Saturday, July 09, 2016


By Fred Owens

My daughter Eva said I ought to be reading contemporary fiction, so I am doing just that. She suggested Plainsong by Kent Haruf, written in 1999, about some folks in a small town on the Eastern Plains of Colorado. It was 301 pages and fun to read.
So I went back to the bookstore to get another current novel but I could not reach Eva on the phone -- I was compelled to make my own selection. A shelf marked Staff Picks was a little help, so I chose Bilgewater for the title alone, written by Jane Gardam in 1976. I will take it to the beach later today.
That year of 1976 is on the far edge of contemporary, but good enough. I did pass up Nabakov and works by VS Naipaul  -- they are past tense for my purposes.
I did not ask my daughter why I ought to be reading contemporary fiction. Did you notice that?  It was only that she suggested doing that and so I did.
This is part of my moral code which I clarified in Torah study. Why do it? That is not the most important question. Is it a good thing? That is the first question. If my daughter says to do something and it is a good thing -- that is all I need to know.
Why is in the discovery. I read contemporary fiction because people I know are reading the same book and we can discuss it.  Lots of people have read Middlemarch -- when they were in college. And you can almost see the dust on the pages of their memory.
I read the Brothers Karamazov in 1996, in a paperback edition. I bought a bus ticket from Boston to Seattle and read the Brothers all across the vast plains on America. I visited some old friends  on the West Coast and then got back on the very same bus and rode it all the way back to Boston.
The Brothers were the perfect companions for that journey  -- 800 pages of sustained intensity. Those Russians are incredible. They have the world's worst government, but their writers are the best in the world.
But past tense. We're reading current works in 2016. What are you reading? Can you suggest a book for me to read?
Brexit is Fun... the British political turmoil is loads of fun to read about. England may be a mess, but England is Trump free. They have a queen, and they play cricket which is completely silly, and they have wit...... Americans can be funny, but we lack wit. This is going to sound simple but let me say it -- they speak English better than we do. They own  the language and they can play with it and that is the soul of wit.
Now Brexit..... well, I was opposed to it, but it's not my call. It was a clean vote and they decided to leave the EU.  I have to say good for you and I hope it works out well. England wishes to enhance its distinction. The old folk and the rural folk wanted to leave --- with luck we can get them to calm down and go back to sleep, but they were aroused and voted for themselves, as people often do. Comes from living on an island.
Losing One Cop is Bad Enough. Seattle Police Officer Timothy Brenton used to work in LaConner, but he made it to the big time in Seattle  and then he got killed......this happened in November of 2009 near Barbara Cram's house. I was at Barbara's house when it happened so I came by the site of the shooting afterwards and kept vigil for an hour at the site of the shooting....   There were no protests going on at the time. There was no national media attention, but people in LaConner knew Brenton well and he just wanted to be a cop.

J.G. Taylor Spink.Spink was the publisher of the Sporting News and a legend among baseball writers. He was a complete tyrant. He worked his people hard and they did not love him. But he was a decent fellow at heart. My Dad worked for him for twenty years and Spink fired him almost every year and then hired him back.
I am thinking of Spink because he was an honest businessman, not like this fraud we call Trump.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

1 comment:

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