Patterns in 2014 Reading

Serre_cactees_JdPSo much about the reading life delights me, but the interconnectedness, the synchronicity, of reading bedazzles me. Much could be written (perhaps later) about the thrill of recognition.

It happens when we watch movies and see an actor we know from a previous movie. As I ended the year listening to All the Light We Cannot See, a private knowledge bubbled inside me. The story begins at Le Jardin des Plantes—a botanical garden— in Paris. I practically own Le Jardin! No, but I know it, a primary location in my 2010 read, Zarafa: A Giraffe’s True Story, from Deep in Africa to the Heart of Paris. The thrill of recognition, indeed!

I love knowing what feeds folks’ reading lists. Sometimes a book is a random choice: a compelling cover, a familiar author, a recommendation. I love the patterns. Because every compelling book I read ends up adding more books to my TBR list. So here are some groupings of books read in 2014

Southern Literature  Always a meaning-to category, I finally made some progress.

Music  Romance on 3 Legs put me into a month-long Glenn Gould fixation

Adams, Eisenhowers, Nixons  two groups I put together

Poetry some gems in this pattern

World War II  the stories keep coming

Books that Stuck with Me Long After I Finished (not listed elsewhere)
• The Approaching Storm, by Nora Waln (Amazon has no image)

Science  My weakest area. I now know the term neuroplasticity! YES!

I am an Amazon Associate: buying a book through these links won’t cost you any extra money, but will add a few pennies to my Amazon account. Thanks!

Meet and Greet Redux

DSC_5237After writing about the sweet ceremony of greeting guests on Downton Abbey, I read this opening paragraph of Elizabeth Goudge’s The Bird in the Tree.

Visitors to Dameroeshay, had they but known it, could have told just how much the children liked them by the particular spot at which they were met upon arrival.

If the visitor was definitely disliked, the children paid no attention to him until Ellen had forcibly thrust them into their best clothes and pushed them through the drawing-room door about the hour of five; when they extended limp paws in salutation, replied in polite monosyllables to inquiries as to their well-being, and then stood in a depressed row staring at the carpet, beautiful to behold but no more alive than three Della Robbia cherubs modelled out of plaster.

If, on the other hand, they tolerated the visitor, they would go so far as to meet him at the front door and ask if he had brought them anything.

If they liked him they would go to the gate at the end of the wood and wave encouragingly as he came towards them.

But if they loved him, if he was one of the inner circle, they would go right through the village, taking the dogs with them, and along the coast road to the corner by the cornfield, and when they saw the beloved approaching they would yell like all the fiends of hell let loose for the afternoon.

Figaro, John and Abigail

marriage-of-figaro-program Mental Multivitamin calls it synthesis / serendipity / synchronicity. It’s that glorious connection between what you just read/saw/heard and—in an unexpected way—what you are currently reading/seeing/hearing.

The practice of reading (deep and wide) is in effect laying down a swath of Velcro loops. And along comes something that enhances, expands, expatiates on what you already know: those are the Velcro hooks.

That aha! moment brings me great joy. My husband wishes he had written down every hunting experience he’s had since he was seven…for the pleasure of reliving them. I wish I had noted each experience of synthesis / serendipity / synchronicity in my reading life; for there have been many and, alas, my mind grows dim.

::today’s synthesis::

For a year I have been plowing through Jacques Barzun’s From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present. It is demanding and daunting. Twenty years ago I wouldn’t have had the fortitude and background knowledge to pull through. But it is rewarding in the same way that losing thirty pounds is rewarding.

Barzun writes several pages about Beaumarchais, the author of The Marriage of Figaro, artisan, wit, pamphleteer, and secret agent. Have you heard of him? Me, neither. Barzun calls him “the most effective helper of the [American] colonists in their war.” Do you find that an arresting description?

Mozart wrote an opera based on Beaumarchais’ story which challenged the French aristocracy, making Figaro, a valet (or barber), more noble than his master.

:: Pause, Barzun. ::

When I’ve been home alone this week, I have listened to Joseph J. Ellis’ history, First Family: Abigail and John Adams. After a five year separation, Abigail and her daughter Nabby joined John and John Quincy in Paris. The Adams family “attended an early performance of The Marriage of Figaro.”  Hello! I just read about significance of Figaro!! I reveled in the realization that for a time John and Abigail Adams and Mozart were both living and breathing in relative proximity.

::Pause, Abigail and John::

Three weeks ago I visited my friend Lisa in North Carolina. She had been culling books from her shelves and gave me a quaint 1913 book called Opera Synopses. In it I found more information on The Marriage of Figaro ; I learned the story is a direct continuation of Rossini’s opera The Barber of Seville (created by Beaumarchais).

::return to Barzun::

Fascinating! I went back to Barzun’s tome and there it all was: “the man who wrote The Barber of Seville and The Marriage of Figaro before the librettists of Rossini and Mozart gave the two plays another meaning for the musical state.”

I had previously read that sentence, but because I didn’t have any Velcro loops of interest or connection, that fact just bounced off my brain. The synthesis, the recognition, made those words adhere.

So what? Although I am familiar with the overture and several arias, I have never seen the opera. I started to watch it on YouTube this morning, while I wrapped Christmas presents, but quickly realized that three hours of opera wasn’t on the agenda today. And if I’m going to be thorough (cough, cough) I should start by watching The Barber of Seville first.

So little time…