Thursday, September 30, 2004
Three signs you have just read a good book: You dread the last page as it nears.
As you finish that last paragraph, you sigh and close the book slowly. A local librarian called the feeling that follows "a good book buzz."
You have a hard time moving on.
It's hard to find the next book after reading a good one. Somehow, all the books that follow feel shallow. The writing is lukewarm. You stumble through the first page of several books, looking for the right rebound.
It takes awhile.
That's how I feel right now. I'm going through withdrawals. I paw restlessly through the books at my disposal, but my bedside table stays empty. I play with the idea of going to the bookstore even though I have a pile of books at home, but all the shelves in all the bookstores in all the world seem full of empty words.
I'm not ready to move on.
My mind is still wrapped up in the life of Edgar Mint -- "The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint," by Brady Udall.
On the cover of my paperback copy stands a boy with straggly hair, baggy jeans and a sweatshirt. He has his back to the reader. He stares off into the Arizona desert.
Between chapters, I flipped to that front cover and stared at the back of that boy.
Edgar Mint is an Apache from Arizona.
His story opens with one of the most quotable opening lines since, "Call me Ishmael."
Page 1 begins, "If I could tell you only one thing about my life it would be this: when I was seven years old the mailman ran over my head."
The head injury erases his past -- his alcoholic mother, the father who abandoned them both. He ends up at Willie Sherman -- a boarding school for orphaned and ne'er do well kids from reservations across the Southwest.
The images of the school came from Udall's memory of a similar American Indian boarding school near where he grew up. He played basketball and football against the kids and never forgot them or their school.
I remember them, too.
Where I grew up, they came from the Wind River Indian Reservation to compete in forensics. They were always so serious -- delivering their speeches without inflection. I watched them and wondered.
I thought of them often as I read about Edgar Mint.
This book fell into my hands in a strange way. I heard of it on the back deck of a home in Freeport, Maine. The fog was rolling in off the ocean. My friend and I were swaddled in our raincoats sipping white wine. Something I said made my friend sit up and tell me I "had to read 'The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint.'" The next day, the fog had turned to heavy rain, and I was with a different friend. Unprompted, she reached into the back seat of her car and grabbed a copy of a book I "had to read."
I packed "The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint" with my other belongings when I returned to Colorado and only decided I "had to read" it when I saw that Brady Udall was coming to my small town to speak.
I opened the cover with a sense of anticipation. It seemed too great a coincidence. I thought there must be a message in the book for me.
If there was a message, it was "write well."
This time of year is like a writer's New Year. The Literary Sojourn rolls around, and I listen to the authors speak. I rub the crusty goo out of my Mac tortured eyes and vow to be a better writer.
This year, Christine Metz is covering the Sojourn. I told her that she will leave the Sojourn inspired to do great things with her words. She will promise herself to write a book someday.
And like real New Year's resolutions she (read: me) will forget those promises as fast as she forgot her promise to stop eating ice cream.