There has been a sad confluence of important authors who have died in the last few weeks - yet fortunately, they have left behind a legacy of works that remind us of the bounty, of the pleasure of all there is to read and learn and relish.
It might seem like a mish mash of topics but I felt a sense of immediacy to celebrate their works - so stick with me.
Let's start with the passing of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. To me, Mr. Marquez has been the most brilliant and inspiring of writers - the lushness of his language and the epic quality of his books is utterly thrilling. When I read of his passing, I pulled all of my Marquez books off the shelf - to touch them, open them and reflect on their sheer beauty and timeless appeal. Upon opening Love in the Time of Cholera, not only was I reminded of the ingredients of this masterpiece of a love story (albeit unrequited love), but I realized that I had written this note in the front of the book:
"Perfect - to read of love - when on the eve of 1990,
what I feel most is love for Kev and hope for our baby - 12/31/89"
I was four months pregnant with our son Edward, about to open R.J. Julia and filled with expectation. Holding the book, I was not only drawn into the joy of this extraordinary novel, but pulled right back to that precise, precious moment in time.
Then of course there is Marquez's masterpiece, One Hundred Years of Solitude. I always think of this book as one of my all-time favorites, but realized it wasn't the actual details of the tale - I seemed to have forgotten much - that resonated with me, but the sensibility. The role of fate, of self interest, of families re-enacting their forebearers' mistakes and the corrosive impact of the sins of the fathers has remained with me, along with the memory of the epic quality of Marquez's storytelling. This is what typically happens for me - always bringing me back to Italo Calvino's quote:
"...the classics are books which exercise a particular influence, both when they imprint themselves on our imagination as unforgettable, and when they hide in the layers of memory disguised as the individual's or the collective unconscious."
That said, Marquez's death makes me want to re-read One Hundred Years of Solitude and see if it still resonates or if it might strike me as even more profound than when I first read it over 45 years ago. Was it more significant to a 19-year-old me than it might be to a 65-year-old me? I intend to find out. I'd love to put together a book discussion if enough of you are interested - we could schedule for June so that we all have plenty of time to read or re-read this important book. Let me know.
Another writer we lost recently was Sue Townsend, the author of The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13 3/4. This book is at the other end of the spectrum- one that utterly charmed me - a melding of The Catcher in the Rye and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. It's great for a fun adult or Young Adult read. If you've never read it, treat yourself to an afternoon - one that's guaranteed to make you smile.
I guess death really does come in threes because, sadly enough, we also lost the great Peter Matthiessen. And while he's a writer I wasn't initially attracted to, I recently picked up In Paradise - a novel set in Auschwitz, focusing on a modern-day week-long retreat for men and women of various nationalities, beliefs and backgrounds. It's a shockingly vivid recreation of the good, the evil and the coincidental that drives us all in difficult circumstances. Its' beautiful language, its' depiction of human nature and needs will linger with me and I will most definitely be picking up more of Mr. Matthiessen's works. This book certainly will deserve status as an important work.
Then there was an essay in The Wall Street Journal by Rod Dreher expounding on the appeal and timeliness of The Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri. Did you catch it? This book represents yet another hole in my literary reading and Dreher's essay made me think that this might be the moment to remedy that oversight. It may be that his description makes the work sound much more accessible than it really is, but I'm game to find out and will certainly keep you posted. Here is a link to the article - I'll make sure our buyer has the best translation available in case you are as enticed as I am.
And if all of this isn't tempting you to add yet more reading time to your schedule, here is one last enticement - Our May signed first edition pick is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. Everyone in the store is ecstatic about it - it takes place during WWII. You may feel like you do not want to pick up yet another WWII book, but his depiction of the impact of the war through the story of two memorable characters will transport you to that time and place and will likely engage you totally and thoroughly. Actually a good way for you to make sure not to miss any important book would be to sign up for our Signed First Edition program (or give as a great gift for Mother's or Fathers Day, or graduation - geez it is already that time!) Just contact our coordinator Julie at the store and she would be delighted to sign you up.
There are more books that I am excited about - but at the risk of overload, I'll stop now - I will write more later.
Until then, see you in the store and as always happy reading,