Sunday, May 8, 2011

Reading on the Road

I'm very lucky; I don't get carsick, even when I read in the car.  That attribute is key to my enjoyment on this four month journey around the country. I'm a compulsive reader of a rather wide variety of texts: magazines, books, newspapers, and even, in desperation, cereal boxes. 

When asked what book I'm currently reading, I have to reflect on the stack of books on my bedside table. Which to claim? My habits in this regard are disturbingly like my tendency to greatly enjoy channel-surfing on satellite signals on the TV or internet surfing on any of a number of computers in my home. I would claim ADD but it's not true.  I'm just interested in everything.

To prepare for this jaunt across country, a few months ago, I began reading aloud to Joe in the car.  We began with a delightful series by Mark Schweizer’s "Liturgical Mysteries", in which a chief of police / church organist ingeniously solved murder cases in his small North Carolina town.  The truly funny stories made the 35-minute drive to and from choir practice in Tustin very enjoyable.  Discovering that many others had enjoyed the same series intensified the fun - we could mention key words for funny scenes and everyone would bust up.

On the recommendation of a choir friend, Lee Ditkowsky, I read travel accounts to Joe, most notably "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson, a masterful author that every other habitual reader seems to have discovered much earlier.  Chalk that up to my tendency to read more vintage books, such as Sigrid Undset's 1928 Nobel Prize winner for literature, "Kristin Lavransdatter" as my first choice after retirement; it's such a huge book (1,400 pages) that you'd have to set aside some real time to stay on top of it. I was just as fascinated now as when I last read it at the age of thirteen, by its keen observations of daily life in medieval Norway and its characters' emotions. 

That saga was too long for car trip reading aloud, and both Joe and I wanted to brush up on writing narratives, so what better way than to read narratives, particularly of travel?  The writing voice has much in common with the speaking voice; one can pick up a rhythm and sense of organization from excellent writers much as an accent is picked up by listening to daily conversations.

By chance we picked up Charles Kuralt's "A Life on the Road", which was a particularly good preparation for short vignettes suitable for blogs, and provided tips for RV living to boot. But now the current read is back to Bill Bryson – “At Home – A Short History of Private Life”.  It’s an amazing compendium of easily understandable explanations for things we’ve always wondered about – such as why salt and pepper are so highly valued as to be the only two flavorings to be added to the table.

If we don’t write as often as we had planned, it is definitely going to be because we are reading more than we expected.   As much as the travel and discovery of new places is enchanting, this bookaholic also draws new delight from each page of a good book. 

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