Wednesday, December 22, 2004

By, I Sat Down And Wept...

Oh hell, I'm all over the place when it comes to my reading life right now: What I'm reading, what I'm sort of dipping into, and what I'm jonesing for.

All 5 Harry Potter books. Not at once. I just finished HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE last night. Now I'm reading HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS.

I got interested in Harry Potter when Shanghai and I took the ferry to Japan & back & they showed THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS. Both ways, so although I dozed through both showings, if you put it all together, I did see the whole movie.

A day or so later, mentioned that J.K. Rowling had just delivered the newest manuscript to the publisher, so my interest leaked out verbally to Shanghai, who just happens to have all 5 of the published books on her shelf!

A few years ago, when the Harry Potter craze was starting to really go full-tilt, I started to read HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE. In those first pages, in which Harry's horrible relatives, the Dursleys, are described, I became really annoyed because it seemed so much like Rowling was ripping off Roald Dahl. I'm usually pleased when I detect an influence (Don Robertson/Stephen King), but this time I was just annoyed, so I put the book down.

Meanwhile, Manfred, Sr., who usually votes in the Hugo (best science fiction novel) selection, was also reading a Harry Potter book because it was on the ballot. I have a vague memory of him acting as if it were time wasted.

Thinking of Manfred, Sr. of course leads to thoughts of Manfred, Jr.: I don't know if he's read all five books or not, but I do know he's read at least two or three. (I miss knowing Manfred, Jr.'s reading habits intimately. All the way from babyhood up to sixth grade, we read almost everything together in the evenings.)

Anyway, I'm on the second book now, and I'm not so annoyed by the obvious Dahl influence anymore.

HERE ON EARTH by Alice Hoffman. This is also from Shanghai's bookshelf. It's true that I still have stuff of my own that I brought that I could be reading (AMISH SOCIETY, FIGHT CLUB) but since the nearest bookstore with English-language books is more than a frickin' half-hour away by train, it's emotionally therapeutic and soothing to browse Shanghai's shelves without even having to get dressed. Besides, I won't be staying with her forever, and when I come to visit, wouldn't it be rude to ignore her and focus monomaniacally on the contents of her shelves?

But back to the Hoffman book. I'm annoyed that the main character has a funny first name (March), but the writing is very nice, not too much description, nicely broken up with chunks of dialogue. We'll see how it goes. I started a Hoffman novel a few years ago called TURTLE MOON and got sidetracked by another book. Since it was a library copy, I had to take it back after the second or third threatening note OR when the librarian denied me access to other books; I can't remember which.

By GRAND CENTRAL STATION, I SAT DOWN AND WEPT. A novel by Elizabeth Smart, Canadian author, (1913-1986), not to be confused with the young kidnap victim from Utah, who was born in 1987.

BY HEART: A LIFE OF ELIZABETH SMART. A biography of the author by Rosemary Sullivan. I think it was published in 1991 or 1992.

ON THE SIDE OF ANGELS. A documentary about Elizabeth Smart. Directed by Maya Gallus. Also came out in 1991.

God, I was so hoping that this longing, this jonesing wouldn't happen to me in a foreign country, where getting books feels so difficult. It's bad enough when I'm in the US with many well-stocked bookstores, both new and used in comfortable driving distance. Not to mention reasonable mailing rates/receiving times. And I'm trying not to think about the library and interlibrary loan.

Oh well...if you're gonna jones for a book, why not make it two? Why not throw in an already hard-to-find documentary, just for interest? I can make myself so miserable in a literary way, but in a perverse way, it feels natural, normal, and yes, even nice.

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