Well, now that I’m all settled in here at my new home (thanks to all of your for following me!), it’s time to announce the winner of a signed copy of Months and Seasons by Christopher Meeks. If you missed my review last week, click here. I’ve had a great time exchanging emails with Chris, and in the process of selecting a winner, he wrote a guest post. So, without further ado, here’s author Christopher Meeks.
Contests, like other things in life, are a combination of talent, luck, and phlogiston, the once-posited fifth element after air, earth, wind, and fire. In fact, this reminds me of a letter I received from my friend Jim Juul recently. He’s founding the Church of Good Luck. True. At first, I took Jim’s notion as something Flannery O’Connor would think up if she had overcome her Catholicism. However, Jim’s so serious that he set up his church under the umbrella of the Universal Life Church of Modesto, California, and he’s received an honorary Doctor of Divinity. He’s an ordained minister now of his own church.
He made sense when he wrote, “I came to the conclusion that God probably has better things to do than worry about or interfere with every little thing that is important to me. I figure creation is basically rolling along, and me and you roll with it. Some things are in our control and we do what we can with those–like wearing a seatbelt or getting a decent education and so on.”
My father once said something similar: “Life is like Las Vegas. Winning is all randomness but yet you get to choose what table you’re at.”
With these thoughts in mind, I came to this contest. Our illustrious blogster, Rebecca the Book Lady, winnowed down the submissions to her seven favorites. Here’s where the Minneapolis St. Paul airport comes into play. I found myself without a book for the flight back to Los Angeles yesterday. I went to the closest newsstand, which had a small array of pocket-sized paperback books, including the top twenty bestsellers—and many novels by David Baldacci, John Grisham, and Janet Evanovich.
As I looked over the mainly mysteries, thrillers, and romances, I was reminded of something Charles Baxter wrote in his book about writing called The Art of Subtext: Beyond Plot. He said for years he was baffled by the lack of choice at airports. He said the techno-thrillers and romances “provide materially overdetermined hypernarratives that aim to reduce the scale of human beings in relation to the things that surround them… The only element left in doubt is the outcome of the plot, not the vagaries of human nature.”
Then he realized that people flying have so much anxiety, they don’t want to fall into the mysteries of life and the unknowable, things one gets in literature. Rather, they want a good guilty pleasure of a novel where “everything that needs to be said can and will be said.”
However, yesterday, on the second-to-the-bottom row of books at the airport was a title that stunned me, so out of place, it could have been a peacock at a hyena show: Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger. I bought it to not only prove Baxter wrong, but also to reread a book I hadn’t read since high school.
I’m loving it. Even though it’s over fifty years old, it’s still contemporary in spirit. Holden Caulfield can be honest about some things, such as his sadness, and totally self-deluding in other things, such as why he’s upset that his lothario roommate, Stradlater, just dated Holden’s friend, Jane Gallagher. Little truths slip in throughout the narrative, such as “I was sort of crying. I don’t know why.”
Another comes in Holden’s reaction to a teacher who tells him that life is a game. Holden thinks, “If you’re on the side where all the hot-shots are, then it’s a game, all right—I’ll admit that. But if you get on the other side, where there aren’t any hot-shots, then what’s a game about it? Nothing. No game.”
I probably could have finished the whole book during the flight, but Salinger’s style and character revelation inspired me to pull out the manuscript I’m editing of my next book, The Brightest Moon of the Century. I enjoyed that, too.
This leads me to selecting “erisian,” #29 on the list, as the winner, who quoted Holden Caulfield saying, “Don’t ever tell anybody anything. If you do, you start missing everybody.” Erisian goes on to explain the quote, saying, “Human nature is so simple. The connections you make with others does nothing but strengthen your inability to be a hermit. Simple communication can destroy one’s ability to stay separate, clean, and clear.” Well said.
This isn’t to take away from the other quotes, which are also fabulous. They all take in mind life as we live it and some of the hard and beautiful lessons we come to see. You’re all winning just from the books you read.
Thanks, Chris! I’ve also blogged about airport reading habits….looks like we have some similar opinions, though I was significantly grouchier about it
Congrats again to erisian…I’ll be contacting you soon.