Saturday, March 26, 2011

Books and Burns

Kent and I made a special visit to one of our favorite places after our dinner date.

We went to the bookstore!

I love going to the bookstore.  For as long as I can remember bookstores and libraries have been somewhat magical to me.  The distinct smell of the paper, the glue, and the dusty shelves is amazing to me.  It's a smell that means potential.  I start thinking about all the pages represented by that paper and glue smell, and then it makes me think about all the vibrant and colorful stories hiding within the pages of each book.... Each book just waiting to be opened so those stories can leap from the pages and entertain your mind for a while.

Seeing the shelves filled with row after row of books makes me so excited!

I had just finished a really awesome book, The Help by Kathryn Stockett.  I loved it and highly recommend it.  It's about maids in the 1960s and all that was going on with segregation and into the time of integration.  A very interesting read, it left me wanting a little more from the ending.  (But that's just because I tend to love everything tied up in a nice little bow when I leave a book.)

Anyway, since I had just finished The Help, it was time to pick out a new book.  I wasn't sure which direction I wanted to go, though.  Should I go for the "real literature"  that one of my favorite teachers used to call "literary broccoli" or enjoy the fluff stuff that she used to call "brain candy"?

You see, I was an English major in college because I loved stories.  The grammar and all that was fine and dandy, but it definitely wasn't the reason I wanted to major in English.  I wanted to read stories, talk about them, and discuss meanings and truths.  That was what interested me.  Although I did a great deal of that in my classes, being an English major also means writing many many papers about the books I read-- papers on themes and anything special a writer does in a book to convey that theme.  I was fine with all those papers until about my senior year of college.  It just gets old after a while.  To me, it felt like I was beating a dead horse taking all these classic and wonderful pieces of literature, these great stories, and writing over and over about the way they author chose to put them on the paper.  Why couldn't we just read it, discuss it, and appreciate it?  Why did we have to nit-pick it to death???  I made it through my senior year by looking forward every day to working on artwork for my art classes-- which is probably why I changed my mind at the very last minute and decided to do my Master's in Art Education instead of English.  After graduation, I realized that I had a bad taste in my mouth from picking "real literature" to death.

I rebelled (in my own mind, anyway).  I read nothing but "brain candy" for about a year or so-- lots of Nora Roberts and quite a few "trashy" romance novels.  I was so tired of stories without a happy ending, stories about Russia, stories written in diction that I had to think so hard about to understand... or so I thought.  Really, I was just tired of writing about the little things that don't matter. ( To this day, I am convinced that those "great writers" had no idea about all the "conventions" they were using.  Sure, they may have thought of some things, but the rest had to be just a happy mistake.) 

Finally, I got back into some "real literature."  I read The Time Traveler's Wife and Water for Elephants when they first came out, and I really loved them, along with quite a few others.  My love for stories had finally returned.

These days I finally feel the magic of books again... kind of like my "burn" has healed.  I read "real literature," but I also value some "brain candy" every once in a while, too.  It reminds me that the books can be fun and not all serious all the time.

Last night I decided to get one helping of "literary broccoli" and one helping of "brain candy."  (You have to balance it out, right?)

I brought home a book called Fireworks Over Toccoa by an author named Jeffrey Stepakoff.
It looks like an interesting story.  I was drawn to it because it's set in the real town of Toccoa, Georgia, and I was born and raised in Georgia and went to school very close to Toccoa.  The book is set around WWII, which happens to be one of my favorite time periods to read about, and is a love story with a twist.  A woman marries a "proper" man before he goes off to war, and when he and the other soldiers return, a chance encounter with a handsome immigrant leaves her torn between what her heart and mind are telling her to do. 

Just from reading the back of the book, the basic plot appears similar to The Bridges of Madison County.  I liked that book though, so I'm giving this one a try.  I'll let you know how it turns out when I finish.

Has anyone read Fireworks Over Toccoa or The Help?  Has anyone else had a similar experience to mine when it comes to getting a little burnt out on something?  Leave me some comments.  I'd love to hear!

1 comment:

  1. Water for Elephants and The Help are two of my all-time favorite favorite books! I need to reread them, honestly. I think I read them too fast the first time around. And, sometimes I read trash too-- it's OK. Sometimes our brain needs dessert!


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