Unmerry, but not unhappy

The big celebrations are over for another year. It was going to be a quiet holiday, anyway, with no guests. Those who invited us to dinner uninvited us, because of their illness. But that was okay, because we got sick, too. At least half of us did. He said he caught it while shopping for food for our holiday dinner. Whenever it was, it hit the eve of the holiday, when he asked me to go and buy cold pills and orange juice. Those are his remedies, and they are slowly working.

So it’s quiet recovery time now. Reading, resting in the comfy chair,then in bed to read some more, seem to be the activities of choice this sunny on the Oregon coast.

Happy New Year.

The time for revels and recovery now is ending: it’s back to work. To writing, the main work.

I never stop the parallel activity: reading, my refuge and my salvation. When I give my coming talks to persuade people to buy my book, that it’s worth taking the journey to Clinton Street, my theme shall be the importance, the necessity of reading–especially of reading novels. Good novels, well-written works, invite us to explore the yearnings and workings of our humanity in its many guises.

I don’t understand how one can be a writer and not read.  Siamese twins who cannot be separated, reading and writing are mutually dependent. Reading begets writing: most DSC_4399writers begin as readers who decide they, too, can create a fictional world for others to explore. Writers need readers; readers need writers. Each activity nourishes what I can only call my soul. Since reading came first, it’s perhaps the favorite child, can both sooth and disturb, and most importantly, make me think new thoughts, or sometimes echo my own, so I find a comrade, a like-mind.

Recent memorable reads: Men We Reaped: A memoir by Jesmyn Ward. The author shares her loss of five young men in four years, friends and relatives, felled by drugs, accidents, and suicide. She comes to see that they shared the disadvantages of growing up poor with little hope of a better life, which breeds drug addiction and fragile family ties. She bravely tells her own story, similar to that of the young men, with the exception that she received a good education, was able to leave home and to write this story that haunts her and us.

The Pure Gold Baby – Margaret Drabble – A single mother in London, an anthropologist, raises her special needs daughter whose sunny nature belies her handicap. A coming to terms with one’s choices and seeing the full extent of a mother’s responsibility.

Movies: “Dallas Buyer Club” – Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto are outstanding in an amazing urban survival story.

American Hustle – One of the year’s best. Comedy with a serious side. They don’t get much better than this.

Let us Wish for a Good Year For Us All!


The Saddest Novel

When is the best time to read a powerful but sad novel? Never, many would say, perhaps feeling that reading of the misfortunes of others adds to their own sadness. They prefer lighter reading fare.

By sad, I don’t mean negative, but simply realistic subject matter. To me, that’s what well-written, non-happy endng novels convey: the reality of many of the lives of our fellow humans. And perhaps our own.

So Long, See You Tomorrow, by William Maxwell, first published in 1980, begins with a murder committed in 1920, and goes on to fill in the details of domestic tragedy for the families of all concerned. The story is narrated by a young man who is also the victim of a different but just as painful domestic tragedy.


The novel contains piercing insights into the ordeals we humans perpetrate on ourselves, other adults, children, and animals. The insights are powerful. “Whether they are part of home or home is part of them is not a question children are prepared to answer,” Maxwell writes, hinting at the overpowering influence our early home life has upon each of us. A few pages later he writes “…People neither get what they deserve nor deserve what they get. The gentle and trusting are trampled on. The rich man usually forces his way through the eye of the needle, and there is little or no point in putting your faith in Divine Providence….” This is hard news for some, but it’s difficult to argue with, when we see, and perhaps experience it, daily.

There may be no good time to read a sad, true, beautifully written novel, but the feelings it evokes are worth feeling: compassion for the suffering of others, especially the innocents among us. Perhaps if we read more novels such as this, we might be moved to greater kindness to one another. It’s worth a try, and So Long, See You Tomorrow is a place to begin.