5/30/2009

Book Memories Lead to Stories

It started on Facebook a few days ago. Cassie McGill tagged a group - me among them - asking that you make a list of 15 books that have influenced you. Her list was studded with classics and I was impressed. I started to think about books I remembered. I have a stack of years to sguffle through so it took a bit of time. And, oops, my titles lean much more to the popular genres than to the classics.

As I thought of a book for my list I found myself placing it in a time and setting in my life - quite outside its plot. Along with the book title came a personal story fragment. That's what happens with storytellers - anything and everything is a possible story prompt.
Not turning that down.

While you are thinking about your book list I will share these three from mine.




Eight Cousins by Louisa May Alcott

Most people swoon over Alcott's Little Women but this is the book I loved. For some weird reason I identified with the little girl and her cousins although Massachusetts and her snowy days were a far cry from North Carolina and her family situation and the characters were not remotely like mine. When I think of reading Eight Cousins I remember sitting on the stairs in my Grandmother Diggle's house - near the floor-grating for the basement furnace. I could see the coals glowing orange in the coal-furnace below the grating and and it was toasty warm on the stairs.



Nancy Drew

I adored the Nancy Drew mysteries - Nancy was so brave and adventurous as she solved the mysteries and drove around town in her roadster. The ones I read first I found in Granny's back yard storage house. My aunt was only ten years older than I was and they were her books. They had the classic blue hard covers. I still like to read books in a series - where the situations change but the characters are familiar and their worlds remain the same.

I loved Granny's storage house and spent many happy hours there rummaging through boxes, trying on old clothes and reading some other books that were way beyond my years and understanding - which made them all the more delicious. And, I shamelessly nosed into my aunt's diaries. Even I recognized that they were not particularly interesting - but they were dangeroulsy off-limits.

Our Hearts Were Young and Gay by Cornelia Otis Skinner and Emily Kimbrough

This is a story of innocents abroad in the 1920s and 30s. Two young women make a trip to Europe on their own when they are just out of school. They wrote sophisticated and funny accounts of their mis-adventures. This is another book I found at Granny's - in the house not the shed- probably my aunt's also. I must have been about 13 when I read this one.

I remember sitting in Granny's bedroom in a small rocking chair near a sunny window reading it. Since I had never been anywhere except to the beach or 12 miles away to Belmont to boarding school, I did not have a single personal experience to relate to. I certainly had no concept of being on an ocean liner, in a European hotel, or any city on " the other side of the pond." But I got it that they were having a wonderful time and I loved it. I wanted to be able to write light-hearted tid-bits about my life the way they were doing it. I still do.

Since then I have been to Europe and have had some mis-adventures of my own - and you know something - to this day - I always think about those two young women when I am traveling. I guess I can claim them as a seminal influence.

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