Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones. But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight....

Friday, July 15, 2011

To begin

Books are a forest and it’s hard to see the trees, except the tall ones or the old ones.  But when you enter the forest, it’s the new growth that emits the sunlight while the older trees form the shade. 

I’ve loved Mark Twain except for his remark about classics.  “No one’s ever read one.”  He also said something about the horrible sounds cats made.  I wonder if hyperactivity in cats was known about then.  I’ll bet he was around an older, hyperactive cat. 

I’ve been enthralled by classics.  Some of them are like redwood trees and others are gnarled, winding in a language that a person has to get used to.  

At, I put in my profile that I’ve been a browser of the New Arrivals shelf at the library.  That was my first stop and often, I took out a book out from that collection before I entered the forest.  I didn’t read all of Mark Twain’s books until I was in my late twenties and I suppose that’s because his had become classics.

Actually, I read so many classics by the time I went into a graduate program in writing that I had no confidence.  I can remember a despairing week when I wrote down in pen every word of that famous “coffee and oranges” poem by Wallace Stevens.  I’d always felt that writers were somehow chosen.  I was in the program because I wanted credentials to teach.  I’d walked out of a reporting job and though I’d regretted that, I was attempting short stories.  My mother was a music teacher and I craved that summer vacation lifestyle.  I had no desire to live a writer’s lifestyle.  I’d almost gone into music at the performing level but as a flute player, I was terrified of unemployment.

That winter, I went out in below zero weather to visit a used bookstore in south Minneapolis.  No one was in there except the proprietor and myself.  The shelves were very high and the place was dusty, deserted.  I left with a volume of Walt Whitman’s poems, a book I sold a few years ago.  In the meantime, I had written piles of manuscripts that were in dire need of revision.  I’d read through the new poets at the library and had a stack of literary journals.  I’d gone to a number of jobs and finally landed on an occupation that might last until retirement.  The used bookstore I worked in was also an antique store.  Booksellers there were thrilled with Abebooks.  The whole used book business had changed, and before writers went digital, bookstores had their entire stock on the internet.

I don’t know what will happen with used books now that Kindle can sell their contents.  If we thought we were in a forest before at the library or looking at lists of new writers, the internet would seem to have greened the entire world with writers.  And that might preserve the forests of the world.

The used books I acquire often illumine my writing.  Or they shadow it.  Though I don’t believe in all sayings, I believe in two:  “There’s nothing new under the sun”, and “History repeats itself.”  Even though the digital world is new, or is it? if we knew everything, people tend to be like forest growth if we are to go by what’s been written. 

This blog is about recent observations.  While the book world changes, it serves the population like it never has before.  Writers newly published can’t tell what’s going to happen with their books.  They should have an idea of their reader even though that’s a tall demand when the readers are now global.  This last week, I finished publishing my middle grade Halloween fantasy, The House in Windward Leaves.  While I waited on agent decisions about other books, that book was probably another fantasy in hordes.  I loved it and one day, I said, I’m going to publish this myself.  But I had to wonder if other people would like my humor and tastes.

As I learned how to convert to PDF and downloaded my Mobipocket at Kindle, I picked up two books at the rummage sale of a young  artist who rented space downtown.  I read both of them, Nonsense Novels and A Net to Catch the Wind.  Stephen Leacock, the author of Nonsense Novels, wasn't a name I knew.  But I could certainly imagine a Monty Python type film of his hilarious work.  I bought the children’s book A Net to Catch the Wind because of the illustrator Stephen Gammell.  I guess this book is out-of-print but it only goes to show how an enchanting children’s book might be forgotten if books aren’t preserved. 

When I finished my project, though it seemed abhorrent at first, I downloaded Kindle on PC.  Well, it was wonderful, downloading the books of people I knew.   I’ll probably be reviewing new books by Indie authors in this blog.

I said I regretted leaving a suburban newspaper.  I had even declined writing a column, only because I wasn’t 25 and my readers were in suburban families.  When I was in my 40s, I wished I could write that column.  So a blog.


1 comment:

  1. Katherine,
    I worked at a used bookstore once...stacks of yellowed pages, that musty smell. Hardly anybody came in and when they did, they made eccentric purchases. I read and read and read. Possibly the best job I ever had :-). I'm surprised that reading classics affected your confidence...the more I read, I guess the more I realized what a range of literature there was/is...and that maybe I could fit in somewhere. Congrats on your recent publication and your new blog!