Books and Authors

Reading with an 8-Month-Old

Before my son was born and in those hellish 3 months after he was born, I read to him. But it was like reading to a brick wall because all he cared about was eating, sleeping, and crying if he wasn’t having enough time doing the former two. Experts (I have no idea who these “experts” are) say that children should be read to as early and as often as possible, and I like reading, so I followed that advice. I literally read everything out loud to him, including parts of adult books I was reading. He didn’t even blink at some of the bloody scenes. Did I scar him for life? I’m not sure, but I guess it’s better to be scarred from a book than a movie.

Now that he’s 8 months old, the reading might be paying off. He’s actually somewhat interested in books. However, they have to be board books. If it’s any other kind of book, the first thing he tries to do is tear the pages out and eat them. Even lift-the-flap books are a bad choice because the second I look away, his gooey hands return to the flaps and try to rip them off. The next thing I know, the flap would be in his mouth and reduced to a pasty mush.

Most of the board books my son has are about farm animals and the noises they make. I don’t really understand why it’s so popular for kids to read about farm animals when they most likely will never live on a farm or visit one for any extended period of time. The most exposure they will get to farm animals is probably petting zoos at the state fair.

His favorite book of all time is My First Touch, Feel, and Play! which describes a bunch of anthropomorphic animals and their playtime, and parts of the book have different textures, so he can feel something besides paper as he attempts to destroy the book by pulling the flaps off (yes, this book has flaps). He seems to enjoy the textures, because he will run his hands over the book and stare at it, simultaneously coating the pages in drool.

I never thought reading could get more fun. I still don’t exactly understand how they learn by ripping books apart and chewing on the pages, but… whatever it takes, right? 🙂

Books and Authors

Retired from Writing

Someone at work must have been getting rid of their embarrassing romance novel collection, because there were a ton of free books sitting in the break room. I can’t resist books, and every now and again, I will read a romance, just to roll my eyes at how unrealistic and sappy it is, so I picked up a few of them.

One of them was written by LaVyrle (have no idea how to pronounce that) Spencer, an author I had never heard of. The book itself was pretty good, a contemporary (for the time it was published: 1995) romance, although I found the male love interest kind of boring. But this post isn’t a review of the book. To me, romances are pretty much all the same and that one followed the same pattern.

I read some more about the author online and found out that the book I read was her last book and that she would be retiring from writing. What a luxury! But who could ever retire from writing? I remember reading that Stephen King, after he had his accident in 1999, said he was going to retire from writing. But he never did. He’s written tons of books since then.

King sure as hell didn’t keep writing because he needed the money. He must have done it because he couldn’t not write. I wonder if the same was true of Ms. Spencer. Did she truly love writing? If so, how could she just stop? Perhaps she had some kind of physical injury that would prevent her from writing. Maybe writing became too mentally taxing or emotionally painful.

Or maybe she didn’t retire from writing but from publishing. That I can understand. It must be freeing to write whatever the heck you want on any schedule you want, without worrying about publishers and editors breathing down your neck.

I don’t know what I would do if I was a published author with several novels already under my belt. Would I retire from writing if it had become like any old day job? Perhaps. It is hard to say because I have never been in that position.

Books and Authors

The Dogs of March

SPOILER WARNING!!

As far back as I can remember, my parents owned a book called The Dogs of March (Ernest Hebert). When I was a kid, it fascinated me because the word “dogs” was in the title, but there was no picture of a dog on the cover, just a bleak winter landscape. The font was too tiny for me to read, and there were no pictures, so I put the book down and went back to Berenstain Bears or Henry and Mudge.

Fast forward 20-something years later, and I’ve moved out of my parents’ house. I’m unpacking books at the apartment, and there’s The Dogs of March, sitting inexplicably in my book pile. I guess I must have grabbed it without thinking. Likewise, without thinking, I put it on my bookshelf and didn’t think of it until I picked it up again pretty recently and thought, “Well, it might be time to finally read this.”

I’m glad I waited as long as I did to read it. If I had read it when I was a kid and somehow gotten to the end, it would have given me nightmares. That’s not to say it was a bad book. Absolutely the opposite. I would say that The Dogs of March was one of the better books I have read in the past few years, and now I understand why my parents kept it around.

The novel chronicles the life of Howard Elman, a poor, mostly illiterate everyman from rural New Hampshire. He’s got four daughters who pay him no mind, a son who’s gone to college and thinks he’s an intellectual, and a wife who is fascinated by the Roman Catholic religion. Howard has recently lost his job, and the rich lady who’s just moved in next door wants to buy his house and his land, on which he’s parked a bunch of old, rusty cars that he shoots at with his gun when he’s bored.

To be honest, there’s not much of a plot. The book is more of a slow-burning literary novel, and the “dogs of March” is a metaphor. Apparently, in the woods of New Hampshire in the winter, the neighborhood dogs run deer and get uncharacteristically vicious as they roam in a pack away from their owners. At some parts of the book, Howard is the dogs, and at other parts, he’s the deer.

The Dogs of March had its depressing moments. Actually, it was the literary equivalent of the most depressing song in the known universe: Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” I swear, every time I hear that song while driving in my own car, I get so blinded by tears that I feel like smashing into a bridge abutment. But the book did make me consider the futility of some things in life. You can work hard and meet all the “adult” milestones but still be missing a lot, and life will go on around you after you’ve passed on.

The book ended nicely, perhaps a little too nicely for something that started out so dreary. I learned that it is actually the first in a series, but I’m not sure whether I want to read the others. Even so, I enjoyed The Dogs of March; the author managed to blend the funny parts of life with the realism and the notion that we’re all just human after all.