A Geezer’s Notebook, By Jim Foster
A very good neighbour died this week. Our friend Lucy passed away last Wednesday evening. She was Mark and Angie’s Golden Retriever and lived next door. She was 13 and a half. Lucy was a wonderful dog, friendly, full of life for years but like the rest of us, time marched on and slowly but surely, her boundless energy began to wane. The past year was not kind to her; walking was painful I am sure, but she still came over and sat on our porch.
Granted she needed a helping hand to get up there, but she made it. When we first met her, years ago now, she was just a pup, a big pup, as I remember, but full of life and as I said before, friendly. She had a job, of course, she was no freeloader, Lucy visited people in the hospital, not a well-paid job unless you want to count the love she got from the staff and patients at Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital. I am sure Lucy enjoyed those visits as much as they did.
The family wintered in Florida, Mark, Angie, Lucy and Emma, the cat. But when they arrived home Lucy came right over. Emma could care less, apparently One thing that I found fascinating about Lucy was how she answered the door. If someone rang the doorbell, one WOOF -not two or three, just WOOF. She couldn’t waste time barking, she had things to do, like sleep, one WOOF is all you got. I have no idea why I chose to write about that, but I did. We are going to miss Lucy terribly. It has been a pleasure and a privilege for us to have known and loved her.
(On with the show)
Have you ever… no, of course you haven’t. No one else has ever started into a new book and realized you had already read it. Not only that you read the book, but you read it just a couple of a months before.
Of course, you haven’t had this problem because, like normal people, you read the summary on the back cover at the bookstore and if you recognize the plot, or the characters, or if it is a pocketbook the half-naked girl on the cover. You put it back on the shelf and go on to the next one. But some of us (well by some I mean me) aren’t smart enough to do that and we pick it up because we liked the title or are a great fan of a particular writer, buy the book and trot it off home eager to pour a Rusty Nail and delve into its wonders – the wonders of the Rusty Nail, not the book.
Well, I just did that, but it wasn’t just a month ago when I read Robert Ludlum’s The Sigma Protocol, but it was maybe a year or so before and I liked the book. By page 8, I knew who the first of the many bad guys was and remembered what was coming next. I should have put it down, but where the story went from there I couldn’t quite remember and decided to forge on to the end – skipping the dirty parts of course.
I have done this countless times (not skip the dirty parts) and it’s not because I am stupid (although that is highly possible and probably quite likely). It is just that I skim read sections a lot and that isn’t good for plot retention. I will skip whole paragraphs of detailed description, not all the time, but sometimes when I want to know what happens next and can’t spend all day. I read a lot of Bernard Cornwell’s early Britain novels. Bernard is great for going into great detail about forests, bogs, and the landscapes around battlegrounds so the reader will know what the armies faced; but most of the time I bypass all that and get on with it. There are problems with skipping these details. After I finished his Death of Kings, I wasn’t sure whether Lord Uhtred, the hero’s battles with the Danes were fought in England, Wales or somewhere off the coast of Venezuela.
That reminds me about either Woody Allen’s or Dave Barry’s comment about speed-reading after finishing the literary classic War and Peace. ‘I believe it was about Russia.’ I took one look at the size of the book and rented the movie.
I hate to blame someone else for my failings but sometimes it isn’t my fault. The little blurbs on the book jacket, or on the back cover of a pocketbook describing what is in the book, are often a little vague and can be misleading. Remember they are trying to rope you in. A classic example of one that fooled me was not on a book cover but rather the synopsis on the back of a video tape box. Years ago, I rented a Rambo movie, took it back, and the next day rented the same movie because the write-up sounded much better than the first one. Oddly enough it was mainly because I had one of the aforementioned Rusty Nails the second time around.
Occasionally publishers, especially American publishers, re-print a great writer’s book that sold well and change the original cover and even the title. I have blissfully bought a book and realized within a few pages that I have been conned and they have been known to do it more than once. I have been thinking about doing that with my book, The Crowning of Miss Mariposa. I am torn between renaming it Pride and Prejudice or The Bible, both seem to have done well in bookstores and none of the authors are around to sue me.