Well. It’s been an interesting two weeks or so. I thought I’d post last Sunday, a little post-read-a-thon wrap-up, but I was too busy–reading. Chock last weekend up as a success!
Reading was the highlight of my last two weeks overall as well. Both in a good way–I was having so much fun–and in an, oops, I’m hiding from the world again sort of way. Which isn’t perhaps the most adult way of dealing with life, but is decidedly better than my other impulse to run away and hide from the ugliness around me. Here’s the thing: I know my hometown is not exactly the safest place in the country. (Nor the U.S. exactly the safest country around. Lots of pluses, lots of freedoms…too much violence.) But it’s really just certain parts of town, the neighborhoods I know to drive around. So it’s soooo much comfort to learn that a neighbor was robbed at gunpoint in his driveway. In the early evening. Yeah. But, sure, okay, I know that the bad neighborhoods are creeping closer. Maybe it’s time to get out. Move closer to work. Work’s in a nice small-town. A university town. Low crime rate, mostly related to drunk college students. A few days later the bosses are telling us to be careful: an older man was robbed at gunpoint just around the corner from the office (at the ATM), early on a Sunday evening. [Please refrain from commenting on US gun laws–it’s an incredibly complex & divisive topic that I don’t want to get into.] It is possible to be so incredibly depressed by the state of the world–the level of violence, the disregard for others, the selfishness, the corruption…the list is so long. And sometimes it’s just easier to bury my head in a book or a TV series rather than face the truth of what’s around me. Sometimes I can’t imagine–remember–what it’s like not to always live with the constant thought of what do I need to do to stay safe? And I’m still in a relatively safe location! (I tell my dad, that logically, I’m still at far greater risk of harm either driving to and from work or from dodging the semis pulling in and out of the flour mill between the parking and the office. He grudgingly admits the truth of this.) It wears on me, remembering to turn the house alarm on, to check the windows, lock the doors, turn on the outside lights, try not to be out after dark. But what about those who live in the really bad neighborhoods? Whose neighbors are the ones dealing drugs, selling their bodies, shooting or stabbing or beating each other. I know–I know because I’ve met them, went to school with them–that good people live in bad neighborhoods. Seniors who’ve always lived there and either can’t bear to move or can’t afford to move. Children who have no choice, who know unimaginable things long before they should. People who have no other choice or who so desperately want to believe that things might get better, that they won’t give up.
This, I think in part, is why The Casual Vacancy struck such a chord with me. I’m fortunate, I don’t know any Krystal’s or Terri’s, not personally. (Clarification: I might have known similar people, in school, but I didn’t then and don’t know with certainty now that such darkness was/is their world) My world is a professional, middle-class world. I feel torn at times–if I decide to leave my hometown for someplace “safer” am I just another selfish actor choosing to abandon it to its fate? If all the good people leave it WILL die. But how do we recognize the turn, know if there is yet hope, so long as positive forces act for good, or if it is already too late? Then when I see that violence can happen anywhere, even in places that seem safe, I don’t know what to think. How not to despair. So I turn to books, hide from difficult choices.
My latest book to hide in was The Dream Thieves, the new sequel to The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. I realized reading it that one of the reasons I enjoy these books so much is that it is so easy to get sucked into their world, to forget everything around me when I’m reading them. It’s been a while since I’ve read like that–most of the books I’ve been reading have required a bit of work (not necessarily a bad thing, just more difficult to disappear into) or I just haven’t found as much fun. Interestingly, The Dream Thieves enters at times a dark world–dangerous drug use and addiction as two topics–but the separation of the reader from the action makes it safe to enter this world. Just a bystander, no risk. The magic of reading. And in the hands of a talented writer, we can also begin to understand lives that are far removed from ours.
On lighter note, I have new books! Actually, old books, but new-to-me. From the top: Far From the Madding Crowd, A Passage to India, Sons and Lovers, and Three Kingdoms (a Chinese classic). I purchased them at a fundraiser book sale a couple weeks back, only $7 total, or half the cost of a typical new paperback. Now to find shelf space!
I’ve been thinking that I’d like to host another Children’s Classic Literature Event come this January. It was so much fun last year (at least for me!) I already have a couple ideas for a readalong title, but if anyone is interested in participating and has a suggestion, now is the time to let me know before I make any set plans. And…if no one participates I will still read children’s books in January. I may or may not still be 8 at heart.
I’ve also pretty much determined that 2014 WILL be the year of my local authors project. The more I think about it, the more excited I get, and since I’m pretty sure I’ll be able to finish the books I’ve been really meaning to get to for a while by the end of the year, 2014 will be a perfect time to start. I have a little mental list of books/authors I want to read, and I have to say–it is the most diverse–both in ethnicity and genre–project list I have ever come up with. All made of authors from one little state! (And if by chance, you know of a writer from Ohio–living or dead–that I may not have on my radar, feel free to recommend away.)
My reading plans this week: finish The Hound of the Baskervilles and write a post on Rebecca. And whatever other reading fun/trouble I can find time to get into. A happy reading week to you!