Two weeks ago, I realized that even though I have a stack of books I still “need” to read, I wasn’t feeling drawn to them (poor neglected books – most of them have been sitting on the shelf for at least a year, and I know of at least two that are pushing the decade mark). I put a call out for suggestions on Google+, and a friend of my husband’s from college (who, based on her amazing taste in books and sense of humor, has become someone I consider my friend too, although we’ve only met once, briefly, in person) came to my aid.
She provided me with a list of about twelve books she thought I would like after perusing my taste on goodreads.com and categorized them as “Great,” “Very Good,” or “Good and Fun.” This is a perfect breakdown from my perspective. “Great” and “Very Good” books, like The Night Circus and So Long, See You Tomorrow tend to be serious, though undeniably compelling reads. These are books I might have passed over before starting this project because I have a thing about getting too depressed from my sources of entertainment (weird personal pet peeve), but now that I have to read so many books every week, I have room in my literary diet for all sorts of things!
The “Good and Fun” category, some of which I had already read and enjoyed tends to be my go-to – I love to laugh, and I especially enjoy characters who are witty, secretly sweet and outwardly foolish. I’ve been encouraging myself to save the books in this group for the moment since, as it turns out, I’m actually quote enjoying a more serious turn (must be a winter thing).
I was especially surprised by how much I liked So Long, See You Tomorrow. I knew going into it that this was not a happy book, and yet somehow I was drawn to this little excerpt from its description on Amazon: Out of memory and imagination, the surmises of children and the destructive passions of their parents, Maxwell creates a luminous American classic of youth and loss.
I was curious about a “new” classic, something maybe in the vein of Where the Red Fern Grows. It turns out that this reminded me more of Ethan Frome, with the same inevitable spiral o’doom, written with a deft hand for story-telling. Now, I as far as I know, I’m the only person who read Ethan Frome in high school and liked it better than The Catcher in the Rye, but then again, I’ve always been more than a little odd. Anyway, Maxwell is well worth a read, and I’m really looking forward to finding his other books.
He is, I feel, an underrated American author, not because he wasn’t well-known by other authors of his time (he was 91 when he died in 2000 and quite beloved by renowned writers such as John Updike, JD Salinger, and Frank O’Connor both in his time as editor at The New Yorker and as a writer of fiction), but because school curriculums overlook him (and many others) in favor of well-tread material. As someone who loves the classics, I still feel the need to say (over and over) that exposing students to lesser known and new authors alongside tried and true talents can only expand comprehension, as well as the ability to compare how history and style play a major role in literature. Critical thinking, people – it’s where it’s at!
I will leave you with one of my favorite (non-spoiler) moments from the book. I was stopped cold by it because I’ve had this same feeling so many times myself.
I seem to remember that I went to the new house one winter day and saw snow descending through the attic to the upstairs bedrooms. It could also be that I never did any such thing, for I am fairly certain that in a snapshot album I have lost track of there was a picture of the house taken in the circumstances I have just described, and it is possible that I am remembering that rather than an actual experience. (p 27)