August Book Thoughts


I wasn’t sure where to fit my monthly “Book Thoughts” into the new schedule, so I figured I’d stick it on Friday this week and work on a better spot (Two posts in one day?  *gasp*) later. 

The Importance of Music to Girls by Lavinia Greenlaw 

My earliest memories are flooded with the music of the time.  Alabama’s Christmas album played late into the night by my mother while “Santa” wrapped the presents in our living room, New Kids on the Block fueling our rock star dreams in a backyard outside of Pittsburgh, and Tool blasting away my anger at a recently deceased father in a locked bedroom in North Carolina.  Music has been that one linear, ever-present being in my life.  Due to the overwhelming importance of it in my daily life, I knew I couldn’t possibly be the only person catapulted toward adulthood who had these ties. 

More than that quest to know that I am not alone, I wanted to understand why I found (still find?) it much easier to relate to music than other people.  My high school classmates surrounded themselves with each other.  They amassed in the courtyards to create overwhelming hordes that looked, talked, and acted exactly alike.  Why was I more at home in my car enveloped with music? 

I found Greenlaw’s book during a monumental trip to Boulder.  I had made the trip to Denver simply to seek out a used bookstore that had reached epic status in my mind with all the tourist research I had conducted.  “When you go to Denver, you MUST stop at the Tattered Cover.” 

As City of Lights Bookstore was based in sub-culture, Tattered Cover seemed rooted in politics.  Needless to say, I was out of my element, yet enthralled. 

What does all of this have to do with Greenlaw’s book?  Well, a lot.  I think about books in the same terms I think of boyfriends and friends.  You generally remember where you met them and what was going on in your life.  I met The Importance of Music to Girls in a bookstore in the most beautiful part of the country where I would begin to fall in love with live music again.  On my drive back to Texas, I knew I had to find and read that book. 

As with boyfriends, friends, jobs, and cities, the book was nothing like what I had expected it to be.  Greenlaw is a bit  “older” than me musically.  She was living in England during the rise of disco and punk.  She watched the progression of music in England as we went from tight leather and spikes to tight leather and big hair.  In other words, my mom’s younger friends could probably relate to the music she talked about.

The book never really went into the mechanics of why music was important to her… or girls.  It actually never really showed any kind of importance.  The music was just a vehicle for her to tell her story.  You can tell it was important to her because it was present.  She remembers the songs, the bands, the feelings.

The book lacks any kind of real direction.  It seems like it would be more comfortable labeled as a “coming of age memoir” and I probably would have appreciated it more if I hadn’t expected to explore what it advertised itself to be.  I wanted to have a common experience with someone.  I wanted to see music through their eyes.  I guess, in a way, I wanted Rob Sheffield’s Love is a Mix Tape in a younger, female voice.

Finding Mrs. Warnecke by Cindi Rigsbee

Temple Public Library always had a strange mix of books.  You couldn’t believe my surprise when I saw North Carolina’s Teacher of the Year (3 TIMES!) as an author of a book on a shelf 19 hours away from where she teaches.  Who in Temple, Texas would want to hear what a teacher in North Carolina has to say?  (Nothing against NC teachers, but Texas is extremely cocky.  They are the best and they don’t want to hear about anyone else doing it better.)  I was fighting my own feelings of failure in trying to become gainfully employed as a teacher, so I picked it up.  Perhaps remembering why I began teaching would fuel the passion I felt I was lacking.

The book is essentially about her reason for teaching, her experiences as a first-year teacher in a wild classroom, and her hunt for “her teacher.”  (All teachers have one.  It is that one teacher that you looked at and said “I want to be just like them.  I’m going to be a teacher.”)

Mine, of course, started as Mrs. Mitchell.  She “adopted” me and allowed me to teach her social studies classes in the 7th grade on Take Your Daughter to Work Day.  Once I began teaching, Mrs. Chapman showed me the true passion it takes to survive a high school classroom.

Mrs. Rigsbee takes the reader on her adventure from the beginnings and the life of a life-long teacher.  The book was extremely short, broken into small chapters for the busy reader.  It really only took one night to read but was well worth it.

Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy

I’ll admit.  I picked this book up because of an album by Ben Nichols.  The album, called “Last Pale Light in the West,” explores each of the main characters in turn.

The book was nothing like what I had expected.  I had gotten used to his styles through the other books of his that I had read (All the Pretty Horses, The Road, “The Stonemason”) but nothing had prepared me for what waited for me in this novel.

First of all, I must comment that this is by far the most gory piece of literature that I have ever read.  Up until this book, the image of the screaming horses and trench warfare of All Quiet on the Western Front and the rat-eaten child of The Jungle were images I never thought would be topped.  I was very, *very* wrong.

The novel is heavy on description (which is part of why it is so gory).  McCarthy’s love for the west shows as his characters bounce through Mexico and the American West as scalpers.  The descriptions are breathtaking, sometimes haunting, and always detailed.

Because of the graphic nature and the endless description of every detail, I don’t think this book is for everyone.  The beginning is slow, the ending is slow, but the middle makes it all worth it.


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