Summer reading & “Race Weekend” on the horizon…

So far in the two weeks that I’ve been up here at my summer place of exile, in the land of southwest Michigan, I’ve read a number of fun and interesting pieces of writing. And though I should be devoting more time at this point to doing my own writing and working on my next project, I have found the reading life much more beneficial at this point. I know, as in summers past, I’ll get the writing juices flowing about this time next week. And there’s a good reason for this. But first, my thoughts about what I’ve managed to read up here on the shores of Magician Lake.

Philip Caputo
Philip Caputo (Photo credit: Airstream Life)

I began my summer reading with Philip Caputo’s delightful book The Longest Road: Overland in Search of America, from Key West to the Arctic Ocean. It’s an easy and pleasurable read, mainly because I love stories of folks who have “hit the road,” and it is one that makes one wish to pack up and join up with Caputo and his wife and their two English setters as they roll along, mile after mile, in their pickup truck with a vintage Airstream in tow.

Of course there is much more than a simple reporting of the various places they pass through. More important, there are the people whose lives, for one reason or another, are forged in the towns—dying or thriving—where they live in today’s America. It’s this very thing that is the force behind Caputo’s purpose of making the long trip in the first place. As he travels along, the question, what holds us all together, surfaces at every turn, in a light and humorous voice every mile of the trip. It’s a wonderful read!

My other is A Study in Sherlock, a collection of short stories based on the Sherlock Holmes Canon, and I found each story therein to be well written and equally as fun to read as Caputo’s book.

Being a longtime Holmes fan, I enjoyed the offerings of featured writers such as Lee Child, Jerry

English: Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. W...
English: Sherlock Holmes (r) and Dr. John B. Watson. Illustration by Sidney Paget from the Sherlock Holmes story The Greek Interpreter.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Margolin, S.J. Rozan, and Dana Stabenow, to name a few whose work makes up the contents of the book. I was familiar with Lee Child from his Jack Reacher books, but most of the others were new to me. I must say, that their stories in this collection have whetted my appetite to read more by each of them. I suppose that’s how we increase our reading wealth.

Now, as for my own writing efforts to finally get kickstarted next week is simple: Our cottage is busy with our two grandkids for a few days, followed by our annual NASCAR “Race Weekend”  beginning this coming Thursday.

For many years, several relatives and friends gather here for a multi-day party leading up to our trek over to Michigan International Speedway very early Sunday morning for the race. We’ll return that night and everyone will filter out for their homes in Illinois, Ohio, and various other points on the map on Monday. After a brief recovery period, I’ll be ready to get my writing routine in full gear when it will be just me during the weekdays.

And so this will probably be the last post until that time. I’m sure I’ll have some cogent points to make about “Race Weekend,” so come on back next week. It’s sure to be worth the effort. Until then…CortlandWriter

The grandstands for Michigan International Spe...
The grandstands for Michigan International Speedway in Michigan. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Ole Rolvaag, Silas Marner, and other memories from reading classes…

Not long ago, I wrote about some of my favorite short stories, particularly ones that are oh, so good to read during

The Bookshelf of Sherlock Holmes
The Bookshelf of Sherlock Holmes (Photo credit: bcostin)

this wonderful time of the year—October into November. Of course, there will always be selections of Poe’s best works on my lists and the canon of Sherlock Holmes’ stories so faithfully given to us by Dr. Watson, via the talents of Arthur Conan Doyle. But any list would also have to include many from my school days—those stories I was assigned to read in English reading classes from grade school on up.

Like any young person, I had no idea at the time just how much of an impact many of the assigned reading experiences would have on my life. Writing now, eons later, I can reflect and truly appreciate just how good it was to be “forced” to delve into stories—short & novels—and I would love to turn back time just a bit to re-read many of them in that youthful time frame and, perhaps, glean even more “stuff” from them.

Some of my most wonderful memories stem from my discovery of many a story and author I read for a class assignment. And I really believe that my eventually becoming an English teacher was inspired by the wealth of literature I had the pleasure to experience with each passing year growing up. Granted, I was not enthralled with everything I was expected to read, but there are certain ones that are still with me, all these many years later.

For example, the name of Ole Rolvaag evokes fun memories as an 8th grader, reading excerpts of Rolvaag’s classic Giants in the Earth, which was about Norwegian pioneers trying to make a new life for themselves in the Dakotas in the 1870s. I became caught up in the will and the drive of those determined pioneers. Plus, I would never forget the author’s unique name, one that rolls off the tongue.

Cover of "Silas Marner (Signet Classics)&...
Cover of Silas Marner (Signet Classics)

Later, in high school, I read George Eliot’s Silas Marner, a book that has not been taught in many years, which is a shame in my opinion. The book, which is about a reclusive weaver in the 19th Century, is a beautiful tale of hope and redemption and human goodness, and the author makes some swipes at organized religion throughout. I found the book better and better the farther I got into it. Of course, having an enthusiastic and passionate teacher, who brought the story into our lives and helped us understand the marvelous characters that populate the book, made it all the more worthwhile and inspirational. Because I remember gaining a greater appreciation and love of literature through the efforts and passion of that teacher, I cannot help but believe that my desire to become an English teacher myself had a big “push” from that wonderful literature class in the summer of 1966.

Of course, there are so many more examples of the literature that influenced my life in one way or another, and it will be fun, from time to time, to write about those. For now, though, I will let my mind travel along with those Norwegian pioneers as well as paying a visit to Raveloe, where Silas Marner still tries to find his spot in that world and to clear his name. These are wonderful memories for a sunny and chilly late-October morning….CortlandWriter


A time for the short story…

Portrait of Porter from frontispiece in his co...
Portrait of Porter from frontispiece in his collection of short stories, Waifs and Strays. O. Henry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not long ago I wrote about October being a wonderful time to enjoy the vast array of spooky and creepy stories. It’s also a time to get after some of the classic short stories that we read in school long ago or taught to students through the years.

Thus, I began to recall some of my favorite short stories and their authors, doing some research as a “refresher course” to aid me in remembering why the stories were so good. It’s been many years since I read them, but it didn’t take me long to put each on my list, re-affirming their ranking way up there in my “favorites” list.

Many of the stories fit the “good-for-October” spooky theme I wrote about; others are just good stories that are timeless and worth reading again and again. I will be adding to this list, but here’s the first part:

  • “Lamb to the Slaughter”-Roald Dahl
  • “The Open Window”-H.H. Munro (Saki)
  • “The Interlopers”-H.H. Munro (Saki)
  • “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (Ambrose Bierce)
  • “The Last Leaf” (O. Henry)
  • “The Cop & the Anthem” (O. Henry)
  • “The Rocking Horse Winner” (D.H. Lawrence)

What short stories would you add to a “favorites” list? What short story authors are your favorites? Post them in a reply as I’d love to build this list into a long one….CortlandWriter