21 March 2014

Spring Reading?

The reading pile, forever calling to me, forever too tall and growing, seems heavily laden right now with stories antithetical to the spring season. So be it. I do love contrast.

I am currently re-reading "Mary Coin" by Marisa Silver, a truly beautiful novel published last year that invents the lives and crossroads of Dorothea Lange and the Depression era farm worker who became immortalized in the photograph "Migrant Mother." I reviewed the book favorably last year and now my book group will discuss, so [happily] another reading. However, the landscape of the story is bleak, the era distressing, and women's lives particularly challenging, so hardly the vitality of spring. Think tiny purple crocus trapped under a hard frost.

In honor of the 75th anniversary of "The Grapes of Wrath" by John Steinbeck, I am joining a countrywide movement promoted by NPR to re-read the novel. I haven't read this since college [and don't remember any of it] so I look forward to revisiting Steinbeck's elegant prose and gripping landscape, although this too will be a dreary place, like barren branches of a late-bloomer.

And then, for no special reason other than I often like to go back to beginnings, I will read Saul Bellow's award-winner: "The Adventures of Augie March." I was re-reading some early Philip Roth recently and he was a great admirer of the Nobel Prize winner and I confess I never got to this iconic novel so the time has come. Augie too grew up during the Depression so I guess there is a real theme here. This character is said to be quite dynamic, like Jasmine in full bloom.

And because I have to wind my way out of the Depression era, I am going to read a book that only recently came to my attention: "Edisto" by Padgett Powell. Published thirty years ago, the novel has had a recent resurgence, with comparison to Truman Capote, J. D. Salinger, and Flannery O'Connor. A coming-of-age story of a rambunctious boy, perhaps this one will spring fully into the season.

Perhaps these are the right books to read as the country finally begins to lift itself out of the Great Recession, albeit slowly and still painfully. Or, in commiseration with my dear friends on the east coast, my reading list is trapped in the long winter, so even if the calendar and the stars suggest spring, Mother Nature says no, not yet. So I will linger in the chill a bit longer, in literary terms, that is. Southern California is lovely in March.

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