Friday, September 23, 2011

Where will we have these discussions?

Roaming the aisles of a closing bookstore for a few minutes earlier today, I ran into an acquaintance who wanted to talk books. Always a good topic, especially surrounded by so many of the topic.

She asked if I had read a couple of authors and was looking for a good book to buy at 20% off on this day before the store closed for good. She asked about John Irving, and I told her he and I share a birth date. I told her I thought "World According to Garp" was a great book. She said she'd read the synopsis on the book's cover and didn't think she'd like it. I told her it was not at all the kind of book I had expected from comments from some friends when I read it 30 years ago. I found it intriguing and affirming about relationships. She said she'd read "A Prayer for Owen Meany" and liked it. I recommended "A Widow for One Year," but she'd tried it and didn't like it. We both agreed "Hotel New Hampshire" was too weird.

Looking through the stacks of books, "The Kite Runner" by Khaled Hosseini caught my eye. I handed the paperback to her and urged her to read it. "It's about Afghanistan, isn't it?" she said skeptically. Yes, I said, but it's a wonderful story and it teaches so much about Afghanistan. "Is it depressing?" Well, part of it is set in the Taliban era, so yes, but it's well worth the trouble. Hosseni's "A Thousand Splendid Suns" was lying on the next shelf. I recommended it also. She finally agreed to buy "The Kite Runner" but threatened to throw it at me if it wasn't good. I told her I had no worries.

I spent the next few minutes trying to remember the author and title of a book I've recommended dozens of times. Senior moment. By the time I remembered it, I was out of the store and halfway across the parking lot. I walked back to where she was sitting in her car and told her: "Magic Time" by Doug Marlette. She wanted to know the time period of the book. Marlette weaves together three time periods with the same characters — the civil rights era of the 1960s, the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and present day (2008 or 2009). I've told other people that I thought it was the truest, most accurate fictionalization of race relations in the South during the early 1960s. "The Help," another book I enjoyed but didn't remember to recommend today, has more recently tackled the same era from a much different vantage point and with a less complicated plot. I'm saddened every time I recommend "Magic Time" that Marlette, the editorial cartoonist who created the comic strip "Kudzu," died in a car crash not long after "Magic Time" was published. A literary tragedy!

With Books-A-Million closing, where will people in Wilson have conversations like this?

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