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On a Writer's Mind

What am I reading now?

I’ve been noticing mentions of Tim O’Brien’s novel The Things They Carried, about soldiers in the Vietnam War, for years now. But I was afraid it would be unbearably grim, so I didn’t read it. Finally this Memorial Day weekend I realized the book has become a classic about war experience, like All Quiet on the Western Front, and it was high time for me to give it a try. Of course now it turns out my town library doesn’t have the book, so I’ll have to wait a few days more to get an interlibrary loan.

Ironically, I’ve noticed that genre books can be more disturbing to me than good literature, no matter how grim the subject. I recently finished Hard Truth, by Nevada Barr, a favorite mystery author of mine. It was one of Barr’s more compelling stories, but after I finished I kept remembering sick details about the psychotic serial killer who kidnaps and tortures little girls.

Meanwhile, I have to find something good to read! There are thousands of books in my house, but nothing that appeals to me right now. A friend recommended The Zookeeper’s Wife, by Diane Atkinson, and I tried the first 60 pages. I don’t doubt that it’s a great story in essence, but there’s something very irritating to me about the way it’s written. Maybe that the author kept interrupting the flow of the story by tacking back and forth between direct quotations from Antonina Zabinski’s diary and clumps of Ackerman’s research. Maybe that it disturbed me to read about wild animals, especially large predators like lions, kept in close captivity, no matter how much the zookeeper’s wife said she loved them.

Last night, in desperation, I took The Annotated Alice [in Wonderland] to bed. The introduction (written in 1960) is somewhat dated, but the notes on the text are still good.
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