Book ’em, Dana

I should know better. Three is usually my maximum. So why do I have five going at once? Greedy, I guess. And they’re all so good, in different ways.

I’m always reading (a tip I learned in Writing 101), and usually one book takes the lead, claiming most of my time. Today it’s Neil Young’s Waging Heavy Peace, a memoir/journal written in real time. It’s a fascinating read – conversational, witty, and candid without being lurid or too graphic, combining non-chronological anecdotes about his music career with present-day musings on his passions, including the development of a large electric car (the man is nutty for old Eldorados) and his family. I picked it up at Nonesuch Books in Biddeford last week, and – thanks to an extended wait for an auto repair yesterday – am nearly done with it. I look forward to the man’s next book.

I’d be finished with it already had it not been the previous No. 1 Time-Claiming Book, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, a Library of America version I pulled off my shelves a couple weeks ago after a trip to a friend in Connecticut unexpectedly included a trip to Mark Twain’s house in Hartford. I haven’t read it in years. It’s much funnier this time, and I don’t mean my isn’t he clever funny, but laugh-out-loud funny. The man was ahead of his time. Or perhaps the times were behind the man. That’s often the case.

In third place we have J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Silmarillion. I still have the first edition given to me as a Christmas gift from my grandparents some 35 years ago. I haven’t read it since. I dug in a few months ago after re-reading The Lord of the Rings for the umpteenth time, figuring it was high time I revisited the Elder Days again. But it’s been a tough slog, as this book, released posthumously, is mostly devoid of the sort of narrative that drives LOTR. It’s a bit dry, intentionally Biblical…still, I will tend to it as soon as I get through the others. Unless I am distracted by something shiny and new.

Stieg Larsson’s The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, the third in that wildly popular trilogy that spawned a terrific Swedish series and – to date – one American feature film, is fourth on my bedside table pile. I’m not sure why I stopped reading it, but it was sometime last winter. Oh yes, now I remember: I was distracted by The John Lennon Letters, The Last Stand of the Tin Can Soldiers (about a Pacific Theater naval battle), and The Last Outlaws: The Lives and Legends of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. There’s something about biographies and histories…I can just plow right through them. But I’ll be returning to Lisbeth soon.

And finally, the granddaddy of delayed reading gratification, Thomas Mann’s epic The Magic Mountain, which I purchased from the Folio Society about ten years ago and began reading…umm, I’d say about…uhh, let’s say three years ago. For some reason, I can pick that cinder block up and pick up right where I left off, without skipping a beat. It helps that the pacing is deliberate, with the main characters drawn so deeply that once their names appear on the page, I can recall them immediately. Thanks, Tom.

I’m going to try to finish a few of these books before starting something new, otherwise, I’ll never finish any of them. I would, however, be able to finish the ones I haven’t started yet.

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Dana Pearson is a writer living in Kennebunk, Maine.
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