Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A topographical map of reading matter

Lying exposed on the sofa, The Art of Teaching, by Jay Parini. One third of the way through, I'm finding rich striations on how Parini became inspired in his schooling and how various teachers affected him. Nearby, atop fanned pages of my latest story and sandwiched between loose layers of New Yorkers, Elizabeth Gilbert's collection of short stories, Pilgrims. I'll not read her Eat, Pray, Love (are those the verbs?), no I won't, but a look at her biography put me on to her fiction. The first story in the collection was wonderful in voice and characters; it felt authentic. Wedged unexplored just above the Gilbert collection is Sarah Vowell's set of essays, The Partly Cloudy Patriot. Oh, I keep it for another day.

At comparatively stratospheric elevations, the books upstairs receive, at present, less attention. To name those stacked, like ancient water-stranded stones, atop my writing desk would be to merely namedrop; retrieved from the library, they've now become part of the landscape. Those beside my bed, where the Parini book is remoored each night, at least see some activity: Barry Hannah's odd short story collection Airships, faded blue-and-orange letters on the cover, is topmost. Lower, and delved into for odd gems on odd occasions, is the most recent Pushcart annual. And somewhat forgotten, in a second stack, lies Terry Pratchett's non-Discworld Nation; several chapters have yielded their wares, but I don't know whether I'll continue--I'd taken it from the library thinking it might work for my eighth-graders, but now I think not.

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