I began my diary of read books in August of 1976. It was The Camp of the Saints by Jean Raspail. First published in 1973 it is an apocalyptic story of mass migration from poverty-stricken India to Belgium. I remember a feeling of body weakness as I read that book that I still periodically feel when I hear certain news.
That book gave me an ungodly awful feeling of moral turmoil and dilemma. The poor who would give up their babies to the rich, the world’s desperate in a ship anchored offshore of France with thousands of hungry people. The people with the beautiful and the plentiful on their plates unable to feed the legions heading to their shores.
It may have been that one book and its lifetime memory that caused me to start recording every book I’ve read since then that wasn’t strictly research. The first full year I kept was 1977 and I read 44 books. In 2013 I read 39. There are books I don’t remember much about like Queen of Dreams by Heather Valencia about a Yaqui dreaming woman, but reading my scrawls in red, blue, black ink and pencil prompts me. Makes me remember a mood, impression or subject.
It’s like a black and white photo of childhood. There is recorded proof something happened and sometimes just seeing that small bit of fabric in the dress I was wearing or the curl on my head that I had through all my adult years until recently as I’ve started to age and it has softened and fallen like evidence in sand, I will be reminded of a sound or a feeling.
Many books I would have forgotten without the written prompt, but with the title, author and when I read it, I can recall more of the story though I can never quote. But what is better is that with the year and the month recorded I can recall a few more tatters of life memory.
In 1999 I told a woman I had read 7 Tattoos by Peter Trachtenberg. We had an animated, ego centric, culturally hungry conversation about that book being way over-rated by a New York agent who had never traveled west of the Hudson and was probably being black-mailed by Trachtenberg. Yup, that was our view and we bonded over it. I’ve come to like Easterners now (now that I know a few) and I’ve learned myopic vision usually goes two ways.
My mind is not a steel trap, but I’ve admired its quirkiness and willingness to explore or at least entertain new ideas. But it needs help. Prompts help me recall submerged thinking, pull up what is at the bottom of my mental ocean. So to speak. That’s why I started writing reviews. Not for my electric brilliance in skewing authors in insightful literary examination of the deepest sort. Nope. I want to sit myself down and make myself listen to my thoughts, hear them rattle, make them coherent, force myself to make connections, and for gawdsakes Rebecca, learn something.
On the front page of the notebook is a line written by my son when he had recently learned to write in cursive. “What’s for lunch desert?” He was impressed with my book listing and we opened to a new page about two-thirds in and began his list. His began with Whose Nose Is This? by Dr. Richard Von Gelder and ended a few years later with Firestarter by Stephen King.
When I was in Toastmasters I mentioned the list in a talk and teased myself that perhaps when the book is filled with entries I’ll be obligated to die. I’ve still got a ways to go, but I’ve wondered if I should slow down my reading.