Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Piles: to discard, to read

Back again with a books note. Contrary to my earlier comments about July's weather so far, today turned out to be a clunker. Rainy, windy, crazy cool in the 60s. A hunker down inside kind of day, but I wasn't settled, centered, enough to hunker down the way I ought and write. Instead, I tackled a project I've been eyeing for some time. I went through our bookcases and -- gasp -- culled. Created four tall piles of volumes I'm ready to give up in the interest of taming our long out of control library. Some I'll cart to our local Salvation Army thrift shop, which on the one hand pains me because of that institution's reactionary politics but on the other hand pleases me because I know lots of folks head there for bargains and so my books might land in loving hands. Most I'm going to try to sell to the Strand. Teresa thinks I'm nuts to believe I will be physically able to load them into our shopping cart and then shlep the heavy load into Manhattan -- a long walk to our train station, up and down subway stairs on both ends, then another walk to the store -- but I'm sick of waiting for the borrowed car that never materializes so I'm going to give it a shot. Hey, I need the exercise. And gee, I might make all of 10 or 15 bucks for my labors.

It feels somehow virtuous to clear out some shelf space. (I even dusted, a little, but that's another story, my, er, deficiencies in the housekeeping department. And sneezed a lot. And stopped dusting.) I've always been resistant to getting rid of any books. Today, though, I was able to acknowledge the many to which I feel no attachment and from which I'll be able to blithely part.

It may have to do with what a good reading month I'm having. My chronic panic about not having enough books on hand has slipped away as I read and read and with each book completed reach for the next from an ample and amply diverse spread that I'd carefully prepared before the last day of work.

I've read nine books during my time off. I'm now on the tenth. I also started two others that I closed without finishing after giving them more than the usual chance, well over 100 pages.

Thus far the standout, no question, is Like Trees, Walking by Ravi Howard. This is a powerful, finely written novel about a 1981 lynching in Mobile, Alabama. The story is made even more powerful by Howard's mastery of a subtle, understated style. I really admire writers who can convey so much with such an economy of words. He makes it look easy. It's not. And he's so goddamned young! In his early 20s, I believe, when the novel was first published two years ago. I'll be eagerly awaiting his next book.