Read What You Want

Recently, having discovered I'd never read Middlemarch (I could have sworn I'd read it during my all classics all the time phase in my early 20s), I set out to read it. And... I just can't get into it. Perhaps that is too strong. I don't dislike it (oops double negative, but 2 negatives don't mean I do like it). I want to discover what happens, even though I don't understand why Dorathea married Causabon or why so young (give it some time, see who else comes along, pull a Lizzie Bennett). Then she vanishes from the story for what seems an extended period of time. But I digress. I'm 140 pages in and I find myself just not picking the book up. Just not doing it. Then I stumbled across Ann Patchett, recorded on a panel discussion where she explains that she does not eat meat because of Wilbur in Charlotte's Web. Well, I don't eat meat because of Wilbur in Charlotte's Web. I was so distraught about the circle of life described in that book, I can barely describe it, and certainly not to my meat and potatos parents. I'd never heard of anyone else with such a strong Wilbur reaction. I'm also familiar with Ann Patchett because she opened a physical bookstore, crimy! Once again I was surprised to realize I'd never read anything by her. So I fired up Scribd (sorry Oyster, they had an Android app first AND have audio books), picked out one of her titles, The Magician's Assistant, and read it in one day. It was wonderful.

Lesson: read what you want! Go where your heard tells you to go!

P.S. I do want to read Middlemarch. I want to know what Rebecca Mead sees in it to write a whole book on her multiple readings of it. I suppose now is just not the right time for me.

O're the Ramparts We Watched

Today, on the 200th anniversary of Francis Scott Key writing the poem which would one day become the national anthem of the United States, I write my thoughts on the best book I've read this year: All the Light We Cannot See, by Anthony Doerr. This novel is the only place I have ever seen the word ramparts used aside from the national anthem, and it must be used 25 times over the course of the book. So many times that I finally looked up what it meant (how embarrassing to not know!). Rampart: noun 1. Fortification. a broad elevation or mound of earth raised as a fortification around a place and usually capped with a stone or earth parapet. such an elevation together with the parapet.

2. anything serving as a bulwark or defense.

Got it? No? Here are some ramparts right on the cover of the book: All The Light We Cannot See

Ramparts play an important role in the book, as one primary setting is a town in France nearly surrounded by water, definitely invaded by Germans, during WWII.

But I digress. I adored this book. I learned new things. I saw things through the perspective of others, including a blind girl, not a pun. And yet, the light we cannot see is not a reference to her blindness, that would be too obvious for such a multifaceted novel. I thought the novel was describing the German occupation of France from two perspectives: a French girl and a German boy. I thought that was a fantastic framework to use, one character from each side, one from each sex, children - so they "see" the war through less jaded eyes or perhaps become jaded as a result. The short chapters from each to really show the contrast in their lives. Each of them, in addition to being children, has lost at least one parent, so they are less protected than other children How terrifying that must of been (and yet Marie will tell us she is not brave, she gets up and lives her life, as she must). The light they cannot see is the good in others, the life of a child who does not grow up terrified by war? Oh the many perspectives on the same historical events, making one think of all the other untold stories we will never know. Fantastic.

Then I heard the author speak on the novel. The above wasn't what he set out to write. No, he was writing about the use of radios in the war, the transmissions the light we don't see (I think). The children were the framework to tell that story. And I thought how people look at the same thing in so many different ways To me, the radio was a minor character, not the point, to the author, something else. It's his work, perhaps he should drive the meaning, but I've learned that what we perceive is how we view reality. So for me, it's about these two characters and their perspective of the war. And I'm not wrong, and I feel I've gained from reading it and thinking about the story long after (especially the occasional end of chapter shocker which felt like it cut me).

Minor Spoiler alert The only part I that was a bit much for me was the diamond story, which would vanish for long segments of the book. Let's say the diamond ends up in the ocean. I could almost hear Celone Dion singing my heart will go on and Marie whispering that Werner saved her, looking back on it from 2014. No 'you jump, I jump', but still.

Read this book immediately. The story, the writing, the detail, you will not regret it.