Can it be the end of January? Reading bookends my month, as I struggle to recall a title that I really enjoyed—arguably far-fetched—but can summon the basic plot. I have written this in today’s morning pages:”Last day of January, hit a reading slump. I picked up a mystery, Brazen, by Loren D Estleman, tried to stay with it…almost did, skimmed the end. Hollywood’s former grandeur, its allure, is lost to me.”
But, no, that’s not really true. Wasn’t there a book I gobbled up recently that centered the golden age of Hollywood with its main character? What was that book called?
It seems like I’ve just finished it, but when I look over my book list (yes, I keep one of those with brief, or not-so-brief commentary), there it is, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, completed on… December 29th? How can that be?
My book list serves me in another way this morning as I eye the stack of books that I am returning to the library without having finished. Do you have that experience? I’ve discovered a great review, reserve the book, and find that when I actually begin to read, I am not engaged. I spend time actively looking for books: I am a reader. This morning, though, the question arises: “What if I never find another great book? What if I’ve lost my love of reading?” My reading list reminds me to keep at it.
While working with students yesterday, I traveled back in time with a book and author the teacher I was filling in for had introduced to his students, Chris Van Allsburg’s gem The Mysteries of Harris Burdick. Each student had selected one of the brilliant artworks from the text and was using it to craft a story.
It is no easy task to craft fiction—it boggles me—but several of the students let the cryptic images carry them away. One in particular took Van Allsburg’s rendering of an open window and wallpaper with birds in a direction I have never before imagined. “No,” the student explained, “they are not flying away. They have come into the window from outside…to be safe.” I remember hearing Chris Van Allsburg speak once, and his words echo: “For me, story always starts with images. I know I’m not alone.”
Yesterday marked my last day of teaching in January, 2023, but it gives me hope: There will always be other stories to discover.