Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Book Shelf: Soulmates

Mary Badham

I met Scout in the orthodontist's office when I was fifteen. She introduced me to her brother Jem, her neighbor Dill, and her father. Atticus. Maycomb was my first southern visit, but even though it was "a tired old town" I was instantly comfortable there; the people were authentic. If you haven't met them yet, you really should.


There is no mistaking a real book. Although I had devoured books since I was 6, this was one of my first real ones. It crawled into my conscience, and burrowed into my soul; it opened my mind to gaps in humanity I knew nothing of before. It described childhood through adult eyes, and parenthood through children's eyes. I am better because I've read it—not once, but over and over again.

Seeing it on my shelf is like running into an old friend on the street. I can jump in and browse any page, even though I have no intention of reading it that day, and be reminded that, like an old friend, this book has influenced who I am.

Each of my kids studied To Kill a Mockingbird in junior high. There was a ragged, dog-earred copy floating around our house (with red underlines and notes jotted during classroom discussions) that had been feasted on by several 9th graders. I took it with me on a trip to Maine and uncovered symbolism and character elements that were new to me, even after years of reflecting on the book.

Jem had just ditched his pants under the Radley's gate, when the washer in the hotel laundromat beeped for me to add the soap. Holding the book in one hand, I managed to measure the detergent and lift the lid with the other while I kept on reading. Suddenly this prized paperback was swirling around in the bubbly water. I grabbed it, and tried to salvage it with the hairdryer, but it was crispy and wrinkled the next morning, beyond repair. I replaced it immediately with a pristine copy that begged for a red pencil.

Turning to the last two pages, I underlined Scout's childhood memories, described with such tenderness: "It was daytime and the neighborhood was busy" . . . "It was summertime, and two children scampered down the sidewalk" . . . "Fall, and his children trotted to and fro" . . . "Winter, and his children shivered . . . silhouetted against a blazing house" . . . "Winter, and a man . . . walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog." I could savor the whole book again in just a few sentences.

My childhood is a tender place to visit, too. I run barefoot down the burning, softened asphalt to catch the ice-cream truck; sit on the screened-in porch late at night, with the perfume of lilacs hovering in the air; smell the furnace on that first chilly morning; taste Grampa's sour green apples, sprinkled with salt; sprawl on a blanket in the backyard, and listen to my dad sing You Are My Sunshine while Aunt Marie strums her ukelele. It all seems as imaginary as Boo Radley's soap dolls in the tree. But it's inside me, as are Heck Tate and Aunt Maudie. I experienced it all.

Books help me recall chapters in my life. Characters' lives are entwined with mine. Being inside an author's mind is an intimate thing. It's like knowing their soul.

Homework: Pick one or the other, or be inspired.

~Read something on your book shelf for sheer pleasure.

~Blog about a book you've read over and over. Prompt: "I can rifle the pages of ____and easily find my favorite part about____."

"As the book finishes, I go as slow as I can.
I don't want to leave this book's world."
—Jill Robinson

40 comments:

Beck said...

"...smell the furnace on that first chilly morning..."

Ahh, now that evokes memories of Autumn and school days and that new sweater you've been dying to wear but couldn't because of the heat!

Thanks for the "assignment" to read- I think I'll really enjoy doing this one!

kenju said...

Marty, I am constantly amazed at how good a writer you are.

~Kristina said...

http://tinastree.blogspot.com/2009/09/book-shelf-soulmates.html

Oh yes! The Book Shelf in my house is frequently visited.

crissy said...

We just moved over the weekend, and our house is filled with boxes. But, of course, the boxes of my books were the first things I unpacked. My shelf is now overflowing with my books and papers. It's a beautiful sight.

I will be reading The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton. It has been my favorite since I first read it.

hannah said...

going to raid my pile of to-read books. that shelf has been untouched for a little too long. thanks for the encouragement.

to kill a mockingbird is one of my favorites too, thanks to my mom who insisted we read it, and ingrained in our hearts that atticus was one of the most noble men that ever "lived."

cannwin said...

What an entry. It makes me think of my own childhood books that I read until they literally fell apart. (I still have them though, taped haphazardly together and sitting in my own daughters bookshelf).

Perhaps you'd be interested in reading an entry or two of mine about the same topic. (I'm sure I've got another book I can do the homework on)

I titled it Fire, Water, and the Written Word..

This is part one of three:
http://cannwin.blogspot.com/2008/10/fire-water-and-written-word-part-1.html

Melodee said...

I accomplished this one. I read almost daily for sheer pleasure. But i did the other one too:)

{jordan} said...

A perfect assignment for me today! In going to grab some throat lozenges, fill a mug with warm lemon water, make a cocoon out of grandma's blanket and then get me in some serious snuggle time with Mr. C. S. Lewis. It's going to be an awesome date...

And thank you for the wonderful compliments- they mean so much!

Annie said...

Marty, Just wanted to pipe up and say I'm going to join in as soon as my out-of-town visitors leave! Can't wait to dive into Oma School.

Thanks for this.

Amanda said...

http://edgeonlife.blogspot.com/2009/09/first-assignment-book-shelf.html

thank you for this!!! i really needed it.

Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather @ Alis Grave Nil said...

Be still my little English teacher heart. *contented sigh*

Link to Assignment 3

diane said...

Love this post. I've spent much of my life with my nose in a book.

Gift from the Sea is one book I frequent. My grandma introduced me to Anne Morrow Lindbergh. I'll be forever grateful.

Rebekah Writes said...

I'm going to read Jane Austen's Emma, which I have been meaning to read in sooo long, but haven't got around to, until now. I hear Austen is such a treat to devour.
yeah...thanks for inspiration!

Christie said...

You are such a great writer. For me, the first book that ever did that for me was Wuthering Heights, though many more have joined its ranks in my head over the years. That was my first "real" book. LOVE this idea.

Alana said...

Oma, this has been so inspiring. I'm really enjoying it. Thank you, thank you!
Rivers, Canyons, Lovers.

SaraLynn said...

This is wonderful! Thanks for doing this Oma :)

My link

Erin said...

I have been a Jane Austen fan for years. Have read Emma and Sense & Sensibility a few times each. Have watched any and all film versions of Pride and Prejudice. But you know, I don't think I've ever actually read it! It's sitting on my headboard, waiting for me to get cozy under the covers with it tonight. Can't wait to enter Elizabeth Bennett and Mr Darcy's world!

Thanks for the wonderful reminders about To Kill a Mockingbird. I forgot how much I loved that book in high school. That might be my next pick. A perfect fall read, methinks!

crissy said...

Wrote about this on the blog.

Diane said...

I love that book, too. One of my very favorites! Here's a link to my review:
http://pleasesaysomethingremotelyintelligent.blogspot.com/2009/09/book-review-guernsey-literary-and.html

tawnya said...

I'm so excited for this! I'm off on vacation for a week, but I'm anxious to catch up once home.

I love the assignment to read. I think it may be time to pull "Necessary Madness" by Jenn Crowell off the shelf and reread!

Melissa said...

Funny this post should come today- I decided to pick up The Princess Bride and read it during my spare time last night. Although spare time is somewhat of an invisible luxury right now ( I have a month old baby and I'm doing my student teaching) I've vowed to allow myself 15 minutes of me time a day...

Jessica said...

Am currently reading Timothy Egan's Lasso the Wind. It is pure prose pleasure. I have to stop and reread lines outloud just to be able to roll the consonants around in my mouth. I love it.

middleofthetable said...

today's homework was easy.

and if nothing else, i'm learning how to use html and put images on my blog without doing it directly from flickr, etc. :)

thanks for this class!

~j. said...

My favorite so far.

Queen Scarlett said...

Done!
I am a book worm

smeagher said...

This was a blast! Thanks for all the fun topics. I didn't thing I would have so much to say about reading.

Happy Reading!!

Assingment: Here

Allison said...

Here ya go.

Hope I did the link right!

soybeanlover said...

Thanks for the encouragement. I'll be trying to finish the book 1491 by Charles Mann...if the kidlettes cooperate.


P.s. I finished your love story last night and loved it!! Thank you.

KJ said...

http://sassypiggy.blogspot.com/2009/09/writing-assignment-bookshelf.html

Heffalump said...

I will try to complete this one this weekend. The reading for pleasure. I am usually pretty good at that, but this week has been particularly busy and I haven't had a chance to crack open a book.

audrey said...

I did the reading assignment and then a small blog entry about my favorite books and forgot to comment. Here it is.

dalene said...

At the basis of every good book is a compelling story. I did something a little different (thanks for that "or be inspired" option) and reconnected with the child in me who loves a good story by attending the Timpanogos Storytelling Festival.

Polly said...

I'll visit my friends Jem, Scout and Atticus anytime, along with Scarlett and Melanie and for a little Irish history "Trinity".

Miranda said...

I'm pretty much in love with the idea of reading To Kill a Mockingbird again (scampers off to see if she still has copy) Here it is! I'll start today!

ailidh briar said...

here's my homework

Lauralee said...

I have learned to love to read as an adult.. I wrote about it here.
www.onesweethappylife.blogspot.com

Amanda D said...

All of the books I read are for sheer pleasure. Very seldom do I read to learn something, although I am making more of an effort this year.

I loved To Kill A Mockingbird when I was in high school, but when I picked it up a couple years ago it wasn't for me. Perhaps, I should try again?

Mickelmonkey Mama said...

I loved your post. We loved this book so much that our daughter's initials are J.E.M. If nothing else, we hope that it will motivate her to read it when she gets older. Here's my homework.

debby said...

such a great book. one of my only repeated reads, in fact.

repeat offender