Monday, September 20, 2010

Home Again/Olive Kitteridge

As you certainly suspected, I didn't go fishing as my last post title suggested. I took Labor Day off, and then Steve kindly popped up with a review. So, I"m back, with a couple stories, comments...the usual. Let's dig in.

I took my traditional day before Labor Day excursion to Door County and stopped at The Garden Door, on highway 42 North in Sturgeon Bay. Tucked away on the grounds of the Peninsula Agricultural Research Station, you will find a wonderful secret garden maintained by the the Door County Master Gardeners group. The gardens are plentiful and unique - rose garden, butterfly garden, annual, perennial, water, grape...and several children's gardens. If you go, don't forget to look under the evergreen trees, and around every corner. You never know what you'll find hidden there.

One of my favorite stops in DC is a huge, architectural antique store. The owner spends part of each year collecting statuary, carved embellishments, stained glass and other relic type items from estates and mansions throughout the U.S. and Europe. I can spend hours wandering through the history he has assembled.

My visit this year was a little different. Were you lucky enough to read Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner" in high school or college? If not, here it is in a nutshell. A scary old man is sitting outside a wedding reception hall and, as guests arrive, he invades their space, usurps their time and tells them a creepy story. His tale is a moral one about a pirate ship manned by dead souls. There is a stern warning at the end.

On this particular day, the store owner was the mariner, and I was the wedding guest. He stopped me as I attempted to leave and began some small talk, for some reason recognizing me from previous visits. Eventually, the conversation progressed to details of his work resume, including a gig as a business professor at an Illinois college. His animated style and Jimmy Buffett persona carried the stories nicely, and I was happy to listen. Then things turned. He explained that, prior to opening his shop, he ran a demolition company employing ex-cons and Huber law workers. How did he keep them honest? Well, he claims to have "connections" that can teach people a lesson in a big hurry if needed. At that point. he put a firm hand on my shoulder and, equally as firmly said, "Nice to see you again. Next time you stop in, spend some money." I'm sure there won't be next time!


Our book group discussed Olive Kitteridge on Friday night. We were divided; the bulk of the group did not enjoy the book. I thought that might happen since that is the feedback I have gotten from customers. I was on the minority team, and will advocate for this book any chance I get. 'Olive' is a series of connected short stories focusing on a character so complex it would take me multiple posts to sort her out, and I am sure I would lose you all in the process. These are slice of life stories, none to happy, with no traditional story arc or resolution. We learn about Olive's life over thirty stormy years. She is an honest woman who speaks her mind, but needs an editor.
This is a book about secrets, brief encounters, powerful sadness, and scant moments of happiness. I know, I know, this sure doesn't sound like rewarding reading, but the writing is rich, and I found Olive so familiar that the book absorbed me from page one. If you chose to read the book, you may not like Olive, but you will certainly recognize her, and the others filling the pages. Perhaps, as I did, you will find pieces of yourself as well.

What am I reading now? I just started a young adult novel, Moon Over Manifest by Clare Vanderpool. I know I will like this one. Abilene Tucker's father put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend, -who claims to be a minister - while he worked a railroad job. Having heard stories about her father's childhood in Manifest, Abilene is determined to learn what he was like in his youth. Early on, she finds a box of old newspaper clippings and, along with two new friends, decides to follow up a leads buried in the newsprint. That is, until a mysterious note turns up warning her to "Leave Well Enough Alone."
Heart-A-Rama report...not much happening. The musical is nearly done. We meet tomorrow to write lyrics to the last song. Then on to a tweener. Fun!