Camano Island Library Pilot Project Blog

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Reacting to "The Year of Magical Thinking"

Our reading group (The Third Thursday Camano Island Library Readers) met on a wet and windy morning this week to discuss Joan Didion's book "The Year of Magical Thinking". Didion's memoir details her year of mourning after her husband's sudden death and her daughter's hospitalization. (Her daughter subsequently died just prior to publication of the book.) I was not looking forward to this discussion, and the dreary weather certainly didn't put me in a better frame of mind. It's one thing to talk about a great book, but quite another to deal with the feelings that Didion's exploration of grief dredges up. It turned out that all of us in the group were apprehensive, but we felt safe in the group to share our personal stories of loss.

We here in Library Land always mention "community center" as one of the features of a good library, and it was really brought home again to me as I listened to the sharing around the table. Sometimes I think we tend to focus on the big crowds we can draw, but a small gathering like this reminded me that a quality event can be as simple as 4 or 5 people gathered around a table, listening to each others' stories as the rain rattles against the windows.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Favorite first lines?

The opening sentence of a novel is the hook for most of us, the first chance for the author to grab our attention, and a great first line is priceless. My favorites?
James Cain's "The Postman Always Rings Twice": "They threw me off the hay truck about noon."

And who can forget George Orwell's first sentence from "1984": "It was a bright cold day in April and the clocks were striking thirteen."

Or from Garcia Marquez' "One Hundred Years of Solitude": "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternnoon when his father took him to discover ice."

A great opening sentence piques your curiosity, makes you hungry for more. Sometimes, though, it's just the delight in a well-crafted sentence: "Often he thought: My life did not begin until I knew her", from "Mr. Bridge" by Evan S. Connell.