I ate the book like a lit match eats gasoline.-The Russian American School of Tomorrow
I’d been meaning to go have a talk with this local college professor and last week I finally went to his office and did it. His office was lined with books. I went over to read the spines.
“I knew you’d look at the books!” he said.
“You don’t have any novels,” I said.
“Yes I do!” and he found one for me to borrow.
This very thing, this Weekly Wonder, started 4 years ago in July. It has a predecessor, The Wonderblog, which had its 12th anniversary last month. I was pretty excited to hit the ten-year mark, and at that time I went and re-read the whole thing.
I learned that the two biggest inspirations for my Wonderblog posts are conversations and books. I write and I am a reader.
I haven’t talked about books as much in this Weekly Wonder. I know why. This Weekly Wonder goes out into the world. It is me come calling to your space, your inbox. My Wonderblog is my own space. And in my space I can read whatever I want.
I’m shy to tell everyone what I’ve been reading lately. Will I be judged? Can I survive the assumptions people will make?
I wrote before about how I switched from the literary canon to reading fantasy books. At the time I couldn’t take one more beautifully written suicide contemplation. I was going to find a guaranteed hero triumphant, and fantasy has provided that reliably and with more beautiful prose than I anticipated.
And yet, I would feel ashamed to have those books on my shelves. I know a lot of genre fiction readers are pleased to be private as they read in public spaces. 50 Shades of Gray attained its popularity because the female audience could read it on their devices and not be caught.
And I feel alone in my fantasy adventures. I know not everyone understands what a dragon has to tell us.
My professor friend did not give me a dragon book. He gave me a literary novel: An Unfinished Life by Mark Spragg.
I read it. I liked it. In fact, I couldn’t put it down until I finished An Unfinished Life. It made me cry in spots.
I couldn’t be sure what would happen in this one. See, fiction has rules. In my fantasy books, I am promised an epic and a hero. In mystery books they promise that the mystery will be solved. Literary fiction–yes, that’s a genre, too–doesn’t promise anything. I couldn’t be sure that the people were going to behave in a certain way. I didn’t know at the beginning that we were all going to come out okay.
Another friend told me: she will not read a novel if she cannot finish it in one day. She is profoundly uncomfortable not knowing how things will turn out.
I love swimming around living in a different story than my own. Until she shared with me, I hadn’t thought about how much faith that takes. We trust our books to carry us through, and give us some different scenery when we don’t want to look at our own. The best books give us a new perspective on our lives when we are done with them.
It takes faith, readers.