Teri Orr: Chapter by chapter and verse
September 11, 2015
I finished one book and immediately started another, rather like eating salted nuts. It is that season for me. The after-summer escape season. Yes, there will be a long car trip somewhere in the future, but this year that will have to be later. Maybe in a couple of weeks, maybe next month. So to escape right now, I return to the time-honored, internationally used and approved system to escape your current surroundings: cracking a book or a magazine or, let’s face it, in the modern day, reading on an electronic screen.
The pile(s) of books never get smaller in my home despite how much I read. I finish a book, I share it in the universe, and somehow I acquire two more.
I just finished the controversial thriller, "The Girl On The Train," by Paula Hawkins. I knew it was a bestseller but I hadn’t gravitated to it yet. Until I was in Dolly’s Bookstore one day this summer and someone came in to return that very book. I was aghast. I had never heard of someone returning a book they had read because they didn’t like it. It would be like returning a dress because the date didn’t go well. I mean, we take chances on all kinds of things in life and they require a modicum of personal responsibility. When did we stop having that? When was it OK to blame others when our own personal expectation weren’t/aren’t met?
I immediately bought the book.
But then I didn’t read it right away. In fairness, I wasn’t reading anything. Not even my beloved New York Times on Sundays. My life was admittedly fully out of my control and days and nights blurred into mostly work-related commitments. Looking back, I know not to do this again. It makes me terribly irritable to only get my news from radio sound bites and postings on the interweb.
By the time I cracked the cover of the novel, I had learned folks either loved or hated the book. Some compared it to "Gone Girl," that page-turning, mood-shifting, thriller turned movie. And I could see that. Relationships gone bad — lying, cheating, manipulating, hot sex, mystery, and some pretty wacky psychological stuff. I read it fast under the covers, on the couch, on a chair in my quiet back porch nook, late at night, on a Sunday afternoon. And the outcome, because I lived with a crazy cop on and off for about a dozen years, did not completely surprise me. In the process I was able to travel to England and ride the train a lot and think about nights in my own past when I might have had too much to drink and regret my late-night phone calls, and all kinds of misspent youthful mistakes. And all from the comfort of my own home.
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Work keeps screaming at me: "Summer is NOT over yet," and still I read. At dinner this week with a dear friend and her family and her dear friends, the talk turned to how we consume news. The twentysomethings had a long list of ways they curated what they read from sources all over the world. I was speechless. And hopeful. Those of us over 50 listened and took notes. My friend and I thought we had been edgy three years ago after the Arab Spring when we traveled to Qatar and subscribed in our news feed to Al Jazeera. We wanted at first, to understand the region we headed into. And then we continued, because that news service is a quiet attempt by the Emir to feed pieces of democracy into the Middle East by starting with that keystone of democracy — a free and independent press. We are hopeful people and we are insatiably curious, too.
I have finished "Judge This," a short book produced by the folks at TED based on popular talks by former speakers. Chip Kidd is an award-winning book/jacket graphic designer and an outrageous speaker who looks very carefully at how we do judge a book by its cover. He has spent his life’s work making us look at those covers — from "Jurassic Park" to "All the Pretty Horses" to "Naked," by David Sederis. It is a fun short read –how you can tell a story different ways, just by tweaking the graphic design.
I have returned to England with Kate Atkinson’s newest work, "Life after Life," which is written in overlapping stories that end but don’t end. Not exactly an adult version of Choose Your Own Adventure, but maybe. I am not yet 100 pages into the 500-page book.
There is the new Sir Ken Robinson’s book, "Creative Schools," ready for me to tackle and help me understand how I can try to influence the education of my grandchildren and my neighbor’s kids and my own continuing desire to learn more. And, well, the list goes on and the stacks move and grow, and there is less room on the table, the desk and the floor around my bed. But it doesn’t matter, I am traveling forward and backward in time and all over the world at once. And until I can actually drive out of town, I can escape right at home, day and night and now, most Sundays, in the Park …
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.