Sunday, May 10, 2009

Miscellany: Reader's Game

Yes I do - I do read your blog - which blurs those boundaries between screen and page and digits and ink and conversation and literature and who you really are in your "real" life and who you are blogging, really. So, after going to the library with my eldest daughter this week, and hearing how she chooses books, I thought of a game for you and me. She chooses good books by opening some of the first pages and reading at random then any two paragraphs in sequence. By her method, I've found several wonderful books by a few incredible writers.

The game, then, is Guess whose book I've chosen.

Here are your clues - two paragraphs from two different books (the second is my mother's Mother's Day gift):

A few weeks later, the same thing happened to Maw Hamrick, which is what I call Hugh's mother, Joan.  Her worm was a bit shorter than her son's, not that size really matters.  If I was a child and saw something creeping out of a hole in my mother's leg, I would march to the nearest orphanage and put myself up for adoption.  I would burn all pictures of her, destroy anything she had ever given me, and start all over because that is simply disgusting.  A dad can be crawling with parasites and somehow it's OK, but on a mom, or any woman, really, it's unforgiveable.

"Well, that's sort of chauvinistic of you, don't you think?" Maw Hamrick said.  She'd come to Paris for Christmas, as had Lisa and her husband, Bob.  The gifts had been opened, and she was collecting the used wrapping paper and ironing it flat with her hands.  "It was just a guinea worm.  People got them all the time."  She looked towards the kitchen, where Hugh was doing something to a goose. "Honey, where do you want me to put this paper?"


Dear Sidney,

Susan Scott is a wonder.  We sold over forty copies of the book, which was very pleasant, but much more thrilling from my standpoint was the food.  Susan managed to procure ration coupons for icing sugar and real eggs for the meringue.  If all her literary luncheons are going to achieve these heights, I won't mind touring about the country.  Do you suppose that a lavish bonus could spur her on to butter?  Let's try it--you may deduct the money from my royalties.

Now for my grim news.  You asked me how work on my new book is progressing.  Sidney, it isn't.
When I went to the store to buy book 2 for Mom, there was an updated edition in which the second author praises her co-author who had just passed away.  Here, then, are additional clues for you from book 2 (a passing from fiction to factual reflections):
I grew up in a family of storytellers. In my family, there is no such thing as a yes-or-no question, a simple answer, or a bald fact. You can't even ask someone to pass the butter without incurring a story, and major holidays always end with the women gathered around the table, weeping with laughter, while our husbands sit in the next room holding their heads.

Obviously, with so much practice, my family is rich in fine storytellers but my aunt Mary Ann Shaffer was the jewel in our crown. What was it about Mary Ann turning a tale? She was one of the one of the wittiest people I ever met, but wit wants the essence of her gift. Her language was lustrous, her timing was exquisite, her delivery was a thing of beaty and a joy forever, but none of these reaches to the center of her charm. That, it seems to me, was her willingness to be delighted by people--their phrases, their frailties, and their fleeting moments of granduer. Together with her delight was the impluse to share it; she told stories so that the rest of us, listening, could be delighted with her, and, time and again, she succeeded.

Of course, now you have the name of one of the authors of book 2, so the game's almost done for you, right? Let me give one more hint of the wonder of the book:  it's a novel composed entirely of letters (except for those author's notes), which means you'll be reading somebody else's mail if you read it (and reading somebody's praise for somebody who might just have been delighted with you, and with me).

So who wrote these books, and what are they?

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