Les Miserables I’m on page 420/1232. Part of me (about 35%) says Why, oh why have you not read this before? The greater part thinks it is splendid to have the exquisite joy of reading this for the first time while I’m in my fifties. A friend warned me about Waterloo; she got bogged down. But, you know, I really only know Waterloo by its name. To me it was exciting as reading Shaara on Gettysburg. This sentence describing the cavalry grabbed me for its onomatopoeia and the progression of 3-, 4-, and 5-syllable adverbs:
They rode steadily, menacingly, imperturbably, the thunder of their horses resounding in the intervals of musket and cannon-fire.
The Hobbit I’m on Disc 3, listening to Rob Inglis’ superb reading of Tolkien’s classic. I laugh at my teenage self who didn’t care for the book after reading three pages. It was all so confusing: hobbits, Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf, seed cakes. I’m trying to wait until Curt is home so we can listen together. To have two such magnificent books going through my head is an embarrassment of riches.
Arrow of God I’ve read several excellent books on Africa, but they since they have all been from a colonial perspective, I read Chinua Achebe’s novel. It took me about 2/3 of the book to get into the story of a Nigerian village. An old priest struggles to keep the old culture in the midst of change.
He found it refreshing to be talking to a man who did not have the besetting sin of smugness, of taking himself too seriously. 103
The Invisible Child: On Reading and Writing Books for Children I expected Katherine Paterson’s book to be a memoir. As in a narrative. Instead, it was a collection of speeches. Once I got over that disappointment, I found many quotes to copy into my journal. Paterson’s books make me uncomfortable; they aren’t nice happy books. Oh, but they are powerful: one made me hiccup-sob 15 minutes.
Books are not TV or, heaven help us, MTV or the Internet. I suppose it would be possible to write a book whose plot jumped around like a frog on pep pills, but that’s not what books are about. If that’s the kind of writing you want to do, I think you should be in a more hectic medium. Books are meant to be read slowly and digested. These days people don’t pray much or go to services of worship, they don’t commune with nature—why, they hardly go to a national park without a TV set, a laptop, and a cell phone. The book is almost the last refuge of reflection—the final outpost of wisdom. I want children to have the gifts that books can give, and I don’t believe they can get them from a book that attempts to imitate the frantic fragmentation of contemporary life. 55
Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other Back in the 80’s, our telephone used to ring often throughout the day and evening. When we got overwhelmed with calls, we used to joke that it was time to move so our phone would quiet down. Lately, we get one, perhaps two calls a day. (Keep in mind that we only have a land line. Would it be different with a cell phone?) Does this example resonate with you? It is just one of the things I’ve reflected on since I’ve read Sherry Turkle’s book. I didn’t connect with the first half of the book, an exploration of the role of robots as companions for the elderly and caregivers for the young.
In the second part of the book, Turkle examines our increasing connectivity with each other online, but how oddly we are more alone than ever. I was struck with Turkle’s use of the word tethered to describe the pull and grip that technology has on us. I highly recommend this second half.
My own study of the networked life has left me thinking about intimacy—about being with people in person, hearing their voices and seeing their faces, trying to know their hearts. And it has left me thinking about solitude—the kind that refreshes and restores. Loneliness is failed solitude. To experience solitude you must be able to summon yourself by yourself; otherwise, you will only know how to be lonely. 288