Monthly Archives: July 2012

ISBN 9780684837888

A Farewell To Arms, by Ernest Hemingway

I am not a planner. An example of this—I bought my wedding dress the day before my wedding. Another example—each year my husband and I vow to go on an exciting trip for our vacation, somewhere exotic sounding like Sri Lanka, but we always end up taking a USA road trip because we fail to book tickets and hotels before they are too expensive. The conversation sounds something like this:

Husband: Did you book tickets for Brazil, yet?

Me: Did you know there are no snakes in New Zealand?

Husband: Our vacation is next week.

Me: Next week?!!?

Husband: Lord of the Rings was filmed in New Zealand.

Me: How do you feel about Texas?

This year, we missed the deadline for tickets again, but I was determined to plan for the road trip. I packed my underwear, swimsuit, and sunscreen. I bought bottled water and ten cows worth of beef jerky. I even went to the library to check out books on CD.

The selection at the library was sparse. There was a decent language section (good to know in case I ever needed to learn Russian in a pinch), a few best sellers that I had already read, and a lonely, dusty American classics section. I was in a hurry.

Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell To Arms. Ugh, I thought. I hate war books, but I do love Hemingway. I recalled a conversation with my friend E:

E: So I met this guy on Match.com

Me: And?

E: He likes Hemingway.

Me: And?

E: He said girls don’t like Hemingway.

Me: NO!

E: I told him that’s not true. You love Hemingway, and you’re a girl.

Me: Go on.

E: He said girls don’t like reading about (pause) war and (pause) hunting or (pause) horse racing or (pause) boxing and fishing, so girls don’t like Hemingway.

Me: And?

E: What Hemingway book should I read?

Me: All of them.

I grabbed Hemingway and several other 20th century authors. Maybe listening to a war book would be fun.

Once on the open road, I popped in A Farewell To Arms. A melodic voice explained that Hemingway served in World War I as an ambulance driver, and that this book was about his experiences from that time, but was in no way an autobiographical story. My husband smiled at me. The opening lines were read. I smiled at my husband. And then—

A scholar interrupted the story. Wha—

In my rush to get books before the trip, I hadn’t read the back of the CDs. This was only a sample of the book. In fact, all of the books I checked out were only samples. Stupid reading series! I yelled. You look like a real book!

I was forced to amuse my husband for the rest of the trip by reading him Laffy Taffy jokes and beef jerky ingredient listings.

On the last leg of our journey, we stopped in Sioux Falls. I begged to go to Last Stop CD Shop, a splendid little store on 41st & Louise that has always had any used book or CD I wanted (I’m talking, The Hold Steady and Lady Antebellem –  don’t judge). There I found a copy of A Farewell To Arms—$4, tight binding, like new. Destiny.

The book sat on my self since then, with its haunting first lines whispering to me each time I passed. I really thought this was a war book, but since I love Hemingway, I figured this would be the next book for the blog.

I had to force myself to slow down as I read. The book was not about war. Well, it was, on one level, the way perhaps The Hunger Games is about a girl who tries to not get killed in a televised event, but this had a likeable protagonist, a real protagonist. With a real love story, not something convoluted and tagged on because the masses demanded it. And hey, I’m not saying anything bad about The Hunger Games. I’m just saying if you liked those books (I did) you’d probably be interested in this one.

Because it was also funny. Heartbreakingly funny.

But, oh god, the sentences. I just couldn’t get over the writing on a sentence level. At a party earlier this week, I explained to my friend J. that I was reading Hemingway:

Me: I’m reading  A Farewell To Arms, and it’s not about war.

J: I don’t know how Hemingway writes such simple sounding sentences, but they aren’t simple at all. He makes it seem easy, but it’s not easy . . .

Me: It’s not about war . . .

I finished the book on the last day of my boring part-time-I-just-got-this-gig-to-pay-my-student-loans job. I wasn’t supposed to be reading on the job, but it was hot, the booth had no air conditioning, and I had no water. So this was like, payback, for being a crappy job. Plus, it was my last day and they weren’t getting me a cake, or at least a poorly thought out card with half a dozen signatures on it for my four weeks of awesome service. I digress. I finished the book while sitting at the security gate for the yard of an oversized retail farm outlet.

After reading the last line, I re-read the opening pages. That son-of-a-bitch. Hemingway planned for it all along. I’d have to talk to my therapist about this.

Amongst the hunting stands, fence posts, kayaks, lumber shed, and tractors, I set the book down and wondered why there was war, wondered how we were capable of both loving and fighting.

And then, I cried.

In public. Just fell to pieces, right there in the guard shack, wearing my blaze orange uniform.

I hadn’t planned for that.  I just hadn’t planned for that.

*The copy of A Farewell To Arms that I have must be a fake or something because it doesn’t have an ISBN. How is that even legal? Anyway, this ISBN is for A Farewell To Arms, just not the same as my bootleg copy.*

3 Comments

Filed under Books, Life

ISBN 0-307-16548-5

Richard Scarry’s Best Story Book Ever

The concept of this blog is to read all of the books that I own, but have not already read. So, why did I break my rule on the very first post and choose Richard Scarry’s Best Story Book Ever instead of choosing say, Don Quixote or Round Ireland with a Fridge?

Because it’s THE BEST STORY BOOK EVER, and it’s filled with 82 wonderful round-the-year stories and poems. The fact that I’ve read it one hundred and ninety-nine billion times as a child doesn’t matter.

I’ve never read it as an adult.

This was the first book I learned to read. My grandmother had to bribe me with candy and ice cream to sound out big words like “bear” and “went” and “chalet”. I distinctly remember telling her that I did not need to learn how to read and that reading was stupid.

She told me that if I didn’t learn to read, then I’d never make it as an adult. She asked me how I would get the news if I couldn’t read the newspaper.

I snarled. Someone would tell me. That’s how.

She asked me how I could be sure they wouldn’t lie to me about the news.

I asked her how could I be sure the newspapers weren’t already lying to me? I believe we went to McDonalds after that.

Back then the book seemed impossibly large. I never thought I’d finish all two hundred and eighty-eight pages, and I’d sure as hell never, ever be able to sound out “helicopter”.

Now I finish the book over the duration of one good soak in the tub, and I wish it took longer. The opening page shows Papa Bunny reading the Daily Carrot and the headline reads: TORTISE WINS RACE. I found that to be a metaphor for my career, where years ago, it just never made sense that the rabbit didn’t win. He was faster.

I start to remember the scent of purple ditto alphabet pages, warm to the touch, and clouds of chalk dust from when it was my turn to clean the erasers outside by banging them into the school’s brick walls. I close my eyes and I can hear the zip of my grandmother’s golden butterfly keeping cadence; she had the habit of tugging her charm along her necklace while she read, or thought, or smoked. These alphabet letters bring her back to me and make it just a little bit hard to keep on reading.

The pages between are filled with characters, old friends that I’ve missed, such as, Farmer Hee Haw, a donkey who works so hard on his farm that he doesn’t have time for friends, Ali Cat, Couscous the Algerian Detective, and Schtoompah The Funny Austrian.

I learn that this little pig cried, Wee-wee-wee-wee, I can’t find my way home. All this time I thought it was: Wee-wee-wee-wee, all the way home. I thought the pig was crying because he didn’t get any roast beef. Freaky when you imagine a pig eating a cow.

I learn that one should keep a light burning, so that the witches who live in your castle can find their way home at night. That you should never fish in the moat. That the crow was a silly bird for letting sweet talk fool her. That Henri Farman flew the first city-to-city flight. That the Albatros was the prize of German fighter squadrons in World War I and the Voisin was a French observation plane. That city mouse was a jerk. That one of the first locomotives was called “Puffing Billy” and was made in England. That contrary to my adult belief, Austrians are funny. That the alphabet has twenty-six letters that can compose an infinite amount of stories, and that we really aren’t children long enough.

8 Comments

Filed under Books, Growing up

I’m Officially ‘That Girl Who Reads Books’

Dog and Cat In Library
Snagged from:
http://www.clipartpal.com

I’ve decided to create this blog to hold myself liable for the books I have amassed. I am a sentimental person. I cry as often as I laugh, and I hold on to things, books in particular, because memories live within them—I don’t even have to read a book to attach a memory to it.

This blog is an attempt to utilize the books I own, set those memories free, and find a new home for my collection.

That Girl Who Reads Books is not a review of books, but I imagine it will sometimes seem that way. I do not plan to give any of these books negative commentary because 1.) I feel that books just have a hard enough time being books 2.) Someone out there spent a lot of time and energy on them either writing or publishing  3.) I’m not a professional book critic 4.) There’s enough negative energy out there, why add to it?

Not only will I be reading all of the books I own, but I will also be reading all of the books my husband owns, as well as children’s books I picked up for when my nieces visit.

I hope to post twice a week,  limiting myself to 700 words. But be warned: I am a rule breaker.

Post titles will be the ISBN number of the book I’ve been reading. Why? Because I’m a nerd who doesn’t like coming up with titles for blog posts. And, in my opinion, ISBN numbers don’t get enough press.

To my husband and nieces: I will not give away your books without your permission.

To everyone else, if you like this blog, please share, and if you’d like to know more about the blog, check out the  ABOUT tab. If you’d like to know more about me, check out the Charlie M. Broderick tab.

3 Comments

Filed under Books, Fiction, Life, Uncategorized, Writing