What I’m reading now

In case you’re interested –

Body & Soul by Frank Conroy.

book cover

From the back cover:

“In the dim light of a basement apartment, six-year-old Claude Rawlings sits at an old white piano, picking out the sounds he has heard on the radio and shutting out the reality of his lonely world.”

Imagine a little boy left alone while his mother goes off to drive a taxi in New York in the 1940s.  Can you put yourself in his place?  Claude spends a lot of time watching people walk back and forth on the sidewalk outside the apartment window.  All he can see is their legs and shoes, but at least it’s something to do.

“An old woman with thin calves, a kid in sneakers, men in wingtips, women in high heels…. If anyone paused he could see detail – straps, eyelets, a worn heel, or cracked leather with the sock showing through – but it was the movement that he liked, the passing parade of color and motion.”

Claude eventually discovers the piano that is stored in the back room where he sleeps.  As the back cover blurb mentions, he begins to copy the music he hears on the radio, filling the long hours his mother is gone.

As novels go, this one starts slow but builds into a very enjoyable read.  Claude is a likeable, genuine character, as is Mr. Weisfeld, a music store proprietor who takes Claude under his wing.  One of my favorite characters though is Al, a furnace man at a ritzy New York apartment building where Claude goes to collect bottles for the refund.  Al’s character develops slowly, almost deceptively.  When he appeared to be leading Claude astray I wasn’t sure I was going to like him.  But Conroy redeems him in my eyes later on and one of my favorite quotes from the book is his.

Al and Claude’s mother, Emma have become friends and the three of them are having dinner when Claude learns that Al’s been unjustly fired.  Claude is accustomed to is mother’s passionate outbursts and overreactions so he is surprised at Al’s calm demeanor.

“I mean, you’re not even angry.  That’s terrible what they did.  It’s outrageous.”

“I’m angry.  I just don’t give in to it.”  He sipped his tea and then put it down.  “Stuff happens all the time.  What’d you call it?  Outrageous.  Outrageous stuff make you so mad you can just burn yourself up with it.  You got to decide if the mad runs you, or you run the mad.”

How wise is that?

I’m not doing the book justice with this post, but it’s worth your time if you like character studies.  I should have finished it long ago but I’m lingering over it, savoring it.  I don’t want it to end.

Oh, and Merry Christmas if you swing that way.



“About” Inspiration

Yesterday I visited a bunch of blogs I’d never read before and while I wanted to post about that, including links and remarks my work day got a bit … um, shall we say challenging.  Yes, that sounds so much better than fucked up, which is what it really was.  With a secretary out I counted myself fortunate to have the time to do any browsing at all.  They do pay me to work after all damn it.  (I listed the blogs below along with links to their home pages in case you want to check them out.)

In any case, I managed to comment on four or five and I plan to go back and visit them again.  Inspiring today’s post is Gelatinous.  I don’t even remember which post I originally read but I was curious about the blogger so I went to the About page where I found this:

Bio: I have been a poet since fourth grade, a mother since 1990, and I love words more than just about anything. I’d put them first in front of coffee and chocolate, but the last two items help me write the words so it’s truly a symbiotic relationship. If I was stranded on a desert island I’d hope to have my Bible and my copy of A Tale of Two Cities. I will always stand by the Chicago Cubs in good times and bad. The bad seasons require more coffee and chocolate to cope. See above.

I loved her description of coffee, chocolate and writing being a symbiotic relationship.  In my case it’s more coffee and writing, but then I’m not a big fan of chocolate (don’t stone me!).

The inspiration though was her inclusion of what she wanted to have if she was on a desert island.  I included a response to that in my comment but I wanted to explore that further.

Finding myself on a desert island would be wonderful – no, that doesn’t quite say it.  Marvelous!  Not there yet.  Welcome – yeah, that’s it.  Think about it – if my basic needs were met (food, shelter, private potty) and I was all alone?  How awesome would that be?!  For awhile anyway.

I’d want music; lots and lots of music.  I’m not overly picky but I’d want multiple types so I could mix it up, and it would have to be all older stuff.  Next I’d need notebooks and pens – tons of both.  Not literally tons – there’d be no beach left!  My time would be spent rising when I felt like it; eating a leisurely breakfast to the Rolling Stones; walking the beach with the Beach Boys; scribbling for hours and hours and then delving into older notebooks to review what was written.  A stack of books from my To Read list wouldn’t be out of order either.  Biographies, suspense novels, humor, chick lit, classics, unknown authors – you name it, I’ll give it a try!

No alarm clock!  No commute!  No family responsibilities!  No cleaning up cat hurl (ack)!  I could so handle that.  For about a week maybe, then I’d probably start pulling my hair out.  Of course we all know the solution to that don’t we?  I just need to add the Internet to my desert island wish list!

Two of Gelatinous’ posts that I visited today were excellent reads; check them out if you have a moment.  Autumn Dance and He said, She said.

* * *

These are the other three blogs where I remember commenting yesterday.  I enjoyed them all and even made a point of saving some of the information I gleaned while there.

All I Breathe

Cooking with a Wallflower

Madamsabi’s Blog – Apparently I wrote this one down incorrectly and I couldn’t figure out how to find it again :(.