Saturday, September 30, 2006

THE BEST WAY TO READ A CLASSIC


Mary - Crime & Punishment, originally uploaded by merkley???.

...In sneakers in case you get so fired up by the prose you have to run around the block just to blow off steam...With a glass of wine at hand to sip or maybe even gulp when the plot heats up...On the front stoop where you might remind passersby of where they were when they read it, or the thoughts that streamed through their mind...or how a character like Raskolnikov infected their dreams and pulled them deeply into his obsession.

But I didn't set out to write about the classics, or the dazzling, unforgettable characters who inhabit them. Hell, I just did that the other day, and I'm trying not to bore you here. Not to mention myself.

What I really wanted to do was direct you to a little survey Jason Pinter took about why people buy books. Very interesting to people like me who love nothing better than a thoughtful poll that leaves room for extraneous comments.

I responded to the survey, but when I thought about it, I don't think my answer really got to the heart of the matter.

Why I buy a book:

First, I have to see it and know about it. That means it has to be displayed prominently or reviewed, or talked about by my friends. Or maybe I just see a young woman who looks like she has good taste, reading it on her front stoop, and I stop to say "How was it?"

Most often, however, it tends to be a tipping point phenomenon. Take my most recent book purchase: Half of a Yellow Sun by Nigerian writer, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I think I first read about it on Dan Wickett's blog. Within days, it seemed to be everywhere.

Then I read a review--and I wish I could quote it exactly or name the blog, but I can't. Thus I'll have to paraphrase: HALF A YELLOW SUN is simply the future of literature.*

Okay, that got me. At that point, I was at least going to get it out of the library.

A few days later, the title already buzzing quietly in my head, I read a piece about the author and her book in the New York Times. It not only sounded like the future of literature; it sounded like a damn good read. THAT was my tipping point

And speaking of tipping points, it only took one review of LITTLE CHILDREN (and the fact that I enjoyed Tom Perrotta's book) to convince me I need to see this movie.

Happy weekend everyone. I'm off to another waitressing shift. I would say it was my last, but I think I said that last week. Talk about boring myself...



*It was Sarah Weinman. Apologies for misquoting.

28 comments:

Becca said...

I had not heard of Half a Yellow Sun ... nor read any review ... nor heard of the author ... just picked it up the new fiction table from Barnes & Noble because I loved the cover (embarrassed to say). So glad I will enjoy it for other reasons as well such a lame excuse as ... it has a great cover.

Edie said...

Oh mann! now there's another book for me to add to the list...i'm sold. Once Tues. hits, i will be living alone fow two weeks. i've made my mind up...i will enjoy...i will read...i will write...i will keep crazy hours. Sounds like a time for "Half of a Yellow Sun." Thanks.

Best

Sustenance Scout said...

Patry, I just finished Adichie's Purple Hibiscus and loved it. Africa is so unknown to me and Nigeria's history so daunting that I soaked up the imagery and details of daily life there and then wanted more. I'm not sure if Half a Yellow Sun is also set in Nigeria, but I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of it. Adichie is a wonderful writer.

And I bought Alice Munro's short story collection Runaway today in the Salt Lake City airport; a completely compulsive buy only because I'd finished Purple Hibiscus en route to SLC and craved something new to read....and because I'd heard about Munro and somehow knew I'd love her writing. I was right.

chuck said...

Patry--

Where's Ted?

Is he preparing a sumptuous meal?
Reading inside?

Sara said...

Good grief! This is like asking an addict why she buys heroin.

I buy books because they are there. And because I am not good about returning library books. And because they make me buy them. They do. They sing to me, whisper sweet nothings into my eyes. And they smell good.

Tarakuanyin said...

I've never heard of Half a Yellow Sun, so therefore I have no need to buy Half a Yellow Sun, and anyway I have ... oh, about 3257 books waiting to be read and so I really don't need it, and anyway Borders isn't open yet. So that's settled.

Wait a minute, if I leave now, Borders will be opening as I get there. Perfect timing! No. Not another book! Oh dear....

Sharon Hurlbut said...

I do sometimes buy books for the reasons you've said - because I've heard of them, heard they're good, know the author, etc. But more often than not I like to go to the bookstore and just browse the fiction aisles. I'll read titles, scan front and back covers, maybe take a peek inside. I love discovering books I've never heard of, by authors I've never read before, then taking them home and finding they are as good or better than I might have imagined. For me, there's magic in the unexpected, when all the foreknowledge I have is the cover art, the title, and maybe a short blurb inside. In fact, I'm starting to feel that tingly feeling just thinking about. It might be time for a trip to Powell's...

Patry Francis said...

becca: Oh, I agree--Yellow Sun has both a stunning cover and a most alluring title. In the ideal situation, cover design and title really represents the book inside. Here's hoping it's true in this case.

edie: Two weeks alone to read and write and keep crazy hours? Sounds like a little writer's retreat at home. I'm so envious. I'll be checking in at hour place to see how it goes.

Karen: The title story in Runaway is one of my favorite short stories ever. After I finished reading it, I couldn't speak for an hour. Purple Hibiscus sounds interesting,too.

chuck: If I ever looked as good as the woman in the photo, Ted would be inside getting ready to take me to some fabulous little bistro where the food is amazing and cheap and everyone talks about books.

Sara: As one who's been seduced by many a singing, sweet-talking book, I understand the addiction. Are there meetings? A self-help book maybe?

tarakuanyin: I just had an idea. Maybe if we all read Half a Yellow Sun, we could all blog it on the same day. A blog book club...hmmm...Oprah would be proud of me.

Patry Francis said...

sharon: (x-posted) You are the unknown writer's dream reader, one who's willing to actively and independently search for a literary gem that might not have gotten the big reviews or the coop dollars. (Maybe the writer's perspective has something to do with it?) As far as Powell's goes, someday, I AM going to see that legendary store.

inuit said...
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badarivasa said...
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rdl said...

Oh no 2 more for my list. Hope you didn't work too hard. I'm on the DL list and quite possibly permanently retired this time.

Patry Francis said...

r: I'm pretty sure I'm permanently retired, too. Woo Hoo?

louhanna said...
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Sara said...

"a self-help book" (emphasis added) -- A HA HA HA HA

Alexandra S said...

Maybe I should only be buying books after first reading reviews from somewhere. Laini has said blank journals follow her home like puppies. I feel the same about books! I cannot seem to leave a bookstore without buying something, often times by authors I have never ever heard of before! Whats that old saying? so many books, so little time... again, I need two lives, one to read, and another for everything else! P.S. I am excited for you for the days you can quit your waitressing and write & read all the day long!

Patry Francis said...

sara: see what I mean? I'm obviously beyond help.

alexandra: I have my share of blank journals; and if I don't buy them for a purpose, they often remain beautifully blank. Unfortunately, the many of the books I buy meet a similar fate--especially if I get two or three at once. They are beautiful; they are promising, and they sit on the shelf "until I can get to them". What a terrible confession for a writer to make!

colleen said...

Hi Patry,
I wanted to let you know that I just posted about Barbara Kingsolver's visit to Floyd where she read from her new book, yet to be released. I thought you might be interested.

Thanks for the tips.

Anonymous said...

okay-- now you've tipped me-- I will seek out half a yellow sun!

thanks!!

~bluepoppy

herhimnbryn said...

New to Blogging, have just found you. Thank the powers that be that I have!

I buy books, borrow books because I want to go where they can take me. Granted it is not always to the destination I imagined, but that is part of the journey and the joy!

Patry Francis said...

Oh, Colleen: I love Barbara Kingsolver! Put on the coffee; I'll be right over.

blue poppy: Hope all your fans tipped you into continuing the blog as well! For one thing, I'd love to hear what you think about Yellow Sun! xo

herhimnbryn: Welcome! Hope to see more of you.

Lorna said...

Why do I buy books? why do I eat? why does the sun rise?

I used to belong to the Quality Paperback Book Club, back when they really were a paperback book club...now I just read their brochure, which is almost as good as a book. a trade paperback.

Edie said...

“Unfortunately, the many of the books I buy meet a similar fate--especially if I get two or three at once. They are beautiful; they are promising, and they sit on the shelf”

Oh, Patry Francis, have you heard about purgatory…oh,it’ll be bad… I’ll see you there…

Patry Francis said...

lorna: I remember the QPBC! Are they still around?

edie: Maybe in purgatory we'll have time to get some reading done.

Dibussi said...

Half of a Yellow Sun is one of those rare books that live up to the hype. I have reviewed the novel on my blog at: http://www.dibussi.com/2006/09/book_review_hal.html#more

Patry Francis said...

dibussi: I want to read your review, but I think I'll wait till the 3rd of November when I post my own. Maybe you could even re-post yours on that day, as part of the discussion?

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