Keeping It Short (A Story About Books)

Man, I don’t how they do it. They being the book bloggers I’ve come across who not only read an incredible number of books — three and up per week — but somehow also find the time, and have the brain power, to write sharp and detailed reviews about them. My little ol’ head spins madly just thinking about those folks’ accomplishments. Even in the days of yore when I read books aplenty I’d never have been able to follow them up quickly with well-plotted, good quality commentaries. Uh-uh. That kind of mental grandeur and endurance I do not possess, and never did. To put it a related way, my thoughts do not exactly flow in structured torrents along my neural pathways to my typing fingers. Hell, I’m lucky if a writing session produces 150 words that fit together in a useable manner. All I can say is that I stand in awe of those book bloggers. To repeat, I don’t know how they do it. (Lynne LeGrow, whose blog is called Fictionophile, is an example of what I’m talking about. Click here to find her blog.)

I bring up all of this partly because this is the first opus I’ve written that touches upon my book-reading activities. As I alluded to moments ago, I used to consume more than my share of books, especially in the 1970s and 80s. Leafing through a list that I’ve been keeping since 1970, I see that I knocked off 45 volumes in 1971, for instance, and 59 in 1983. The latter is my highest-ever yearly total.

Alas, my bookish endeavors came to a grinding halt in February 2015 when I reached the final page of Birds Of America, a collection of cool short stories by Lorrie Moore. That’s when the dark months set in, months marked by so much fretting about my place in the universe and in the kitchen, I became a cowering wreck. Books could wait. Oh well, it might have been worse. Like, if Trump had been elected president. What? You mean he is president? Holy crap! Let me outta here!

But the dark times didn’t last forever. Quite amazingly, quite unexpectedly, a few weeks ago I found myself picking up a book that had been hanging around the house for a pretty long while. I ran through it in five or six days. And one day after finishing it I headed to a local library and took out a work that I almost immediately set upon. Two days later I reached its end. Bravo, Neil, bravo! Back in the book-reading saddle I am, and probably will remain there for a decent spell.

Book number one, The Outermost House, by Henry Beston, was right up my alley. In fact, it is surprising that I hadn’t turned its pages ages ago, as it is set on Cape Cod, a locale I’ve gotten to know and crazily love over the last 20 years. The Outermost House describes the months (autumn 1926 till autumn 1927) that Beston spent living in semi-solitude, housing himself in a two room cabin in the dunes of Cape Cod’s raw and wild Atlantic Ocean coastline. Many times I’ve trod on the very sands and wetlands that grabbed hold of Beston’s heart and spirit.

Beston’s book has become one of the so-called classics, remaining in print since hitting the marketplace in 1928, and apparently still selling pretty nicely. I loved it. Beston writes gracefully and has an eye for subject matter that you don’t frequently cross paths with, such as his lengthy descriptions of the differing types of sounds made by the ocean waves and surf. Next time I’m on The Cape I’m going to have his book in hand as I investigate some of the observations that his keen senses and abstract mind came up with. I won’t be able to check out his cabin, though. A violent storm in 1978 destroyed it.

Now that I think about it, I believe I had the notion in the back of my head for a while to reacquaint myself with books, and that I knew I’d have book-reading success only by taking baby steps. By which I mean I wasn’t about to tackle monsters like Dickens’ David Copperfield or George Eliot’s Middlemarch, both of which ain’t that far from the 1,000 page mark. No, whatever I was to read would have to be short, and The Outermost House fit the bill just fine. Its 218 pages are endowed with a large typeface and spacious margins. Perfect. So, I seized the moment and gave the dark months a hardy wave goodbye.

As with The Outermost House, short also needed to apply to the next book I opened if I were to have any hope of establishing a bit of book-reading momentum. Which is why I bow to the memory of the late Penelope Fitzgerald, whose remarkably slim The Means Of Escape, an okay-but-could-be-better short story collection, became the second title I conquered this month. I tell you, a more ideal specimen for length-phobic and trepidatious book readers would be hard to find. You want short? Hey, The Means Of Escape numbers only 117 pages, and a bunch of them are blanks that separate one story from another. The pages that actually contain printed words total a very genial and genteel 96. My kind of book, for sure!

On the living room sofa I began to gloat about my accomplishments to my wife Sandy as the final pages of The Means Of Escape drew within sight. “Can you believe it?” I said. “I’m about to finish my second book in a nine or ten day period.”

Sandy gave me one of those looks. And then she gave Penelope Fitzgerald’s micro-tome one of those looks. “That’s not a book,” she said. “That doesn’t count as a book.”

Oh yeah? I beg to differ. Was it sitting on a library shelf? You bet it was. Does it have a front and a back cover? Damn straight.

It counts!

 

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39 thoughts on “Keeping It Short (A Story About Books)

  1. The Artist's Child March 29, 2017 / 1:35 am

    I’m impressed that you’ve kept a list of the books that you have read for so long. I find when I’m busy it is hard to finish a book quickly. I had to send back a long book recently because it was overdue and I could not renew it. Ended up reading the last chapter to find out what happened. Although I love an epic read, sounds like you have found a good solution for the time poor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger March 29, 2017 / 8:23 am

      Hi. You know, I like your idea about reading the final chapter when you aren’t going to be able to finish a book. I’ll keep that in mind!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. sniderjerry March 29, 2017 / 6:44 am

    Ah…books, they say, are the gifts you can open more than once. One of the most valuable things in my wallet is my library card and the first stop at the mall is the bookstore. Read on Neil.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger March 29, 2017 / 8:24 am

      Hi Jerry. I agree about the library card. I hope to start using mine pretty regularly this year.

      Like

    • yeahanotherblogger March 29, 2017 / 8:26 am

      Hi. I’ve started another short-ish one. It’s a collection of short stories by Don DeLillo.

      Like

  3. Joyce March 29, 2017 / 7:56 am

    I never seem to find time to read a book with all my running around . I did take a book that l want to read on my last vacation. Never found time to open it. I will try sometime soon to read it……oh well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger March 29, 2017 / 8:27 am

      When you’re not in the habit of reading books, it’s hard to get into that habit. But I know you can do it, Joyce!

      Like

  4. vprofy March 29, 2017 / 10:18 am

    Always been a reader. Retired now, my wife complains, get rid of all those books. I started a reread campaign — books like The Outermost House. Amazing what a second reading sometimes revealed. Then I box them up for selling. Boxes have emptied some shelves.

    Keep reading and maybe rereading.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger March 29, 2017 / 10:46 am

      Hi. Changing the subject a bit: another very good Cape Cod book is the one that Henry D. Thoreau wrote. If you haven’t read it, I think you’d like it.

      Like

  5. Alyson March 30, 2017 / 1:11 pm

    I’m afraid since taking to blogging (and reading other people’s blogs) my quota of books read in a year has gone right down. No time for both it seems! Like you however I have been keen to get back in the saddle and bought myself one of those little journals where you record what you read/when you read it/what you thought of it.

    Ironically despite the fact that I live in Scotland (and yes we were responsible for Trump via his Scottish mother) I decided to read my way around America in 2015 – Chose a book where the State was the main character, so to speak, and worked by way round all of the Southern States then hopped up to the Lakes ending up in Michigan….. and that’s where I got stuck as blogging took over! Sounds as if The Outermost House could be a pick for New England and I am now more determined than ever to get back into it again.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger March 30, 2017 / 2:49 pm

      Thanks for your thoughts, Alyson. Your USA book reading program is a great idea.
      You know, I’ve also found that blogging interferes with my book consumption. I’m trying now to keep up the blog and also read books! We’ll see how that pans out.

      Like

  6. Alice March 30, 2017 / 7:42 pm

    As a fellow bibliophile who just recently came out of her own not-up-for-reading-books-right-now funk, welcome back! Isn’t it just the BEST FEELING EVER?!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger March 30, 2017 / 8:53 pm

      Hi, Alice. You know, one very great thing about books is that there are just so many of them. Over the years I’ve liked going to the library and taking out books by authors I never heard of, for instance. I came across many good books that way.

      Thanks for visiting. I’ll be seeing you —

      Liked by 1 person

  7. cincinnatibabyhead March 31, 2017 / 12:44 pm

    CB has the habit bad (Music, films, cigars….). Like my music and film tastes the books take in a wide range. I’ve found a groove over the years and have more than enough. Always good to find a new writer. Dickens etc for the longer reads. American crime, Williford, Thompson etc for the short snappers. So much good stuff out there for all tastes. God reading, watching and listening.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. circumstance227 March 31, 2017 / 5:01 pm

    Book blogs are also a conundrum for me. Either I know the book and then get engaged in a barely edifying back and forth commentary situation, or I don’t know the book and then add it to my already hopelessly long “To Read” list.
    As usual, listen to Sandy. The best reads are the ones where you lose yourself. Where you “can’t put it down” as the cliche goes. No one can immerse himself in a slim volume of short stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger March 31, 2017 / 5:27 pm

      Hi. You’re right. For now, though, I’ll be taking baby steps. Before too long, hopefully, I’ll move up to longer books.
      Thanks a lot for adding your thoughts. Much appreciated.

      Like

  9. Still the Lucky Few April 3, 2017 / 7:15 pm

    I’m a crazily consistent reader—always have one or two books on the go. So, when I read about how “The Outermost House” grabbed you, I thought, that’s for me. So I’m off to the library, or the bookstore, to find it. Hope it lives up to it’s reputation (as heralded by you!). Maybe you didn’t realize that, once you recommend a book, just as with a movie, you own the consequences, eh? (That’s Canadian for “Doncha know?)

    Liked by 1 person

  10. andrewcferguson April 5, 2017 / 2:18 am

    Keep reading, Neil! The only thing I’ve finished this year is Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, although to be fair it’s hardly a slim volume!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Martin April 8, 2017 / 10:47 am

    Great post. I can read very quickly when I have the time but I’ve really slowed down. Partly this because I’ve started reading some non fiction which always seems to take longer. At the moment I’m reading a book called “All Hell Let Loose” (at least I think that’s it’s name) which is a complete history of the Second World War covering all the countries involved. It’s really good but is a hefty read. When I be finished that I’ve got Bruce Springsteen’s book waiting. Oh and I’ve got to find time to write as well. Should keep me busy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 8, 2017 / 1:52 pm

      Hi, Martin. Bruce’s book is one I’d like to get to one of these days. It got great reviews.
      Take care —

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Aunt Beulah April 9, 2017 / 5:03 pm

    Welcome back to the world of readers, Neil. It had been a colder, lonelier place without you. And, yes, short books count. How long were the Dick and Jane books? Yet everybody got wildly excited when we read those.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 9, 2017 / 8:23 pm

      Janet, I’m thinking of reading dozens of Little Golden Books (if they are still being published) — my list of books read will swell like crazy that way!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Richard D April 10, 2017 / 5:16 pm

    Just picked up your blog after you put a like on mine. Thank you. Come to find out we seem to have a lot in common with music interests – I like just about everything – when I’m in the mood, blues to.Beethoven, and am an avid reader on wide topics, wife and I both. Kind of hooked on mystery stuff in general and recently got turned on to WM Kent Kruger series with hero Cork O’Connor. Both daughters now live in MN and these stories take place in the Minnesota Boundary Waters area, with lots of Native American lore thrown in.
    I was amazed to find your interest in Outermost House. My dad was a great admirer of Beston and I still have a large folder of notes he made about the book Beston’s life generally. Have not gotten around to typing them up yet, but you have inspired be to do just that. They were written back in the 50’s or 60’s when dad was writing poetry. I only found his notes last summer in my brother’s attic in MA. My dad, Ray c and my brother Ray J both wrote poetry and Ray J did mostly novels and short stories and somet of what they wrote is on my blog at http://rharding0728.wordpress.com/.
    I too have problems making time for all my interests and blogging as well. Currently in the process of relocating to MA after 32 yrs in FL. Gonna bite the bullet and check out my roots and spend some great off-season time on the Cape.Will keep an eye out for your postings in my mail box. Keep up the great work. Dick H.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 10, 2017 / 8:15 pm

      Hi, Dick. Thanks for the visit.
      My wife and I fell in love with Cape Cod about 20 years ago. It suits us just right.
      We have been staying for a number of years in a house not far from the beach in the town of Orleans. From that beach I think you’d have been able to see Beston’s cabin (using binoculars) if the cabin hadn’t been destroyed in a storm in 1978.
      Take care —

      Liked by 1 person

  14. cmwriter April 16, 2017 / 9:01 am

    I seem to read in streaks when I burn through books and then whoa, the reading comes to a halt for several months at a time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 16, 2017 / 10:00 am

      Yup, I know what you mean. Keeping up the momentum isn’t always possible.
      Thanks a lot for adding your thoughts. I’ll be seeing ya’ —

      Like

    • yeahanotherblogger April 17, 2017 / 2:36 pm

      Hello, Tom. I’ve poked around the dune shacks a few times over the years. Never been inside any of them, though. They kind of fascinate me.

      Like

  15. viewfromoverthehill April 24, 2017 / 8:29 pm

    Ha, I’ve always been a reader but recall complaining to my eye doctor some years ago that I can no longer read as long as I used to. His reply? ‘Me too.’ He was no help. I still read whenever I can with pleasure. Love your blog, Muriel Kauffmann

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 24, 2017 / 9:21 pm

      Hi, Muriel. You’re right — reading is a great way to spend one’s time .

      Thanks for stopping by. I’ll be seeing ya’.

      Like

  16. grimspound April 26, 2017 / 1:54 pm

    Loved this post, Neil. I’m into short myself these days, both reading and writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yeahanotherblogger April 26, 2017 / 3:53 pm

      Hi, Dianne. I used to read plenty of long books, but I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.
      Thanks for stopping by. Take care.

      Like

  17. Fictionophile July 27, 2017 / 10:38 pm

    Just realized that I didn’t thank you for the kind comment about my blog. Your words warmed my heart.

    Liked by 1 person

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