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winter 2013-14 075

I got to thinking about my reading habits last week when Limelite discovered I was still up early in the morning having not gone to bed, yet.  I am a reader, not a literary scholar, and there are some books that I read that I just can’t lay down.  The other night, I meant to read just a few more pages of Outwitting the Gestapo by Lucie Aubrac, but I couldn’t stop.  This true story told by Lucie in 1992, fifty years after the war, was fascinating and enthralling.  

Lucie and her husband, Raymond, were active participants in the resistance in France.  Raymond and his family were Jewish.  Lucie was a teacher in Lyon.  They had a small son and as the story progresses Lucie is pregnant again.  They are taken by plane, after an enormous effort to get it out of the mud, to London on Feb. 8th, 1944.  The baby is born on Feb. 12th.  The story about how Lucie and other fighters got Raymond out of prison twice fills the pages in between.  Raymond was with Jean Moulin when they were captured due to a traitor.  Moulin, a great hero of the resistance, was killed.  Raymond was sentenced to death.  Lucie helps plan his escape and is in on the action herself.

wiki has a discussion about Moulin and the Aubracs which I read later.

Courage personified.

It is hard to lay a book down, sometimes.  I feel as if I am in the middle of the adventure along with the hero.  How can I stop in the middle of swimming a river?  How can I fold up my reading tent when the heroine is in deep trouble?  Of course, they will still be there when I pick the book back up, but it is like turning a movie off in the middle of a big scene.  I remember saying over the years of my life, “I will stop at the end of the chapter” and then suddenly it is three chapters later and I just didn’t notice.

It is especially hard towards the end of a book.  I reached a point in Hamilton’s Pandora’s Star when I had to find out if the family escaped through the small wormhole as devastation followed closely on their heels.  Would they get the one minute more that they needed?  In this case, I truly didn’t know.

In The Guns of August by Tuchman, even though the story took place many years ago and the end of the story is well known, the individual battles and actions by various leaders is still exciting and painful.  Sometimes, it is so painful that I have to lay the book down and do something else for a while.  The fact that I am reading a true story makes everything so much worse.  I think a fiction author might not dare make the generals so stupid.  Of course, in the years following WW I, the generals and staff wrote their own versions of what happened often in an attempt to excuse themselves or blame somebody else.  It takes a researcher like Tuchman to put the facts together for me to understand.

It is like at the movies when you want to yell at the hero, “Watch out!  Don’t believe him!” but history can’t be redone.  I am a helpless witness and I cringe.  And yet, I feel that I must bear witness and I read on and then I check the clock…ooops.

Sometimes, I am grateful when there is a good stopping point because I am really past tired.  I can stop and then take on the last chapters in the morning.  It is kind of a relief to do that sometimes.  I did that with le Carre’s Our Kind of Traitor.  I reached the point of knowing that I needed to read the last few chapters slowly.  I had been given clues and I just did not need to rush.  I was right to do it when I was rested.

Reading a good book can inspire us, but sometimes we also grieve for the protagonist.  For his sins and failure, for his misinterpretation of what is happening, for his willful behavior that wrecks things, for what life handed to him that he could not overcome, I am grieved and after I close the book, I still mourn.  The books that are that powerful that keep me asking questions long after the reading is finished are good books.  

I do enjoy hearing other people’s views very much.  They often astonish me, but I expect they are often surprised by my choices, too.  Our minds work differently.  

It is OK for all of us to enjoy different types of books and what keeps others up late burning the midnight oil is just as important as what I can’t lay down.  It is fascinating to hear about authors I have never tried.  Quite often, I am persuaded to try a new book that I might have passed up otherwise.  Sometimes, I just say, “That is not for me, but it is interesting to hear about it.”

I am always glad when people share their thoughts and dislikes as well as talk about books they enjoyed.  I like to peek in the window at these conversations and be a part of them without having to say anything.  I really appreciate it when someone tells me there is another book in a series that I read.  

Books feed me and sustain me.  They open up new paths through the woods.  The author who shares his life and thoughts, his research, his talent to create a compelling story is courageous.  I am grateful.

What book kept you up late?  Recently?  As a child?  What book surprised you with its suspense?

Diaries of the Week:

Write On! Writing vs Storytelling
by SensibleShoes

Dignity and Recognition (Part 2)
by Robert Fuller

Models of Dignity (Part 1)
by Robert Fuller

Robert Fuller says:

The Rowan Tree chapter 40 is up:

The whole ebook can still be had for free on Kindle:

If anyone is interested in the real experiences I drew from in writing The Rowan Tree, my short memoir Belonging can be downloaded for free at Smashwords:

Belonging: A Memoir
Paperback – October 24, 2013
by Robert W. Fuller


"How did you make the leap from Physics to Dignity?" This question arises at every Robert Fuller talk. Belonging traces Fuller’s personal evolution and suggests that taking one’s questions seriously will lead to a life of meaning and purpose. Accompany Fuller as he meets with “somebodies” like Robert Oppenheimer, Indira Gandhi, Mikhail Gorbachev, David Bowie, John Denver, and President Jimmy Carter, and share in the wisdom he finds in people whom the world writes off as “nobodies.” Belonging shows how transformative quests await anyone willing to learn from somebodies and nobodies alike.”

The memoir will be available for free on Amazon, too, once enough people request a price match.

NOTE: plf515 has book talk on Wednesday mornings early

Originally posted to Readers and Book Lovers on Wed Jan 15, 2014 at 05:00 PM PST.

Also republished by Progressive Friends of the Library Newsletter.


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