book beginnings on Friday: Sea of Cortez: A Leisurely Journal of Travel and Research by John Steinbeck and Edward F. Ricketts

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.

sea of cortez

I am feeling good to have finally found time to open a big fat Steinbeck book I have had on my shelves for years (and yes, moved across the country with me). Coauthor Ed Ricketts was, among other things, the model for the character Doc in Steinbeck’s Cannery Row. That was my first Steinbeck, and I loved it, and thus that was my introduction to Ricketts. I have heard about their shared work of nonfiction for years, and spent some time myself on the Sea of Cortez, kayaking by day and sleeping on the beaches of Baja by night. So, much to look forward to here.

The very first lines paid off.

The design of a book is the pattern of a reality controlled and shaped by the mind of the writer. This is completely understood about poetry or fiction, but it is too seldom realized about books of fact. And yet the impulse which drives a man to poetry will send another man into the tide pools and force him to try to report what he finds there.

I have been studying creative nonfiction writing for a while now (aside from reading and appreciating it), so this concept really struck me. I knew I could count on Steinbeck. Now when will I find the time for East of Eden?

book beginnings on Friday: Ripper by Isabel Allende (audio)

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.

ripper

She is not perfect: I found The Japanese Lover to be, not bad, but less than she is capable of. But I still look forward to reading Isabel Allende.

Ripper begins:

“Mom is still alive, but she’s going to be murdered at midnight on Good Friday,” Amanda Martín told the deputy chief, who didn’t even think to question the girl. She’d already proved she knew more than he and all his colleagues in Homicide put together.

I thought that was a hell of an opening, and the pages that follow are equally engaging. Stick around.

book beginnings on Friday: Fun Home by Alison Bechdel

fun home

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.

I loved Are You My Mother?, and don’t know why it took me so long to pick up Fun Home, her earlier work and sort of a partner to Mother. She is still hilarious, insightful, and smart.

Because this is a graphic memoir, I’ll have to do this beginning a little differently. Here is an image of the whole first page.

fun home start

That reference to Icarus was when I knew (not that I doubted) that we were going in a good direction. I can’t wait to spend some more time with Bechdel and her wacky family and amazing mind.

book beginnings on Friday: The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.

It felt like a great and happy luxury to take time out of my professional reading to read this book just for me. (Actually it is referenced as a standard by a book I was hired to read, and you will see that one come up later. But I already had this one on my desk. So it counts.) I was struck immediately by the opening lines: how perfect.

tender bar

We went there for everything we needed. We went there when we were thirsty, of course, and when hungry, and when dead tired. We went there when happy, to celebrate, and when sad, to sulk. We went there after weddings and funerals, for something to settle our nerves, and always for a shot of courage just before. We went there when we didn’t know what we needed, hoping someone might tell us. We went there when looking for love, or sex, or trouble, or for someone who had gone missing, because sooner or later everyone turned up there. Most of all we went there when we needed to be found.

There is, of course, a certain special bar that I think of, where I have gone when happy and when sad. Miss y’all.

Just a few paragraphs later, another piece of profundity:

While I fear that we’re drawn to what abandons us, and to what seems most likely to abandon us, in the end I believe we’re defined by what embraces us.

I think this will be a good one, friends.

book beginnings on Friday: The Rarest Bird in the World: The Search for the Nechisar Nightjar by Vernon R. L. Head

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.

Today, a fanciful and wondering story of birdwatching in our strange world. It begins:
rarest bird

Eyes are for searching, and sometimes the search is for eyes in the night. I blinked, turning my cheeks to the dusty mud. Shapes slid before me, slicing like the shadows from a tent, stealing bits of shine.

It was an elemental evening in Ethiopia.

Among other things, I have enjoyed encountering places in this book – like Galveston Island State Park (where I have played since I was a baby, and where a dear friend works as park interpreter today), and Haleakala, a mountain in Hawaii that I have ridden a bicycle down (but not up). Stay tuned…

This quotation comes from an uncorrected advance proof and is subject to change.

book beginnings on Friday: Things That Are by Amy Leach

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.

I am fairly certain that it was Hali Felt, author of the outstanding Soundings, that recommended this book. I’ve had it on my shelf for years, and am so glad now that I have finally gotten around to reading it.

THINGS THAT ARE by Amy Leach.Things That Are is already sort of blowing my mind, and feels right up my alley: fanciful, dreamy, but also very rooted in the real world; whimsically lovely writing. I’ve only just begun, so stay tuned for the review: we’ll see if it sticks. But for now, wow. It begins with a chapter called Donkey Derby:

Usually all we have to do when we go a-conquering is build a boat, find a benefactress, recruit a ribald crew, and wear radiant glinting helmets. With these four easy steps my kind has conquered far-away lands, and seas and moons and molecules.

And I have the impression she will mine all those fields, that is, far-away lands, seas, moons and molecules (and maybe some of the implications of going a-conquering, too). Let us hope.

book beginnings on Friday: Body Toxic by Susanne Antonetta

Thanks to Rose City Reader for hosting this meme. To participate, share the first line or two of the book you are currently reading and, if you feel so moved, let us know what your first impressions were based on that first line.

This memoir by a local author and professor at my local university comes highly recommended, and at a glance the subject looks fascinating, too. (Sometimes – I might even say often – excellent writing carries a subject I’m not consumed with; but better to have both.)body toxic A brief blurb reads, “For readers of Refuge, A Civil Action and Silent Spring, comes a harrowing story of a family, a body, and a place: an immigrant family in the Pine Barrens of southern New Jersey, a hauntingly beautiful, hauntingly compromised landscape.” Who is not intrigued? And those titles cited for comparison: wow!

It begins:

In nineteen question-mark question-mark my silent grandfather came to the United States.

He left the hot chatty island of Barbados and because he existed in silence no one knows when he came.

Simple, but a lot has already been communicated; and I love the “hot chatty island.” I am optimistic.

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