Having a period of time off the net while DELL was "building" my new computer, I spent alot of time reading, and also had some time to reflect on the written word and writing in general. So, I thought I'd share some of those thoughts with you.
I'm no stranger to the lure of the written word. Raised by a Children's librarian and an English Professor books were a staple of life. In our house, they seemed as important as food. My older sister loved to play school, and thanks to her "teaching" I read early and often. In addition to my own adventures attempting to read the address on mail coming to our home (occupant is a hard word for a 3 yr old), my father read to the entire family each evening after dinner creating sonorous tones that painted vivd word pictures in my imagination. So vivd that when the first "Hobbit" film came out, I was wildly disappointed when Bilbo looked more like a short furry bear wearing ill kept bedroom slippers
than an actual Hobbit! With Dad's help, we traversed through the Ring series, as well as The Odessy and The Iliad and other lesser known works before I turned 10.
As I grew, books continued to play a large role in my life. Each summer, in lieu of a babysitter, my mother would take me to the library with her. I tried one summer to read all the books in the Children's section from A to Z, but soon discovered some of the books on the Atmosphere were quite boring and techincal, so that plan was quickly scrapped! Each birthday and Christmas are marked with the memory of at least one rectangular flat package which both my sister and I knew held more reading material.
When I went to college I stumbled into a work study job in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library.
There, instead of mindlessly checking out books and shelving them, I learned to construct book boxes of acid free materials to hold valuable and decaying tomes. Each was custom made to the dimensions of the book, and took about 2-3 hours to construct from start to finish. In addition to constructing the boxes, I had essentially unrestricted access to the "stacks" which were restricted to the general public. This was a special treat for me as I enjoyed gazing upon the variety of ephemera and books that were collected. I came to be particularly fond of the vellum covered books. Vellum has a rich, yet translucent quality that especially highlights any colored inks applied to it. I pointedly ignored where vellum came from and enjoyed the strangeness of the delicate material.
What intrigued me the most, however, were the many volumes that were secured along the spine with a padlock. Here's an example (modern it seems) of what I mean.
The idea of locking up a book that does not contain monetary or proprietary knowledge these days is unusual. In times past, however, this was de rigeur. Clearly knowledge was not to be spread about willy nilly. I find this interesting especially because in the times when these books were created, the general population was not literate. I always wondered and thought about exactly who was being kept from these books! I also thought it sad that these days we have no need for locks on books, instead we have Public Service Announcements to try to encourage people to read more. Or perhaps the quality of writing that's printed is no longer so valuable as to be locked up for safety.
After college, I did continue to read, and to collect then and again the odd older book regarding Nursing/Medicine (and build a nice housing for the book as well…) and I discovered the pleasure of reading fiction again, rather than the odd assortment of textbooks, journal articles and power point notes that pepper student days.
With the advent of my very broken computer, I had 3 weeks in which to read. I made friends at the local library, and read the entire collection of Tony Hillerman novels. It was during this time that Colin Cotterills newest book Anarchy and Old Dogs was FINALLY released for sale. While I had enjoyed reading, I had not experienced this time of anticipation for a book in a very long time, even my anticipation of the Harry Potter series could not compare.
When it finally arrived, I found I actually had difficulty allowing myself to begin. It wasn't a long book and I wanted to savor it as much as possible. Cotterill is a new face in the mystery writing scene and he gives the Mystery a much needed fresh face and a boost. Anyone bored by traditional British Murder Mysteries should give Coterill's Dr. Siri Series set in 1970's Laos a good look.
As I began to read, I was stunned. I had anticipated the 4th book in a series to have some slippage either in the writing or the plot. The book IS as good as the first three. I found myself putting it down frequently to savor a phrase or two. I started it during a long night shift and eventually forced myself to stop because I was so exhausted that I felt I wasn't getting full enjoyment out of it. My work colleagues thought I was a bit unbalanced as they had never seen anyone that excited to recieve a book in the mail before. Once I recovered from my night shift, I found time to really sink into that book. I can't describe how nice it was to have my anticipation match the actual quality of the writing and the storyline. Cotterill blended enough familiarity of the characters with a storyline that was quite surprising so it wasn't a rehashing of a similar mystery with different dates and times… It kept me on my seat the entire time. I really mourned for the dissoloution of a once great friendship as well as the sad situations presented by Cotterill in newly Communist Laos. I measured each page carefully, looking at the bulk of the pages going from unread to read… It really was great pleasure to read and I was a bit disappointed when I finished as I wanted more!
I hope I can keep reading for the rest of my life, and I hope that really wonderful fresh authors like Cotterill that make a book exciting and something to be anticipated keenly will continue to be discovered!!!