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Today in My History

2000: Fraud!
2001:  No Gen-D I
2002:  Tour d'Alameda
2003:  Oscar Goes to War
2004:  Scarf that Sucker Down
2005We Have Urine!!!

2006:  "I'll Do It"
Pay It Forward

2008:  "So...?"
2009:  Harry and Grandma
2010:  A Difficult Assignment
2011:  March Memeness
2012: Christmas in March

2013: The Height of Rudeness

Bitter Hack
Blue Man Group
You Can't Take It With You

Books Read in 2014
"40 Yrs of Chez Panisse"

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Ernest & Vanessa's Visit

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Airy Persiflage

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mail to Walt


25 March 2014

(I love that phrase.  It's by David Gerrold, the title of his little booklet about writing)

Walt and I were watching The Blacklist last night and I realized I just couldn't keep my eyes opened (surprising, since that's usually such a riveting show, and this episode one I'd looked forward to because a bad guy was going to be exposed).  I decided to go to sleep and watch it in the middle of the night when I woke up.

So I went to sleep at 10:30 and woke up at 6:45!  There were a couple of awake moments in there, but I went right back to sleep, so I am well slept this morning.  But I had gone to sleep before writing this journal entry.  When I was waking up, I remembered that blogger and video blogger Steve Garfield had written a list of the 15 authors who had a profound influence on his life.  I thought I'd see how many authors I can list who have had a big influence on my life.

1.  The very first would be Erma Bombeck.   Erma is the reason why Funny the World exists.  I had this dream of maybe some day doing a column for the local newspaper and wasn't sure that I could produce a 750-850 word column on a regular basis.  Welll, the column never happened, but I discovered that yes, I could produce a column, not only on a regular basis, but on a daily basis.   I also discovered that it is very difficult to be Erma Bombeck.  Though I aspire to her wit and facility with words (which probably took an awful lot of work!), I rarely meet the standards that I would consider Bombeck-like.

2.  I went on a John Steinbeck feast in the early 1980s.  I had read "East of Eden" in high school, looking for the "dirty parts."  I don't know why I re-read it later, but the plot was the least of the things I was reading it for.  Steinbeck's writing inspired me to be a better writer.  A friend of mine had a niece who was married to Steinbeck's...nephew? I don't remember the relation, but there was some degree of separation between me and Steinbeck, so it felt, then, like reading something by someone I "knew."  I voraciously devoured everything he wrote and I found that my writing improved significantly whenever I was reading a Steinbeck book.  (I should go back and read him again!)

While those two have had the biggest effect on my life, there are others I always think of as important in my life.

3.  Walter Farley is the author of all the Black Stallion books and inspired a love of horses in me.  I always wanted to be young Alec Ramsey, bonding with the Black and racing bareback down the beaches of a deserted island.  I have only ridden a horse once or twice, and never faster than a trot (and that teeth-shattering!), but there is still a part of me that thinks that given the proper circumstances, I could be a horse person.

3.  What Farley did for me and horses, Albert Peyson Terhune did for me and dogs.  As a kid who loved dogs, but could never have one, I read everything he ever wrote (and now delight when I find a copy of the old publications at Logos).  Terhune wrote articles for magazines aimed at adults, but children discovered him too and lived the adventures of his fictional dogs and rejoiced in the stories of his real-life dogs like Lad, a Dog and his life with "the Master" and "the Mistress" at their home, "The Place."  He helped me feel like I had a dog of my own, even though I never did until after I married.

4.  If there was a book which defined my teen years it was Herman Wouk's "Marjorie Morningstar," the story of a young woman's first experiences with love.  I read that book over and over again until it was so worn that several years ago, Marta took my copy of it and had it rebound for me.  I haven't read it in decades, but still remember how much I loved that book (and how much I hated what Hollywood did to it when it decided to turn it into a movie!)

5.  Speaking of books Hollywood ruined, I repeat my oft-written diatribe at how Barbra Streisand ruined Pat Conroy's "Prince of Tides."  I read that book when Walt and I were vacationing in Hawaii and was so engrossed in the story that I read that in the car instead of looking at the scenery.   Streisand made the story around the psychologist who helps the hero and thus she became the star, but the magic of the boook was in the stories of the young brother and sister and their early lives.  The biggest event in their lives, which concerns a white tiger, doesn't even appear.  I have since read all of Conroy's books and think that he is a wonderful writer, but nothing ever lived up to "Prince of Tides."

6.  Bill Bryson became a favored author when I read his "The Mother Tongue," the story of the English language.  He made that very dry subject sparkle and I loved the book so much I found it on a remaindered table and bought copies for everyone in the family that year.  I have since read almost all of Bryson's books and have loved each and everyone one of them.  I found his "Notes from a Small Island" in a book store in Cambridge when Walt and I were driving around England.  I read it on that trip, since we were visiting many of the places that Bryson talks about in the book.

7.  I don't remember when I read "Outlander" the first of Diana Gabaldon's series (awaiting its 8 volume this year). I liked it, but didn't think all that much of it until I got the audio book of the second in the series, "Voyager."  Davina Porter, who narrates the huge books, has made 18th century Scotland and the U.S. come alive for me.  It is my almost constant companion when I am traveling, and I have several of the books on my kindle as well.   The only negative of my mother moving to Davis is that I don't have nearly as much driving time to get through these books.

8. Who can not be inspired by Mitch Albom's "Tuesday with Morrie," whose impact depended so strongly on Albom's old professor Morrie Schwartz and the lessons he taught Albom before his death.  But I have read most of Albom's subsequent books and find each thought provoking and inspiring.

9.  I read A. Anatoli (Kuznetsov)'s "Babi Yar" when we returned from Ukraine.  It had a huge emotional impact on me, since we had just been to Babi Yar, the site where Nazi soldiers murdered more than 33,000 Jews over one weekend, and ultimately more than 100,000 people during their occupation of Kiev.  The eyewitness account by a gentile boy who was 12 when the soldiers occupied Kiev is a horrific tale of how people survived.  When I watch what is happening in Ukraine now, my heart aches especially for those who lived through the Nazi years and must be terrified to see the threat of it happening again.

10.  I'll end with David Gerrold, the sci fi writer who gave the world Tribbles. I "met" David on Compuserve when he used a pseudonymn and lead the charge against the homophobes of that social media.  I later learned who this guy was that I was writing to.  I met him and his son on a trip to Los Angeles and he has since become a friend, one who would fly up here to conduct graveside services for Paul, one who called me once at 2 a.m. to say he and his son were getting in the car right then and could they stop by for breakfast?  There are a lot of positives and negatives in my life with David, but one thing that remains constant is his writing.  He has a tongue-in-cheek method of writing that tickles me every time (if you ever get a chance to read "Flying Sorcerers," written with Larry Niven, I recommend it highly.  It's one very long shaggy dog story).

There are so many authors that I have loved over the years, and more authors to explore in the future, but if I had to pick the top 10, these are probably the ones who most influenced me or who are the ones that always come to mind when I think of my favorites.



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