Friday, October 7, 2011

The Memory of Rapturous Books

I finally got around to reading the very funny I Feel Bad About My Neck by Nora Ephron.  One of my favorite essays appears near the end and is titled On Rapture. Nora waxes rhapsodic about her love for books, and describes feelings that any book lover will recognize. She hasn’t loved every book she’s read but she has vivid memories of books that she has, the way they have transported her and the connections they made in her life.

I was intrigued that she can remember which piece of furniture she was sitting on when she was transported. First I wanted to create a display in the store to feature her rapturous books (I just did this, come check it out) but then I started to wonder what my rapturous reads were and could I remember the details of when and where I read them? My book memory goes back a long way, into my childhood. I know I went to the library a lot, and read the Reader’s Digest Condensed books we had on the shelves in our living room. I was such a voracious reader that I read everything that we had in the house, my older brother’s books and sometimes to my Mother’s consternation, the romances that an Aunt was reading. I also remember that when I was near the end of a book that I knew would make me cry, (and yes I read a bunch of those) I had to close myself in the bathroom with it, so that no one in my family would see me and make fun of me for crying over a book. As a total aside I was a tad sensitive and remember trying to hide the fact that I would cry at the end of every episode of Lassie, when she would sit there and wave her paw at me with this sad, whiney music playing in the background. As a teen I also read a lot of books after I saw the movie (Separate Peace, Three Musketeers, True Grit, Logan’s Run) each one of these meant a lot to my teenage heart. My point is I have a LOT OF BOOK MEMORIES!

Of course these days I can barely keep track of what I just read, so I started to keep a notebook with simple line listings of what I read with just Date/Title/Author. I’ve also just started to be good about entering books into my Goodreads account. But rapturous reads? Books that have transported me? Here’s what I came up with.

Lorna’s Rapturous Reads
Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre I remember the cover of the paperback edition I read. It was a white background with the silhouette of Rochester on a horse the horse was rearing up with the figure of Jane in front of it- I cut this image off the cover to my paste onto my book report. I was in Junior High and I read and reread Jane Eyre many times that year.
Willa Cather’s The Professor’s House I can’t remember the details of where I read this book, I think I had to read it in college, the copy I have is still underlined. It was the first Willa Cather I read and I loved it- especially the story within the story about Tom Outland (what a name!). It set me off, as many books do, into reading and collecting the rest of Willa Cather’s work.
Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale I was discussing this book with Betty recently and realized I had it stuck in my memory in an entirely different year. It came out in 1983 but I thought it was much earlier. I read it for the first time when I worked at the Lauriat’s in Shoppers World, at the recommendation of our Pocket Book rep (obviously when it came out in a small paperback). After reading it and being transported by it, I found out one of my favorite college professors was including it in a class she was teaching on magical realism. Oh my joy and excitement to read it, and dissect it, in a classroom setting, with one of my favorite teachers.
Elisabeth Gaskell’s Cranford (note I’m still reading those books I see on film) I sat in a chair by a lake on vacation, I did not get out of my seat until the sun went down. I was surprised and thrilled at how timeless it seemed. I was amazed at how strong these women were, and how it seemed in Gaskell’s fictional Cranford, even the smallest details of every day life can make a life richer.
So what are your rapture reads? Please read Nora’s essay, and if you want more on the subject try Pat Conroy’s My Reading Life his send up to the meaningful books in his life.

-Lorna Ruby, book buyer

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