Friday, March 30, 2007

When selecting books...

Stanley Fish had a piece this week in the New York Times (and also discussed yesterday on NPR) about choosing books in the few minutes before boarding a plane. He mentioned that he reads the opening sentence or two of a book to make a quick selection.

I've long used this practice, in addition to reading about the author, when making any purchase though I often tend to keep reading, sometimes through the first chapter, as I stand next to the bookshelf. As a rule, I try never to rush through the purchase of books. Thought I'd share the most recent purchases from Half-Price Books based on that criteria.
"It was inevitable: the scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love." — Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Many years ago I read "One Hundred Years of Solitude" and it remains high on my list of all-time favorite works of fiction. I read that first beautiful sentence (and on to the entire first chapter) and was hooked.
"In the town there were two mutes, and they were always together." — The Heart is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers

I'm definitely in a southern Gothic fiction mode right now, relishing the stories of southern eccentrics. I remember Frances Mayes telling me during an interview that the south "values its eccentrics." I read on and learned that one of the mutes was an "obese and dreamy Greek" and the other was simply "tall."
"The grandmother didn't want to go to Florida." — A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories by Flannery O'Connor

I'm nearly finished with this book and will likely finish over the weekend. As I finished a short story before bed last night I was thinking about how brief a period of time each one encompasses—mere minutes in some cases. A good writing lesson there on narrowing your focus.
"A nurse held the door open for them" — The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty

Okay, so that sentence didn't sell me on this book -- Eudora Welty sold me on this book. She's a master storyteller and one of the first southern writers I connected with while still in college. Somewhere in my basement archives is a book of contemporary narrative nonfiction that contained my first taste of her writing. I can add this one to my collection of Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction by women.


We leave for Florida next Thursday afternoon and I'm already dreaming of the sun, sea and sand. Didn't realize how much I needed the vacation until the family talked me into going. Now, on this Friday morning, it's all I can do to keep my thoughts focused on work instead of salty gulf breezes, warm sunshine on my face and white sugary sand you can bury your feet in.

I'm thinking now that I don't have enough reading material. Good thing I'm going to Columbus later today. My sister and I plan to make a trip to The Book Loft where I'll likely add to my vacation reading pile. Any recommendations? If so, please share the opening sentence.

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