Tag Archives: Missy Abbott

The Re-Reading Project: The Book I Couldn’t Re-Read

This time last year, I had a small sheet of paper taped into the back of my journal with a list of twelve books jotted out. My plan was to re-read one of these twelve books each month in 2014 and write about the experience, what I remembered from my original readings and what I discovered reading them now. I’d first read almost all of these books before I was 16 (when I moved to Louisiana) and while I’d read most of them only one time, I counted them all as favorite, influential books.

In January, I quickly fell in love with the project and read 9 kids’ books. I was in the middle of moving for the second time in six months, so I think I was a little nostalgic for childhood and a semblance of stability. It was a lot of fun, in the middle of chaos.

February found me in my new home and brought me company in the project: my friend Maurice re-read an influential book of his own and wrote a guest post. I re-read a Japanese fantasy translated into English.

March brought a guest post from my sister Aimee, re-reading an author she introduced me to and who I would re-read later in the year, as well as a post of my own about re-reading a speculative anthropological romance novel.

As April opened, I re-read a gothic romance while on a train to visit my new love and my friend Missy re-read a philosophical horror novel I’d never read by an author who also wrote a series of books I almost re-read this year.

In May, I confessed to my history as a reader of romance novels and I re-read my first “real” romance novel, by a writer I’ve never read again, and then re-read a romance by a writer whose mysteries I still read, conflicted though I may be about enjoying them.

June saw me at my love’s house, re-reading a young adult trilogy by an author who disappeared for ten years and then became wildly popular again as two of her series were made into t.v. shows. My friend Mary re-read folk tales right around the same time her book of poetry inspired by folk tales was published.

July brought me heartache, but I pushed on and re-read a horror novel by the author my sister introduced me to at age ten and my friend Noel re-read another horror novel by a more famous horror novelist.

August took me back to school, re-reading three books I was assigned as a student, one of which I hated and one of which I loved, and I got on the road for the Residency Road Trip. Blogger Lisa re-read another canonical tome that impacted her.

September was an oasis of calm, of thinking, reading and writing and I re-read a speculative science thriller and my friend James re-read a magical realistic family saga by an author who died this year.

In October, I returned to “real life” and New Orleans, wrapping up the Residency Road Trip and settling back in. I struggled to re-read the book I’d originally scheduled for October and at the last minute changed it to a magical realistic romantic tale as my Peauxdunque cohort Emily re-read a romantic Civil War saga.

During November, I conducted my own private NaNoWriMo and happily re-read an adventure tale based on an ancient Iraqi folktale while another Peauxdunque cohort, Joi, re-read a gothic horror novel about suburbia and family (not written by Gillian Flynn).

December finds me in a familiar place – swimming through chaos and uncertainty. My friend Rachel re-read a satirical science fiction novel and I struggled, once more, to re-read the book I’d originally scheduled for October: a fantasy novel published in 1992 by an author who has switched to writing mysteries. (If you can guess what the book is from that description, let me know.) I’ve always remembered this book as one of my favorites, though I might’ve only read it once (it’s recorded in 1996, when I was 14, but I find it hard to believe I only read it one time). I was excited to re-read this book all year long – it was one of the first titles that went on my list. Several times, as I read other books, I thought of this book. There’s an artist protagonist, so I thought it would be perfect after living with an artist for a month at the residency. But, as I dove in, the book never really caught my attention. I was fifty pages in when I started again this month, so I had a head start and I still couldn’t get invested. It finally got a bit more interesting when I passed the 100 page mark last night, but I’m a firm believer that there is a time for every book in a person’s life. And I finally had to admit that I’m just not meant to re-read this book this year. Maybe next year.

This year, I re-read and wrote about 21 books (rather than the 12 I’d originally intended) and my friends wrote 10 fabulous guest essays about books they re-read. Interesting stats: of the ten guests, eight are women and two are men. Even more interesting: I’ve only read 2.5 of the 10 books my guests re-read (the .5 is for Mary’s folk takes because while I didn’t read her edition, I’ve probably read most of the stories), though I have started reading, but never finished, half of them. I didn’t assign any of the titles my guests picked, though we did discuss them in advance and I sometimes scheduled them according to what I was re-reading (Noel in July most notably).

It turns out that the Re-Reading Project is going to continue, with a new slate of books and in a different form. Let me know if you’re interested in re-reading and writing about your experience and stay tuned. In the meantime, you can use this post as an index (or scavenger hunt, if you prefer) for all of the essays for the 2014 Re-Reading Project. 

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The Re-Reading Project Guest Post: Sati

I once knew this girl who thought she was God.  She didn’t give sight to the blind or raise the dead.  She didn’t even teach anything, not really, and she never told me anything I probably didn’t already know.  On the other hand, she didn’t expect to be worshiped, nor did she ask for money.  Given her high opinion of herself, some might call that a miracle.  I don’t know, maybe she was God.  Her name was Sati and she had blond hair and blue eyes.

I don’t know what made me pick this book up some 20 years ago.  I never liked Christopher Pike books, as he is chiefly known for writing Young Adult horror books.  Sati is his first adult novel, published in 1990.  I’ve actually read other of his adult novels post Sati and didn’t find them any more interesting than his horror books.  However, Sati really caught me.  I had just read Richard Bach’s Illusions:  Adventures of a reluctant Messiah (1977) and it was, what I call, a “thinking book.”  Gave me lots of things to think about….although a bit too heavy on the God part, as I’m not a religious person by any stretch.  Sati reminded me a lot of Illusions, but not as religiously toned.  It is the only book I try to read at least once a year, and that’s saying a lot, because I’m a librarian and I am exposed to a large number of books on a daily basis….I know these things.  There are lines in this book that I’ve highlighted (yes, I write in books) because they made me stop and think.  One of my favorites is:

“Say you have to study for a test,” Sati said.  “You go out on the lawn at school.  You open your book.  You focus on the material, and after some time you become absorbed in it.  But not far away another student is listening to her radio.  One of your favorite songs is being played.  Immediately your mind goes to it.  But then you realize what you are doing.  You have a test coming up.  You put your mind back on your book.  Now maybe 45 minutes go by.  Suddenly you realize that you are not studying.  You’ve been listening to the radio again.  The mind does not just wander.  It wanders in a direction.  The music is charming.  The book is boring.  When you were not thinking about it, your mind automatically went to the music.  The reason for this is what I have been saying all along.  It is the nature of the mind to seek out greater happiness.”

I tend to battle my pleasure-seeking mind, the battle between having fun and being a responsible adult.  I have bills to pay, presents to wrap, need to go to the drugstore, call my mom….the dull stuff that makes up our days.  However, I also have an art project I’m working on, or a good book to read, I hear my hammock calling me….the great stuff that makes up our days.  From this passage, I try to look at things a bit differently.  I try to do the things I WANT to do first without worrying about the things I HAVE to do because invariably the things that HAVE to be done WILL be done.  It’s the things that I WANT to do that often fall by the wayside because I’m so preoccupied with doing the things I HAVE to do.  Anyway, that’s what I took from it, you may see it in a whole different light.

At the time I picked up Sati, I was in grad school getting my Master’s in Library Science after narrowly escaping a career in addiction counseling.  I say, never ask a 17 year old what they want to major in in college!  I was going to save the world by dishing up words that would so profoundly affect alcoholics, they’d put down their bottles and march into the world as happy, brand new people.  Little did I know that a frozen cat would change all that!

In my senior year of college, I was home visiting my family when a friend of my mom’s came over crying and frantically waiving a box around.  She asked my mom if she could put her dead cat in our freezer because she was running late to grad school and didn’t have time to bury him.  I asked mom what kinda nut she had as a friend and she said told me “oh, that’s Sally, she’s just that way….and she’s in grad school to become a librarian.”  “A what? You mean you have to go to school for that?” (a question ALL librarians are asked at one point or another) I asked.  Mom just shrugged.  But, I got to thinking.  I’m a book person, don’t think I’m going to save the world after all and gosh, I could put off working in the REAL world by going to school a bit longer, hummmm, and get paid to read all day?  Count me in!!!  So off I went to get my Master’s in Library Science.  I never did see Sally again (or her frozen cat), but I fully expected to run into (and hoped to never become) some of those weird cat loving, book reading, unmarried quiet types.  Laugh is on me, that’s exactly what I turned out to be!!  Many years, many cats and many books later, I’m the Branch Manager of the Latter Public Library, where I’ve been for 18 years.  Like thinking I’d save the world, I don’t get to read all day after all.  I get to handle a vast array of situations like the kid who tells me “I need a picture of Jesus, no, not a drawing, a PICTURE, like from a camera,” or the teenager who is desperately writing a paper the night before it’s due, “I need to write a 2 page report on WWII, do you have a book on that?” or the older patron looking to reminisce a past reading adventure, “I’m looking for this book that I read years ago but I can’t remember the title.  It was red and about a lady who falls in love with a man who lives in Texas.”   Eye-rolling aside, I look back and realize I’m saving the world after all….just in a different way!

I hope you read and enjoy my favorite book, past and present, Sati.

***

Missy Abbott is the Branch Manager at the Latter branch of the New Orleans Public Library, one of my favorite places on Earth, and she happens to be one of my favorite people as well.

Missy Abbott plus Sati

Missy Abbott plus her copy of Sati

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