A journey of about 40 books begins with four! :-)

My growing jade by Ellen Schneider

I have begun my summer journey through reams of paper and imagination. Indeed, bookworm that I am, I can’t seem to write in my journal at the pace I seem to be cracking through my books.

I began with Henry Miller’s Colossus of Maroussi from my personal list. I am a fan of Henry Miller’s prose. His way with words and sentences is a kind of poetry that I enjoy. His ability to stump and tax my vocabulary is something I appreciate. Miller’s journey through Greece as World War II began to storm in Europe is filled with passion and poignant moments in that poetic prose I love.  I have not gotten terribly far in the book, only maybe 100 pages. I’m savoring the experience. I’m parceling it out to myself in little dips and dabs, more often than not when I’m eating alone in restaurants. Somehow when I’m reading Miller’s narrative I don’t feel quite alone–his personality seems almost to lift off the page as my attention gets drawn in to his reminisces (rather like Tom Riddle but less sinister)–and the table for one can seem almost crowded. I would not be at all surprised with myself if I contrive to make this book last all summer but if I do it will be a happy accident more than any effect of planning.

Concurrently I’m also reading Criss Cross by Lynn Rae Perkins. This is another book I’m savoring. More accurately, I’m attempting to dissect it.  The book won the Newberry Award but more importantly I admire Perkins’ style.  She puts words together into metaphors which make perfect sense but would never have otherwise occurred to me. I like that. A lot.  Perkins also experiments with the limits of the narrative form for what might be considered a straightforward coming of age story. She uses illustrations and diagrams. Her dialogue at points is stripped down to resemble a script rather than a book. She switches perspectives gracefully and I can’t quite figure out how.  I have a feeling, a most pleasant feeling, that the story and the end will surprise me without disappointing me. I suspect that I’ll have to read this book a second time to really begin to pick it apart properly and I’ll try to update this blog when I do.

From the big group reading list I’m reading my husband’s pick The Once and Future King by T. H. White. This book is not going along in an ambling way. I’m devouring it with the method of a competition eater and the hunger of someone who hasn’t eaten a proper meal in months.  I love this book. I really do. I’m going to devote an entire entry to it, heck, maybe several. I’m already on The Ill-made Knight, indeed I’m almost done with that section. I’ve been filling the pages of my reader’s journal with thoughts and wandering about my life pondering its questions and narrative.  I love White’s prose. I love his syntax. I love his boldness in constructing sentences the size of a small playing card. I love the questions he raises about the human condition and the characters he has constructed to discuss them. There have been many moments when his prose has filled my breast with wonder. I am not ashamed to say that I have cried over many books I love and will cry over many more to come with which I have no present acquaintance. Yet, it is not easy to make me cry over a story. Maestros like Tolkien and C.S. Lewis and Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte and  L.M. Montgomery were miracles. Reading the account of the Wart’s time with the wild geese moved me to tears. White’s description of the dawn breaking over the estuary was a feat of special moment. I could almost feel the breath of the wind and smell the tang of the salt. I felt like I was flying too. I don’t think I’ll be much good at remembering White’s specific words but I don’t think I’ll ever quite forget the feeling they evoked in me.

Finally, I had a bit of a surprise come my way. My Grandma by marriage recommended I read At Home in Mitford by Jan Karon over dinner one night. She said it was the kind of place she wished was real and could call home, she compared it to Avonlea. Being a wannabe inhabitant of that precious town in Prince Edward Island I was intrigued. I love Avonlea and have dreamed it many times. One can’t have too many imaginary homes, I say, so I was pleased when she brought it by for me to read. She predicted I would not be able to put it down. I was skeptical about that–the sheer number of unfinished books I have on my list is evidence of my ability to put a book down and walk away.  Well, she was right. I couldn’t. I finished it in about a day. While it’s no Avonlea (after all, there can be only one) it is a very special place that I’m glad I visited. I would love to go back soon. It is rare for a book (or any piece of media really) to incorporate Scripture in a way that doesn’t make me mad, make me contemptuous, or make me feel very embarrassed. Mitford succeeded in using Scripture well. To use a hackneyed phrase, the book warmed my rather jaded heart and I think it was exactly what I needed right now.  I liked the people. I liked their story. I liked the fact that the book didn’t have a “MESSAGE,” but was very natural and honest and sweet. It was what I needed and I think I’ll have to do something special to thank my Grandma by marriage for the good medicine she gave me.

Next up, after I finish The Once And Future King, I’ll be starting The Tale of Genji so I can discuss it with my little sister by marriage and just plain get started on what I think will be a terrific challenge. God bless books and the authors who write them!

Flower in the twilight by Ellen Schneider


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