Thursday, July 2, 2015

Like driving through Dangerous Postcards: Day 4 of On the Road
[ I’m too tired to load a picture.]

This morning I woke to a sunny, windy day. Most hotels offer free breakfasts, and most of them are tasteless and tepid. The breakfast at The Best Western Frontier in Cheyenne is an exception. The main entree was a western omelet, bacon and sausage, along with toast and other sides. The food manager, Chris, was efficient at keeping food stocked and making guests feel welcome. Other than the wonky remote on the TV in the room, I had a five star experience at this hotel.

My sunblock failed me yesterday so when I filled up the tank this morning I bought a hat. Today’s drive was largely pleasant. Cheyenne, Wyoming lies on the eastern end of a state filled with desolate beauty.  One of the Big sky states where you can see miles ahead on a clear day.
Yet there are reminders how under the beauty lies constant risk of brutal storms and road closures.

Little has changed since the last time I was here. On that trip, more than forty years ago, my mother and I took a bus trip from Portland, Oregon to visit friends in Greeley Colorado.
Throughout my drive today the winds gusted, kicking up dust in the construction zones. I can see why pioneers wanted to settle here because of the sharp landscape. It's an artist’s paradise with its varied textures and hues. My sister-in-law, the family paparazzo, would go into picture snapping overload here.

Driving across the open terrain, even at 80 mph, it feels like slow motion. Unlike the east, there are vast distances between exits, and many post signs saying no services. Also unlike the east the road are uncluttered by excess signage. In fact there is little warning on upcoming exits. Rest areas are far apart and few, and many were closed. The two where I stopped, though, had glorious views.

As beautiful as it is, I can't imagine living here. If I were a horsewoman, Wyoming would be ideal. But I'm a bookish nerd who craves a faster paced lifestyle.

The last hour is hardest any day of my trip because by then the cats and I are tired. They start whining, and I find myself counting miles. One thing that keeps me alert is pain. My right shoulder has been hurting, and I have this rubber, spiny thing that you can massage or pound on pressure points. It resembles something from the Middle Ages a knight might carry in battle. I place it between my shoulder and the seat and lean into it.  

We pulled into Ogden right around 5:15 amid rush hour, yet it I found the hotel effortlessly.  I walked across the parking lot and enjoyed a porch chop dinner with salad, potatoes, mixed veggies and a glass of wine, and my bill was only $17.74.  So far the room is also the cheapest on my route.  Cost of living must be low here, and I believe it was on AARP's list of places to retire on a budget, but I also don't see myself settling in Ogden Utah.

Tomorrow I set out for Caldwell, Idaho, right on the tip between Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Are We There Yet, Mommy?

I woke up annoyed. Annoyed that I had gotten lost twice, and now had NO idea how to find I-80 west, annoyed that I had left my hoodie in the hotel in Peoria so I was chilly all night and slept badly, and annoyed by how crap I packed in my car. When I went out after breakfast to rearrange bags to make room for the kitties, I found a 75’ roll of aluminum foil. Why? Was I planning to build a McGyver bomb or retrieve messages from space? I gave the roll to the young woman at the front desk, who gave me excellent directions back to the freeway.

The cats were fairly compliant all day. This change of scenery and constant driving is stressful for all three of us. Plus all the crap I have to haul in and out of the hotel. It takes two trips with one of those luggage carts. One for them and their accessories, one for my stuff. They’ve both adapted pretty well. Pablo uses the box inside the hotel, but poor old Henry has a small one inside his crate, which occasionally he uses. A few times during the drive I noticed foul odors, but they were bovine. The expensive cat litter is working.

Today’s drive was smooth, even though my car noticed the higher elevation. Every time I had to slow down for construction it took a long time to get my RPMs back up to 75. In Wyoming the speed limit is 80.

Around lunch time I stopped at a Shell station in Kearney, Nebraska. I’ve never liked self- serve. I’m kind of like Cindy Sterling with lawnmowers at the gas pump. I find one which has an easy method and stick to it. The pump at this Shell station had instructions about as clear as mud, so I went inside to get help. The woman behind the counter was rude and condescending, and I thought, “I don't have to buy my gas here,” and I ended up glad hadn’t.

One exit away was a town called Odessa, and a sign advertised Shepp Brothers as having “the cleanest roadside restrooms in Nebraska.”  Their pumps were easy to work, and when I went inside to pay I entered a wonderland. Lucky for me my car is full or I would have gone on a shopping spree of scarves, clothes and purses. They also had groceries, so my lunch was two packets of cheese, a bag of Kettle chips and a banana. And the restroom was clean. I’ve traveled quite a bit but I’ve never seen a toilet that had a bidet function. One might expect such a toilet in a fancy French hotel but not a roadside establishment.

After getting lost in Lincoln, tonight’s dinner was in a Subway across the parking lot from my hotel in Cheyenne. I had a tuna salad sandwich on wheat with spinach and cucumbers. This hotel is right off the freeway, so setting out in the morning will be easy. I found another hoodie in my car to keep me warm in the AC. Right now Pablo is sleeping on it, but the room hasn't cooled off fully.

I have no idea what tie it is. My PC says 8:24, the room clock says 8:35 , and my phone tells me it’s 6:25.
And now time for my nightly glass of wine and select my next stop on the map.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Lost in Lincoln Nebraska

After a night of thundering rain, the kitties and I woke to sunshine in Peoria. Neither of them was happy to be placed in their respective carriers, but they resigned themselves to another long drive with few protestations.

It occurred to me as I drove how different this trip was since my last westward journey by car. At that time I drove an un-air-conditioned 1973 Chevy Nova without a radio. Young and stupid, I drove for twelve to sixteen hour stretches, with only a couple of overnight motel stops. When my brother and I crossed back to Ohio on that same trip, he and I took turns driving straight through with only fuel and meal stops. I recall we stopped for coffee somewhere in Canada in the middle of the night and I fell asleep at the table.

My comfort levels have changed, and so has technology in cars. Other than my car being cramped, the ride is more comfortable and the book on CD has kept me focused. I made a couple of water stops along the way and Henry was grateful. Pablo pouted and refused to drink on my presence. At a Phillips 66 during a fuel stop I ate a hot dog I bought. It's definitely hard to eat healthy fare on the road when you can’t sit down for a meal.

The Midwest is largely flat, but Iowa has a couple of distinguishing characteristics. Every few miles, I noticed windmills, looming like large white mechanical birds. The second oddity is the red colored freeway lanes heading west. The eastbound lanes have the normal gray hue, but for about thirty miles the west bound lanes are a terracotta red.

Other than in construction zones and within cities, most of the way the speed limit was 70 mph. When I crossed into Nebraska, the speed limit increased to 75, and even as I drove 77-79, cars flew past me. At one point a sheriff’s car tailgated me until I sped up to 83 to let him pass. His lights weren't flashing, so I wondered why he was in such a hurry. I was also relieved he didn't ticket me.

Overall I made good time until I hit Lincoln T rush journey, going the wrong way on I-180. I finally stopped at a muffler place, parked, and called the hotel. I was clear on the west side of town and I needed to be around fifty blocks east of there. This put me right in the downtown, and if it weren't for the cats, who were both crying by now, I would have stopped and checked out one of the cafes I spotted along the way. I found the hotel, but I have idea how I will find 80 West again in the morning.

It was much easier unloading the cats and my luggage. I may not be so lucky tomorrow, though. I turned on the 6 o clock news when I dropped cats and bags in the room and the prediction is more rain.

I tried to find Panera for dinner, but the desk clerk's directions were vague, so I ended up at a mall, eating lousy spaghetti and meatballs. I should have stopped at the nearby Olive garden, but I'm on a new city and wanted to try something new.

I couldn't find the street going back to my hotel until after I passed it, but I spotted a Barnes and Noble. I browsed for a bit, but did not want to add ONE more thing to my pigsty of a car, so I left empty handed. I headed back to the hotel, but that section of the road was one way. So how the hell was I supposed to find the place? Many of the streets in Lincoln have Names like O or R Street that intersect with numbered streets. I drove endlessly in circles until I found the hotel by accident. As Elizabeth says, lost is the new black, so I am tres stylish today.

Now enjoying my nightly glass of red and some pistachios and almonds I found in my purse.

Tomorrow, Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Traveling With Felines Is Not the Cat’s Meow.


Day one of On the Road (with cats.) I had hoped to be on the road at nine, but of course I didn't set out until nearly noon. I overestimated how much I could pack in a in a Honda Civic, especially with two cats. Their crates take up more than half the back seat, and everything I packed would not fit, so I had to make last minute decisions on what to leave a lot of cap behind. I wanted to be able to see out of the back. The cats were the last things I packed in the car. Neither was happy. My car looked like an episode of hoarders.

As soon as I backed out of the driveway, I noticed my phone needed to be charged, but my car charger was stuck under about 600 pounds of luggage. At least the weather cooperated. In Ohio, anyway. More on that later.

The boys were both chatty as we headed out of town. Just west of Gratiot, I noticed Pablo had wangled himself out of his carrier. He stopped meowing, but he kept moving, and just outside of Dayton he started crawling around near the steering wheel, so I pulled off and stopped at a Wendy's. I reinserted poor Pablo back in his crate and turned it so its front window faced the door. There are two side flaps without zippers so he had plenty of air and he could still glare at me.

It had been years since I'd eaten a fast food burger. The bun tasted yeasty like beer. I wished I’d had a beer right them. But I ordered Diet Coke (Cindy S will understand why I submitted to the chemicals. It was a Diet Coke moment.

Pablo stayed put, but he and Henry cried all the way to the Indiana border. As I passed under the Thanks for Visiting Ohio sign near Richmond, Indiana I got a little weepy myself. Even though I grew up moving across states and countries, I have spent most of my life in Ohio.

Even though my car was loaded to the gills, I didn't need to stop for gas until I reached Danville, Illinois. The cats had quieted down, but they both gave me looks of derision.

State by state the weather varied. Ohio was sunny and cool, Indiana cloudy, and Illinois varied from windy, light rain, occasional clearing, drenching rain, and just as I pulled up to my hotel in Peoria, there was a giant bolt of lightning and the sky opened up. If I had gone to the right hotel in the first place and not wasted twenty minutes I could have avoided the rain.

I also wasted about a half hour going the wrong way on 465 outside Indianapolis. Also, construction slowed me down, so the six and a half hour plan turned into more than eight hours of travel.

There were some high notes. For dinner, I ate a Mediterranean omelet at Perkins restaurant.I'm listening to a good book on CD: The Thirteenth Tale. The first book I tried listening to, a Michael Connelly, was boring, so I gave the CDs to the nice desk clerk and asked her to pass it on.

My car is way too loaded down, and I think of the scene in Wild where Cheryl Stayed loaded so much in her backpack she fell backward. If it stops raining, I might repack my car so the boys and I aren't suffocating. Tonight I threw way the socks, blouse and underwear I was wearing.

I have four more days like this ahead of me. I'm so glad I brought wine, and at least it's not snowing.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

My Life in Boxes.

The past few weeks I’ve been pitching, sorting, donating, selling and packing my accumulation of possessions. The cross country move to Seattle commences this Sunday.

According to all those organizing freaks you see on TV, when assessing an object, you need to ask, “Do you love it? Do you use it?” If the answer is no, it goes. I’d like to say I could say that about ALL my books, but alas, I had to pare those down. I kept what I felt sentimental about (A Monet coffee table book my father gave me for Christmas a few years before he died, and my Jansen’s History of Art from my art school days,) books I couldn't replace in a million years (Living In Dacca, and some out of print books I scavenged from library weeding,) and of course many, many poetry books. Still, as much as it broke my heart, I pared down my many volumes of Pablo Neruda and Billy Collins to an essential few. I am hoping to replace some books once I get to Seattle where they still have brick and mortar bookstores. Contemporary fiction can also be replenished, though I did keep Kafka on the Shore and Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murkami.

Most of my DVDs and CDs joined books I sold to Half Price Books, and 90% of my journals saw the shredder. Rereading my entries from the 80’s and 90’s and early 00’s made me realize 1.) I’m not that interesting, and 2.) I sure whine a lot. I kept the diary I wrote in 6th grade before we moved overseas where I listed what we ate for dinner. I also kept my 8th grade diary where I had a crush on a different boy every week.

I donated my long underwear and winter pajamas to Goodwill. I will need flannel PJs this winter but I will buy new ones, and since the weather doesn't dip below zero there I can probably survive without long johns.

The couple who bought my house is newly married, and they said anything I wanted to leave they would find a use for. I’ve sold much of my furniture to friends, so in a way my stuff is now part of my extended family. The only furniture I am taking are two director’s chairs and a small folding brass table (my living room suite) and an inflatable bed (my bedroom suite.) I don't how large of a place I will have, so it’s easier to start with a clean slate.

When I set out this Sunday, I will be like a college kid leaving home for the first time, except this teenager is sixty years old, and bringing two cats. (The rest of what I am keeping will be shipped once I have an address.) Technically, I am not only unemployed (retired) I am also homeless. But luckily I’ve budgeted for living in an Extended Stay hotel until I either buy a condo or rent one. I do have family out in the Pacific Northwest I could stay with, but I having two cats will render me the houseguest from hell.

At lunch the other day a friend asked if I’m scared about the driving. “That’s a long ass way,” he said. “I’d be scared to death.” I’ve made several cross country drives before. Granted I was younger, and only once was alone. What concerns me more than the drive this time around is traveling with animals. Pablo is pretty chill and will likely sleep his way to Seattle, but Henry is the world’s most annoying cat on a good day. He will likely narrate the entire journey in whatever language he speaks.

Summer is hot, so whenever I stop to gas up the car, buy lunch, or pee, I need to keep my furry friends cool. Two years ago when I lost power for nine days during a heat wave, I had bought two battery operated fans, so when I am out of the car I will run the fans on the cats as I buy my lunch to go. I have a gallon of water to keep in the car, and each night I can replenish at hotels.

And how bad will my car smell if one of them uses the litter box on the road?

Those are small concerns. Giving up possessions and driving a long way will feel effortless compared to leaving behind the many wonderful people I’ve known and loved in my forty plus years in Ohio.

Facebook will help me stay in touch with people, and many friends have said they will visit me in Seattle, yet I know it’s not the same as being there. I grew up moving. Every three or four years my family packed up and moved to a new city, state, or country, so a cross country move is not new, but leaving people behind is never easy.

I’ll miss how the baristas at Starbucks sometimes have my drink ready before I pay, and how the counter people and cooks at Giacomos know my regular sandwich and soup choices. I’ll miss knowing the ebb and flow of this small city and where things are located without using a map.

Those of you closest to me know I will miss you the most.

A new adventure awaits, and over the next few weeks I plan to share installment of my journey through my blog.

Back to packing……

Happy Trails

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

It's Always Sunny and Warm For My Imaginary Friends

It was -8 this morning, with twenty five below wind chill factors. No, I don’t live in the Arctic; I live in southeastern Ohio.

The winter of 2015 has been endless for those of us east of Kansas: sub zero temperatures, blizzards every other day, and just plain cold. I've never been a fan of winter, but this frigid season hit an all time low, figuratively and literally. Occasionally in January and February our mercury dips to below zero, but rises back up to the normal twenties and thirties. Not this year. We've had weeks where the thermometer didn't rise above freezing, and many days in a row where the wind chill factor kept us in the single digits and lower.

Yesterday, as I sat in Starbucks bundled in three layers of clothes, two scarves wrapped around my neck and finger-less gloves on my hands I wrote my protagonist into April. The scene originally took place in October, but I couldn't bear walking into winter, so along with Michael, I smelled the edge of warmth in the air, saw the daffodils and crocus erupt from the earth, and anticipated his upcoming summer.

My strategy for not sinking into the abyss of the remaining weeks of tundra climate is to immerse my story inside spring and move with it through summer.

There s foot of snow piled around my house, but not inside my novel. For a few hours a day, as long as I don’t venture outside, I can forget I’m actually in Ohio.

Happy Writing, and stay warm.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

“Just empty spaces next to empty spaces”

When I read advance copies of books, I generally begin writing my review right away, but The Sculptor, a graphic novel by Scott McCloud, requires some time to simmer. David Smith, a young sculptor, frets he will never realize the recognition he deserves. To guarantee his artistic immortality, he makes a deal with Death, who appears as his late Uncle Harry. This apparition promises him fame for exchange for only 200 more days of life.

Then he meets Meg, a quirky young woman he quickly falls for. Knowing his time is limited he resists submitting to a relationship with her. While trying to avoid involvement with Meg, David works on trying to score a solo show at the gallery where his friend Ollie works. 

David finds he has super human strength to mold any substance, be in granite, metal or rock, into art with his bare hands. When David feels betrayed by Ollie, who gives the show to someone else, he decides to make his art known by surreptitiously creating sculptures throughout the city. He becomes the most famous “vandal” in the city, even though no one can prove the work is his. Ironically, his anonymous works make him a hot commodity, but he risks arrest if he comes forward.

One universal truth addressed in The Sculptor is it’s futile to resist love, especially when someone so needy and insecure as David. Meg helps him realize his potential. He tends to whine about his work being unfocused, yet she helps him realize he thinks too much. “You can still focus, just go deep, not wide.”

Throughout the tale David attempts to come to terms with his impending death, yet he is still drawn to Meg. He wants to tell her the deal he made with Death, yet the penalty for revealing it will shorten his life even more.

The book offers a subtle criticism of the ugly politics of the art world, where it’s often “all just about celebrity, not the art at all.” In a conversation about art’s purpose with Ollie and another artist, Ollie says, “the viewers are the material. We’re nothing without them.”  The novel also addresses a universal question: who will remember us when we die, and for what will be remembered?

The illustrated tale weighs in at nearly 500 pages, and transcends well beyond an ordinary comic book. It’s a full bodied novel. At times David Smith is a pain in the ass with his whininess and histrionics, yet the young are often impatient and impertinent. Besides, David knows he has very little time.

The book will be available Feb 3, 2015, through First Second Books. $29.95

Happy Reading.

Friday, January 2, 2015

I Got Schooled

Recently I was called out for using the word “shrapnel” in the title of my last blog post which discussed the Italo Calvino novel, If on a winter’s night a traveler, and how this book speaks for the reading/writing connection. I entitled the post “Days under Bombardments, watching the shrapnel fly.” I received the following comment: “Shrapnel is not a synonym for submission, splinters or fragments. Do not use it unless you know that it comes from a shrapnel shell, as used to cut barbed wire in the First World War and against aircraft in the Second World War.”

Have I just been scolded online?

The word shrapnel is often used in conjunction to explosive events, and just the other night I heard a reporter describe wreckage from a plane crash as “shrapnel.” According to the American Heritage Dictionary, shrapnel is “an artillery shell containing metal balls fused to explode in the air, the metal balls themselves, or fragments from a high explosive shell, mine, or bomb.” The urban dictionary recognizes these definitions, yet adds it can also mean “loose change of little value.”

How many of you have heard words used in a manner where they sound atonal, like a John Cage concert or off key whistling? A co-worker says, “I have literally been to the moon and back today.” Or you hear a friend describe someone as “the most artistical person I know,” Then there’s my favorite: “I’m writing a fictional novel.” These things screech inside your head as if you’re braking a rusted schoolbus down a steep slope, so I suppose my use of the word shrapnel felt that way to my censurer.

This isn’t my first semantic faux pas. I grew up in a white, Republican household where my father regularly said things like, “see if you can Jew him down on the price.” (Is it any accident his favorite TV character was Archie Bunker?) I am ashamed to reveal I inherited his politically incorrect phrases. While having dinner at a conference one evening, I remarked someone was “very Jewish with his money.” One of my tablemates, who is also a friend, said to me, “I’m Jewish, and what you just said it offensive.”  It never occurred to me a statement like that denigrates an entire culture. It’s a metaphorical phrase I grew up hearing countless times, yet it never occurred to me to consider the literal meaning behind those words.

Because we are human and flawed, each of us has diction preferences. Most of my erudite friends wince at hearing “I have went there,” and “where’you at?” and other bad grammar. A former student says the word ‘snacks’ make her cringe, and a friend of mine can’t stand hearing the word ‘panties’. I hate the word “gals.” When I am referred to as a gal, I picture a woman dressed in buckskin wearing a ten gallon hat. I am not a gal.

The word ‘shrapnel’ does not appear in my essay, only the title, “Days under bombardments, watching the shrapnel fly.” I responded to my critic to clarify this, remarking “It’s a quote from the book. The character is describing his work in the military. I used it because I like the sequence of words.” To avoid confusion, I probably should have explained the quote somewhere in my post, but I thought the quotation marks surrounding the title let readers know this was a quote.  I could have saved myself embarrassment by choosing a different portion of text to quote, or by contriving a bland title, such as “My Feelings About Italo Calvino’s Book.” I chose to use the words for their cadence, not context.

Language is not static. Just as bad now means good, and phat does not refer to weight, the word shrapnel is commonly tossed around out of context. I’ve heard it used in many contexts, such as, “ice was falling like shrapnel,” and “After the tornado, the yard was nothing but shrapnel.”

At the beginning of this post I said I was “called out” by someone. This terminology is a recent addition to our vernacular to describe a scolding. Poets understand the liquidity of language and metaphoric use of words. When poet Naomi Shihab Nye says, “Music lives inside my legs,” she does mean her bones are literally connected to speakers that broadcast songs, yet her readers understand the visceral use of the metaphor.

I apologize ahead of time for any semantic foibles I will commit in the future. As I age, the one thing I know for sure is we are, to steal a title from Anne Lamott, ‘imperfect birds.’

Happy Reading and Writing.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Of is Not a Verb: : “Days under bombardments, watching the shrapnel fl...

Of is Not a Verb: : “Days under bombardments, watching the shrapnel fl...: This is not a review or recommendation of If on a winter’s night a traveler , by Italo Calvino, one of the most surreal novels I've...

Happy Writing.

“Days under bombardments, watching the shrapnel fly.”

This is not a review or recommendation of If on a winter’s night a traveler, by Italo Calvino, one of the most surreal novels I've encountered. Much of it seduces the reader in second person, making the Reader part of the bizarre quest for the ideal book. Like the film Inception, the novel doesn't make literal sense, its plot is not linear, and few people I know would have the patience to slog through it, yet throughout the story lay beautiful tidbits of prose about what it means to be a reader and writer, the dichotomy between writing and publishing, and how reading binds readers together.

Through the novel’s characters, Calvino gently unfurls what may be his own beliefs about story. According to Professor Uzzi-Tuzii, an expert on a dead language, “Reading is …a thing made of writing, a solid material object… through which we measure ourselves against something that is not present, something else that belongs to the immaterial, invisible, world….Reading is going toward something that is about to be, and no one yet knows what it will be…” The professor describes literature as, “The book I would like to read now is a novel in which you sense the story arriving like still-vague thunder…”

Ludmilla, a fellow bibliophile the narrator pursues, qualifies literary novels further by saying “the novel…should have at its driving force only the desire to narrate, to pile stories upon stories, without trying to impose a philosophy of life on you, simply allowing you to observe its own growth…”

These kinds of books such as If on a winter’s night a traveler may frustrate you at the time of reading, and you may have the desire to toss it across the room, yet something revealed in its pages stays with you, and you realize the problem is not with the book itself but you, the Reader.

Those of us who are writers are intimate with the whole writing- is-an-art, publishing-is-a- business blah blah blah. We are encouraged to ‘be original, not derivative,’ yet there is a sameness throughout the fiction section. If you write young adult like I do, you are doomed unless your hero has a superpower or is facing the end of the world. (Thankfully zombies and vampires are on the decline.) The publishing industry decides what we will read because the book business process relies largely on the popular novel, which is parodied in this passage of Calvino’s tale:

“In New York, in the control room, the reader is soldered to the chair at the wrists, with pressure manometers and a stethoscopic belt, her temples beneath their crown of hair held fast by the serpentine wires of the encephalogram that mark the intensity of her concentration and the frequency of stimuli… be subjected to the uninterrupted reading of novels and variants of novels as they are out by the computer. If reading attention reaches certain highs with a certain continuity, the product is viable and can be launched on the market; if attention, on the contrary, relaxes and shifts, the combination is rejected and its elements are broken up and used again in other contexts.”The narrator takes us to the publisher, “an enterprise that perhaps nobody else can understand…” because “there’s a boundary line: on one side are those who make books, on the other those who read them. I want to remain one of those who read them, so I take care always to remain on my side of the line. Otherwise, the unsullied pleasure of reading ends, or at least transformed into something else…” As a writer, I perceive how agents and editors, bombarded with thousands of manuscripts not of their choosing, suffer the loss of “the unsullied pleasure of reading,”  and lose the patience and time to sink into a tale that arrives like a slow moving storm. In our techno-cluttered world, we must “hook” the reader on page one, or face the ubiquitous rejection.  To quote another character, Lotaria, Ludmilla’s sister, “what you want would be a passive way of reading, escapist and regressive…”

Those of us who write fiction aspire to write the kinds of novels we want to read, yet “it would seem those who use books to produce other books are increasing more than those who just like to read books.” Publishing companies love a series. A sequel to story that pulls in good numbers, such as The Hunger Games or Twilight, whether good or bad, guarantees sales because readers crave being able to retreat inside the tale and assess life through someone else’s experiences and thoughts.

My friend Cindy S. says when she dates a man, he may be Harrison Ford handsome or as rich as one of the Shark tank sharks, but “if he doesn’t read, that’s a deal breaker.” For readers, lovers should be able to feed one another’s heads and hearts.

I can be in a room with twenty or thirty people and feel utterly alone unless I find among these relatives, acquaintances  or strangers someone who reads, someone with whom “a language, a code between the two of you, a means of exchange signals and recognizes each other.”

While having coffee with my friend Cindy R, I feel heartened by sharing passages from this novel and watch her face convey recognition. In the cafe, we are two foreigners able to speak our unique language. “We need to get our book discussion group back together,” She says. Our monthly book group devolved a few months back when each of its members had personal tragedies, yet the dissolution of group could also be perceived as tragic. Just as sports fans need to yell at the television together during a game, readers need one another to dissect the fine points of what we’ve read because it “enabled me to master the forces of the universe and recognize an order to it.”