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fall 2009 shop, grandbabies 048

It takes courage to read a book and to participate in the story, to entangle oneself with the characters and to deal with the story's problem until the solution is reached.   For some of us, reading a book is like watching a film or a play.  For others, it is something more analytical.  

The reward of reading is to learn something new.  By participating in the story with Ian Rutledge, the Scotland Yard detective, as written by Charles Todd, we are drawn into his viewpoint of WW I, the horror of ordering men into No Man’s Land and watching them be slaughtered, the horror of trench warfare, and the terror of coming home and trying to act normally again.  

Those who have read the Todd mysteries know that Ian is haunted by a Scot named Hamish who refused orders and was shot for it.  Now, he resides in Ian’s mind and speaks at will.  Ian struggles to deal with him as he solves cases and as he tries to deal with ordinary people like his sister and his mean boss.  We willingly participate with Ian when we read.  We are in the car with him wrestling to stay awake, and vainly trying to ignore Hamish. We watch Ian worry about losing it in crowds where he might start screaming.  He cannot bear being in small, closed places because he was buried under the earth when his trench was bombed and he had to be dug out.  Hamish's body had protected him to add to the irony of his being saved.   It takes courage to walk in Ian's shoes and we are learning what courage is as we read.

Ian Rutledge admires the poetry of a lady and in the book Wings of Fire there is a poem that we can identify with.  It is this kind of thing that lifts the book from pure escape into understanding the human condition.

Wings of Fire

Pg. 107  
             Comes on wings of fire
             That sear the heart with longing
             And a white-hot heat.
             In its wake, no peace remains
             Only the scars of a terrible loss
             That mark the end of innocence.

In Tana French’s mystery story The Likeness, we participate with Cassie as she enters a house to learn about the murder of a woman she looks like herself.  The longing to be part of the family and belong in the house is overwhelming.  As the secrets unravel around her and she learns more, we understand her desire not to know, not to change anything, and also her need for truth.  It is an amazing story, but it takes courage to read it.  It hurts our heart, but it teaches us our own truth about wanting to belong, to be loved.

For those readers who have loved and lost the other half of their soul, it is difficult to read stories about it.  Yet, we learn that we are not alone.  We learn to see better how to handle grief.  We allow ourselves to be opened up and to deal with loss one more time.  The story touches something deep inside us.  We wonder if we would have made the same choice that Cassie made and if we could survive it.

In the two books by Connie Willis about WW II, Blackout and All Clear, we participate with one character in rescuing men from Dunkirk, we try to get an ambulance through bombed out streets to the hospital in the dark.  We try to ride a crowded train.  We hunt for people in the shelters in the depth of the subways in London.  We try to find work and a place to live.  We participate while sitting in a tiny shelter buried outside in a yard.  We try to climb over piles of rubble.  And we learn what war is like.  We watch young women sharing evening clothes, we see the attempt to put on plays to take people’s minds off the terror, and we see the search for food.  It is not all grim.  People endure.  They refuse to give in.  

In the Pern stories by Anne McCaffrey, we yearn to have a fire dragonet of our own.  Some readers yearn to impress a dragon.  What that would mean is big in our mind as we read and follow the leaders into the between, as we fight thread, care for our dragons, take on the responsibility for the safety of the continents of Pern and the people who live there.  For the time it takes us to read the stories, we are bigger than life just as the dragons are.  We participate.  We live and breathe the life.  We learn what it means to be responsible for others.  The books shape us into fighters and some of that carries over, I think.  We come from that world, smarter and fiercer, not as naïve.  

Some people in the world fear books for that reason.  They seek to suppress them, they mock those who read, they call some books silly.  Books are dangerous to them because they cannot control the vision.  One reason for reading so many different kinds of books with so many different viewpoints is to keep from being narrow.  If we can stretch our minds and understand more people, we can grow into more effective people ourselves.  Participating with people who are suffering in a story makes us less callous and more empathetic.  

The effect on me of Dicken’s Christmas Carol is huge.  Marley drags his chains and I shudder.  Scrooge relives his past life and rejects the woman he might have married and I cringe.  The solitary and silent third ghost points at a grave, shows us the lack of mourners and teaches us what being ungenerous really means.  After reading that story and participating in it, there is no going back to a life of careless, thoughtless luxury.  Mankind has become our business.

 Yes, I admit it.  There are books that have shaped me, hundreds of them.  They have made me think, made me act, made me search out more knowledge and understanding.  They have held me in their grip and shaken my soul.  I have laughed and wept and learned compassion.  I have seen what corruption does.  I have remembered war.  I have been overwhelmed, tired, hungry, cold and frightened.  I have overcome pain, learned to be proud of a bright spirit, endured hatred, loved, and faced death.

I am a better person.  I am wiser.  I am braver.  

I am grateful to the authors of books that have given me such experiences.

Thank you.

What books have given you courage and taught you and made you ask questions?

Diaries of the week:

Write On! Thinking cold thoughts.
by SensibleShoes

Non-fiction books also require our patient and courageous participation.  I am currently reading Her Final Year: A Care Giving Memoir and His First Year: A Journey of Recovery co-written by two Daily Kos members Shadan7 and GreyHawk.  I had read Shadan7's diaries and I am glad the experience is now in a book form.  Being older, it makes me think about what I should do and say to my children about the future.  It is an honest book and I recommend it even if you are not currently a caregiver.  The two authors have set up a website where people can learn more, too.

Two Kossacks, two MILs, two families, Alzheimer's Disease & Care-giving
by GreyHawk

How and where to order the book Her Final Year: A Care Giving Memoir and His First Year: A Journey of Recovery:

The Purity Of The English Language?
by Rimjob

"!No Pasaran!" - The Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Fight against Fascism in Spain, Part I
by JekyllnHyde

Part II - "!No Pasaran!" - The Abraham Lincoln Brigade and the Fight against Fascism in Spain
by JekyllnHyde

quarkstomper says:

Which brings us to NEXT WEEK (Sunday at 9:30 PM EDT):  We're going to start a new book; and by amazing coincidence, it's going to be the very one I just mentioned.  We have a lot of people here who love Heinlein -- or who love to hate him -- and so I'm going to Luna to see a guy about a sentient computer with a wacky sense of humor.  Get ready for "Tea Parties in Space" or The Moon is a Harsh Mistress.

A new miniseries:

A Song of Ice and Fire: New Mini-Series Announcement
by Floja Roja

Floja Roja says:

Installments of "A Song of Ice and Fire" will appear over the next month or so on a weekly basis, publishing MON at 11 AM ET, beginning August 1.

I'm seeking contributors for the series.  Pick a date and which book/what topic you want to diary about.  Do we need to do these in book order or not?  Help me plan these things!
Upcoming dates:

August 1
August 8
August 15
August 22
August 29

plf515 has a book talk on Wednesday mornings early.

sarahnity’s list of DKos authors

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Jul 27, 2011 at 05:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.


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