A good friend pleasantly surprised me and bought me a volume of the work of Marianne Williamson. The volume includes A Return to Love and The Gift of Change. We'd been chatting briefly about her work, and since I'd never really read any of her writing, I thought it would be good to become familiar with it. Besides, I'd just put down the newest novel by V.S. Naipul, The Masque of Africa, and was thoroughly disappointed. That was my first time reading Naipul, and I was excited to dig into the work of this well-acclaimed, travel-style author. Well, "well-acclaimed"? By whose standard? I found his novel unfascinating and boring. I'm not counting him out, since I can't really judge an author by one pesky book--or can I? However, this post is not about him, or really even Williamson. But, alas, my voyage with both authors has made me come to grips with a little fetish that I can no longer hide.
I'm like a basset hound when it comes to books. I'm always on the hunt sniffing for stimulating literature of just about any genre. The mystery of discovering a satisfying book quickly unfolds when that first page grabs you and won't let you go. I'm also like a gigolo; I'll read anything that's printed, has a title,and a front and a back. Yes, I'll say it-- a good read is like a good romp. Some folks have their bucket list, I have my book list. The titles of all the things I'd like to read before I die, or before the end of the year, whichever comes first. Once I'm done with one, I cross it off my to-do list and am ready for the next adventure. Sometimes, there is a gap between a book just read and the book I'm waiting to read. When that happens I become fiendish. I don't just twiddle my fingers. I'm starving. I start to pull out books I've already read. I thumb the pages of magazines I'm not really interested in. I'm even reaching for, godsakes, the White Pages (wouldn't it be nice to see if that family from a few blocks away is listed or unlisted?). I gotta get my fingers wrapped around the covers. Even the feel of a book is important to me. I'd like to get a Kindle or a Nook and be completely au courant, but am I really willing to sacrifice the weight of that 400+ page hardcover in my handbag for a sleek, digital handheld?
Admittedly, I'm learning to pratice non-attachment. My husband's always pegged me as the non-sentimental type, so letting go of material things isn't too much of a stretch for me. Once, a friend let me borrow her nifty backpack, and on one of my holidays, I somehow managed to get it dirty. Oh, well, that happens when your traversing the great outdoors, right? But, let me accidentally spill coffee or tea or the linen pages of that beautiful monotype-set, and may God have mercy on my soul. And that's not even one that's borrowed! In the practice of non-attachment, one of the most important value is letting go of expectations. This is a very liberating art. I've found that when I don't have a presumption about an event or anything else, I can enter it with an open heart and mind and be free to experience something just as it is. I tend to do this with books, as well. I can hear all the great reviews, and it perks my fancy. Yet, the skeptic in me naturally has a wait and see attitude. A rave review doesn't dictate my unearned respect.
This leads me back to my response to Williamson. I've heard such good things about her work. I mean, she is heavily endorsed by Oprah and all her comrades in metaphysical arms. I could really do a whole, separate post on my take-away from part of her work. I entered the pages of her volume with a bit of hesitancy. Because it was a gift from a dear friend, I felt obligated to indulge, even though the author was not even someone on my reading radar. I had a go at it and actually finished most of A Return to Love in one short evening while at a pizza joint waiting for my daughter's rehearsal to end. I left Williamson's book feeling raw. Which wasn't a good feeling considering how nasty the weather had turned outside. I didn't feel like I wasted time reading something that I largely didn't agree with (she makes some questionable and bald assertions about her interpretation on A Course in Miracles). I just felt uninspired, which is a big deal to me since books, no matter how large or small, fill me with such joy and hope.
But, let me return to my feeling of uninspiration. I misspoke. If I were truly uninspired I would not be writing this, especially at six a.m. Perhaps, books also have this unintended effect. When the vintner seeks a perfectly smooth and round Merlot and stumbles upon a different grape, one that has not been tasted or tested, does he discard it? I think not. I maintain a critical eye of Williamson's work, but I am glad that reading her book presented a challenge to me. It's thrown open my repertoire of books that I eagerly want to read and has added a list of books I wouldn't think to read.
And now, I'm off to the next swashbuckling challenge--reading my son's school report. Yo-ho...