armload of books from the library every week since I was five:) (That's a lotta books!) Loved loved loved this post!!!!!! I love the way you write. When are you going to write your OWN book?
I think I have mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, I LOVE the way your mind works. I don't keep a book journal and now I regret that I haven't. I am adding a few of your books to my *must read* list( I have one of those). And I must tell you that when I *met* Holden Caufield I fell madly in love with him. I still haven't fully recovered and I hope I never will. Gorgeous post, as always!
Mama Zen said…
I would love to look at your book journal. I wish that I had kept one.

And, your description of old book pages is perfect.
signed...bkm said…
Well I love you too...wonderful write...and I will make sure to spin west if you are spinning east...I am a bio lover also...like forever....you are far more organized than I....could never keep a journal of anything.though all my books are shelved by catagory....bkm
Lynn said…
I love reading and don't spend enough time doing it. What a lovely idea - journaling the books you have read. I might try that.
TALON said…
I've wept over the death of characters...and I've wept when I've come to the last page of a brilliant book. It is like losing a friend. But then I remember that the friend can be revisited and I do that with favorite books - re-read them every few years.

I'm with the "reading" biscuits because what's a good book without a cup of tea and a cookie or ten?

I must love you, Shay, because I read the entire post and was fascinated that you kept personal reading stats. And you're right - Miss Stumpf is sighing and shaking her head and throwing up her hands in surrender ;)
Tabitha Bird said…
I read all the way to number 7. I feel the love :)
Ileana said…
I read PAST #7, as everything you write (including x's and o's) is worth reading, oftentimes more than once and over and over again.

I am thrilled to hear you keep an actual book journal (I cheat with Library Thing), and that you keep little quotes. Makes me want to live my literary life over again and do it your way!

Like you I get wrapped in the characters and miss them when I read The End, especially if it's a good, long nove.. "Gone With the Wind" just about killed me; my heart ached for weeks after I finished it.

I can't believe we have one more crazy thing in common, Chica...but I'm glad we do. :)
Ileana said…
PS - that's good, long NOVEL...in case you were thinking november.

Happy Autumn, btw. Meet me at Danny's for a pumpkin chai!
Cloudia said…
You make me wish I could still read books...but so many blogs, so little concentration! I gotta get my Shay fix!

"You want dependable regularity, get an accountant and fill her with Activia. "

That's GOLD!

Warm Aloha from Waikiki

Comfort Spiral
faye said…
What a wonderful post...
all those statistics.. you must be
just a little on the OCD side ..
well me too... I keep lists of
everything.. not that I ever go back and look at them.. no need it is
all in my head.

Almost forgot.. I made it to 7..
thanks for the love !!
Lydia said…
Well, what a fun fun fun post! The reading biscuits were interesting but your list was waaay more interesting. I told you recently that I wish I had continued writing in my journal about each book I finished. But I discontinued keeping journals, and never thought to continue cataloging read books. Damn. I love looking back on my journal entries when discussing books; they are among the most passionate of all entries - which says a lot about me, I think.

Happy Friday on Friday. ;)
Daryl said…
A bus friend (def: someone you become chums with after waiting at the bus stop alongside them through delays, wet weather .. ) did that, she kept a list of every book she ever read ... I have done something similar on my blog where I list the books I have read/finished .. to be this is a big deal since I found myself in this 'depression' (I never thought I was depressed but someone said I must be if I couldnt concentrate ... and here I thought only orange juice was concentrated) and couldnt read .... now I can .. and I can leave long comments .. sorry to have highjacked the comments section ... but often your posts seem to set off my verbosity.. which is IMO a lot better than churlishness ... ;-)
Anonymous said…
The accountant bit? That in and of itself should be quite sufficient for an Emmy nomination for you, Shay. Good god-with-peanut-butter on top, that is freakin' hysterical.

I'm with Mama Z... I'd love to have a look at your book of books. From the time I was a wee child, I read books like a maniac. I would read the same one many times over, if nothing new was available. I just liked the comfort of knowing a world other than my own. I didn't keep track of the tomes, though... something tells me the number would have been near-astronomic. I ordered them through a distance mail-service library branch, as we lived so far off the grid that we were hundreds of miles from the nearest library; it wasn't uncommon for me to max out my allowable quota and use that of my brother and three sisters to get enough books to satisfy me for one month (somewhere around 45-55).

Damn. This comment turned into a one-sided conversation.
LL Cool Joe said…
Your passion for books fascinates me. My mother has this same feeling towards books. She sometimes cries when she finishes a book etc. She's always been disappointed in me because I don't share her interest, but then she dislikes music, and I have the same passion for music that she has for books.
Mojo said…
"By May the Tigers are done and I'm back to my books"


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