books along the way

Sometimes I wish I read less. I panic when I have nothing to read, no pages to turn in my bed at night, my own  bed or a strange one. I brought Lilac and Flag by John Berger along with me but finished it two days into this ten-day (thus far) journey. I’d read the other novels in the trilogy, Into Their Labours, but somehow not this one. And JB is probably my favourite non-fiction writer or maybe I just mean favourite writer. Period. You forget what genre you’re reading — and it doesn’t matter, though universities are debating the fine points of creative non-fiction, the lyrical essay, documentary journalism, et. al. What is legitimate, what isn’t. What you can say and what you can’t. So there was Lilac and Flag for the first three days and then a visit to a bookstore in Santa Fe for Linda Hogan’s The Woman Who Watches Over the World, which is wonderful. And (because we were on our way to Taos) a biography of Mabel Dodge Luhan, which I’m reading right now. I walked over to her house last night and tried to imagine DH Lawrence in its garden, listening to the same magpies I was listening to.

A little while ago, we went into Tome on the Range, here in Las Vegas, and wow, there were tables and shelves of books I had to restrain myself from buying — because of space, mostly. My suitcase is already bulging and we will be going to Edmonton from here for five more days, which means more stuff (though I try to resist; but who could resist the Acoma pot from Sky City Mesa or the linen dress from Santa Fe?). But then I saw a beautiful edition of When Women Were Birds: Fifty-Four Variations on Voice, by Terry Tempest Williams, a writer I’ve always loved for her rich sense of the natural world and how our bodies respond to it (and our minds, too). So I bought it, of course. And couldn’t walk by a Willa Cather I haven’t yet read, The Song of the Lark — because I have had her Death Comes for the Archbishop in my head over the past ten days, travelling this landscape which Father Jean Marie Latour travelled through in 1851.

2 thoughts on “books along the way”

  1. Yes, and yes. Berger has long been one of my own literary constants, and I also trace the bond to “And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos”; there was a time when I regularly gave that book as a gift, an act I now recognize as an attempt to locate kindred spirits. Yes to the sorrel soup in “Here is Where We Meet”, and to the tender love in “To the Wedding”. I will miss John Berger: his generosity, and his curiosity most of all.

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