When we have house guests, more often than not we wind up taking them on a little trip to one of our very favorite places, the Book Barn, a huge used bookstore, with two satellite stores, in Niantic, Connecticut. Most of our guests are eager bookworms and they come away impressed and smiling with arms full of books. Even more often we go, just the two of us. Today we made it there early, ahead of the rain, so now we’re back home and happily tucked in for a rainy afternoon.
Lately I’ve felt like a dormant bookworm waking up from a long nap, like Rip Van Winkle, discovering that a lot has changed while I was dozing. I can’t believe how many books I’ve read the past couple of months and what sorts of things related to reading can be found on the Internet.
Clicking around from blog to blog this past week I was amazed to find that there are more than a few blogs about books, just books, and there is a social network named GoodReads, and site called the Historical Fiction Network. Not to mention many websites devoted to some of my favorite authors. There will probably be a lot about books in the future of this blog, but I’m not going to limit myself to this subject. But for now, to celebrate my reading revival it seemed like a trip to the Book Barn was in order…
When we go to the Book Barn we usually go our separate ways, Tim favoring science fiction and I love exploring historical fiction, among other things, like genealogy and consciousness. Greedy thing that I am, when we meet up my pile of books is usually higher than his, no matter how much I set out to come away with fewer books than he does…
The store is actually a huge three-story barn and several smaller buildings and makeshift nooks and crannies surrounding it. Cats roam freely inside and outside. One can snuggle up in a chair with a cat if one so desires… Gardens filled with ornaments and baubles line the paths between the buildings. Two goats have an enclosure to themselves. The business even expanded to two “downtown” and “midtown” branches, ¾ and 1 mile away.
When I was in ninth grade, many moons ago, I had a few “defining moments” about reading and writing that left an impression on me.
My English teacher said that we would be spending a good part of the school year reading the Bible as literature. That kind of excited me because my father was an atheist so I knew nothing about the Bible, except that my maternal grandparents loved reading the same passages of it every night while they were separated and attending different colleges. Seemed very romantic to me! So in class we studied the Hebrew scriptures pretty thoroughly. When it came time to start on the Greek scriptures, to my shock and disbelief, the instructor announced that this part of the Bible was obviously written by delusional people so it wasn’t worth covering. Excuse me?? Our last weeks were spent studying science fiction, at which I turned up my nose. The teacher – don’t even remember her name – told me in no uncertain terms that science fiction was written by very intelligent people and enjoyed by very intelligent people. I was not convinced at that time, equating it with the trashy stuff it seemed my then boyfriend liked to read. Still can’t get into it much, although husband and sons and even daughter have tried to warm me up to it. And yes, they are all very intelligent! 🙂
I also took Creative Writing in ninth grade. Turned in a short story assignment and the teacher – can’t remember his name either – asked me to see him after class. He told me my short story was very well written and that I should consider becoming a writer! Couldn’t believe my ears! He also told me I should read a John Updike novel, because I had a similar writing style. Don’t remember which one I tried to read, but I disliked it. I couldn’t see the similarity in any way, shape, or form!
Adults are so hard for confused ninth graders to figure out!
When I was in tenth grade, we were living in Greece and I attended an international high school. When we were asked to write a short story, out of laziness, or maybe I really did want a second opinion, I turned in the same short story I wrote in ninth grade. Again it was praised, and this teacher wrote some very helpful comments about why she thought it was good, for which I am grateful, even if I still feel a little guilty about my deception.
And the memory losses of middle age are sometimes hard to fathom. When my children were very small I read a James A. Michener novel, and I’ve been trying desperately all day to remember which one it was. None of them ring a bell of recognition. But I did read one and remember being very impressed when I learned how much meticulous research he used to do before writing each book. It was that book that made me realize how much I love the historical fiction genre and how much respect I have for the authors who do the research so thoroughly. Sigrid Undset comes to mind, and a book I couldn’t put down this past week, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan, by Lisa See. Surely there are many others.
I love writing. I love the swirl and swing of words as they tangle with human emotions.
~ James A. Michener
My darling husband startled me when, out of the blue, he explained to the owner of the Book Barn that I was taking these pictures for my blog. I wanted to crawl under a rock But the owner said, “That’s wonderful! We welcome the exposure!” So if you are ever close enough to make a trip, be sure to stop in!
For more pictures, a slide show can be found on the Book Barn website.