I may not have written much in the last couple of months, but words have still been the centre of my life. They were not running off my fingertips through the computer but they were certainly filling my heart, soul, and mind. In the absence of writing I have been doing a lot of reading.
It’s as though words in some way, shape, or form have to be in my life. I love seeing them printed or written across the page. It fascinates me to think about what the words hold. It could be information about an object, a machine say, or it could be the description of a place.
Words have the power to fire our imagination. They can transport us to some magical landscape where we can "escape” for a few hours as we read. They can describe a character so that we think we can see them, smell them, hear them as they speak. The author Morris West (In The Shoes Of The Fisherman) has an incredible gift for this last talent, and this was what drew me to read all of his books.
In the latter part of 2009 I was introduced to the author Robert B. Parker. His style of writing attracted me immediately. He wrote a couple of series of books with different central characters; the Spenser novels, the Jesse Stone novels, and the Sunny Randall novels. They are all of the detective genre.
He used a short sharp yet easy flowing style of writing, especially when it came to conversations between people. Some of his sentences are just two words long! Yet everything is perfect in the moment. And he uses a form of dry, wry wit that appeals to my English sense of humour.
Over a period of about three months I think I read everything he wrote. Back in January 2010 I was devouring his last three or four books from the library shelf when I heard the news of his death. I remember my immediate thought was “Oh no, what will I read now!” as if he were the only writer producing books.
But he had very quickly become “my Robert B. Parker (RBP)”. He had entered my heart and my soul through his generously-shared talent. I thought of him as a friend who set out to entertain me with each of his books. The only positive thing that I can say about his passing is that he died at his typewriter doing what he loved most.
So having completed all his books I then had to find someone else. I love detective/spy books so I stayed in that genre. Checking along the shelves in the library I remember thinking, “I need to find a prolific author; someone who has as many books on the shelf as “my RBP”. And so Sue Grafton found her way into my book bag.
Her A,B,C books based on the character Kinsey Millhone are great. Her style is different yet just as interesting as RBP. Kinsey is a little off-beat, a little off-centre, and as a woman detective is just finding her way around the profession. I guess what attracts me to her is that there is a part of her that is organized and yet there is another great chunk of her that is delightfully, quirkily “fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants”.
Her well-preserved and still very attractive octogenarian neighbour Henry and his other “just as old if not older” siblings add some unique interest to the story. But the spice is added, literally, by Rosie, of Hungarian origins, who runs a small restaurant/grill/bar down the road from Kinsey’s home. I can almost hear her speaking in her broken accent and can imagine the expressions on her face and in her voice the way Sue Grafton describes her.
So here I am having read the latest, U Is For Umbrella, and wondering who will be the next author that my eyes fall upon, that my nose smells out. One thing is for sure, I will not be without words in some way or another. They feed my soul and my mind. I will not go hungry!
Well, I’m sitting here looking at my lap-top and wondering just what am I going to write about. Maybe that’s the wrong comment. I’m pretty sure I know what I’m going to write about – my absence from writing since 20 October. I’m just not sure how I’m going to go about it or exactly what will appear on the page.
I can at least share what I have been doing in the last ten days: reading. I have devoured at least twelve books in that period. Every spare moment has been spent reading. Every meal and every bathroom visit has been accompanied by the book du jour. I have done essential housework and kept appointments, and I have read. My husband has been away for the last week so I have been able to indulge my little addiction with no guilt whatsoever. I have avoided going out unless I had to, and I have avoided any other activities inside or outside the home that I might normally engage in.
With one exception: gardening. Somehow or other the garden manages to break through all barriers within me. And now is the great time of weeding and clearing, pruning certain plants and attempting to dig out the root systems of those pesky crab grasses and vines that seem to take over every nook and cranny during the summer months. Pansies have finally appeared in the garden centers and I have brought many flats home to brighten up the winter flower beds.
Perhaps the reading marathon is akin to squirrels collecting and hoarding their nuts for winter provisions. Right now is nature’s time to pull back and curl up and hibernate a little. And so I move into autumnal mode, make my hot herbal teas, and curl up with adventures created by other authors. I was thinking a little earlier on today that maybe I am tired of my own words and need to fill my head and my heart with the words of other writers.
There was a moment somewhere in these last ten days when I wondered if I was in one of my “funks” (read de-pression). But I have not felt that awful slide downwards, nor have my days been gray. Tears have not plagued me and so I decided not to fight it and just accepted that I needed to read rather than write. I have not felt frustrated at not writing, and I was still surrounded by words!
I have discovered Rosamunde Pilcher who writes about families and their incredibly rich relationships. She has a way of unfolding their stories on the written page that invites the reader into their lives in such an intimate fashion. Her characters are so real that I feel as though I could invite them into my own life and they would fit. And along with Rosamunde I have been reading Belva Plain whose style I find to be simply elegant and elegantly simple.
Then, too, I came across Robert B. Parker. I love a good detective or suspense story and he manages to combine those two aspects in the best possible way. His dialogues are composed of short phrases, sometimes pure monosyllables or just one or two word sentences. But they are so succinct, so totally perfect, and his humor is dry yet delectable as a nutty, crisp cracker (must appeal to the Brit in me!). The plots move along at a fast pace and keep the reader involved from start to finish. His series of books with PI Spenser as the central character is terrific and well worth the read.
And here I am writing again. There was one other thought process that I have entertained about my not writing. It reminded me a little of what happens when I make up my mind to get back into exercising or to make a specific change in my diet. Either something comes up (a sickness or an arthritic flare up) that keeps me from doing the exercise, or I get a “chocolate attack” and there goes the healthy eating. So either “he-who-shall-not-be-named” is getting at me, or I fall into a big hole of self-sabotage.
But I have managed to reach a point in my life where I can accept most situations as they unfold. “What is, is” says my dear friend Tish. And so I read obsessively for a couple of weeks – no big deal. It has brought me great joy. It is wonderful to love myself enough that I do not need to beat myself up. Bottom line is I was enriching my vocabulary and feeding my heart and soul.