Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Books, glorious books

Probably the only really great thing about staying home sick is, I have nothing better to do than read. And boy, have I been reading!! (See "What I'm Reading," sidebar) I've been reading faster than blogging, so some books haven't made it to the list, like "The Sunday Philosophy Club" by Alexander McCall, and "Multiculturalism and the Mouse," by Douglas Brode. What fun! I just got my latest booksfree package in the mail, too: Ken Follett's "A Place Called Freedom" and Hildegard of Bingen: Selections from her Writings. I love-love-love the anticipation of books waiting for me! (On the books note - I am doing well with the Lenten sacrifice of making no new books/music purchases. My personal book stash is dwindling, slowly, but the panic has not yet set in.)

One of the best books I've read lately is Betty Smith's "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn." "Tree," where have you been all my life? For your pleasure and mine, here is a wonderful passage from this treasure:

Each week Francie made the same request and each week the librarian asked the same question. A name on a card meant nothing to her and since she never looked up into a child's face, she never did get to know the little girl who took a book out every day and two on saturday. A smile would have meant a lot to Francie and a friendly comment would have made her so happy. She loved the library and was anxious to worship the lady in charge. But the librarian had other things on her mind. She hated children anyhow.

Francie trembled in anticipation as the woman reached under the desk. She saw the title as the book came up: If I Were King by McCarthy. Wonderful! Last week it had been Beverly of Graustark and the same two weeks before that. She had had the McCarthy book only twice. The librarian recommended these two books over and over again. Maybe they were the only ones she herself had read; maybe they were on a recommended list; maybe she had discovered that they were sure fire as far as eleven-year-old girls were concerned.

Francie held the books close and hurried home, resisting the temptation to sit on the first stoop she came to, to start reading.

Home at last and now it was the time she had been looking forward to all week: fire-escape-sitting time. She put a small rug on the fire-escape and got the pillow from her bed and propped it against the bars. Luckily there was ice in the icebox. She chipped off a small piece and put it in a glass of water. The pink-and-white peppermint wafers bought that morning were arranged in a little bowl, cracked, but of a pretty blue color. She arranged glass, bowl, and book on the window sill and climbed out on the fire-escape. Once out there, she was living in a tree. No one upstairs, downstairs, or across the way could see her. But she could look out through the leaves and see everything.

It was a sunny afternoon. A lazy warm wind carried a warm sea smell. The leaves of the tree made fugitive patterns on the white pillowcase. Nobody was in the yard and that was nice...Francie breathed the warm air, watched the dancing leaf shadows, ate the candy and took sips of the cooled water in-between reading the book...As she read, at peace with the world and happy as only a little girl could be with a fine book and little bowl of candy, and all alone in the house, the leaf shadows shifted and the afternoon passed.

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