Birney Imes: Good books

March 24, 2009

Birney Imes - birney@cdispatch.com

 

Deborah, a friend visiting from New York who loves most things Southern, invoked the spirit of Eudora Welty Friday evening. At issue was whether she should have a dessert made from chocolate, pecans and vanilla ice cream. 

 

Seems I remember Willie Morris telling the story; apparently it''s in something he''s written as well. Willie, Miss Welty and Willie''s wife, JoAnne Pritchard, were motoring about the countryside in Willie''s native Yazoo. When they came to an intersection with Paradise Road, Willie asked Miss Welty if she thought they should explore in that direction. 

 

"We''d be fools not to," she replied. 

 

Deborah got her dessert. "Bob and I use that expression all the time," she said. Bob is Deborah''s husband. 

 

Earlier in the week in a discussion about ways to increase reader involvement, someone suggested letting readers (and movie viewers) e-mail us comments about what they had recently read or watched. 

 

Out of curiosity while getting a coffee Friday morning I asked the servers, Andrew Murphy and Whitney Brown, what they were reading. 

 

Andrew, a student at EMCC, is studying his textbook on emergency medical training. Whitney, a recent graduate of Ole Miss working at her mother''s (Beth Jeffers) coffee shop, Kudoz, is reading "Are You There Vodka? It''s me Chelsea." (Yea, I had to ask twice, too.) It''s by Chelsea Handler, a comedian. The book is of funny autobiographical stories, according to Brown, who said a friend introduced her to Handler with her earlier book, "My Horizontal Life." Yes, it''s what you think. "Funnier than David Sedaris," one of the reviewers writes.  

 

Fresh from a workout, Gail Laws bopped into the coffee shop. "A James Patterson novel; I don''t remember the title," said Gail, who gets her books in Fitness Factor book swaps. 

 

"My reading is all over the map," she said, "from Elizabeth Spencer to "Reading Lolita in Tehran.''" 

 

"I loved ''Love in the Time of Cholera''" (by Gabriel Garcia Marquez), she added. 

 

Later Friday at another coffee haus, I accosted Roger Minton of Reform, Ala., who was buying ice cream for his wife and two beautiful little girls. 

 

Minton said he reads the newspaper but not many books. "The last one I read was about how bad my 401 is sinking," he said. "I read a lot of hunting and fishing magazines." 

 

Minton''s wife, Robin, is a rural mail carrier in Reform. She listens to audio books while delivering her route. Currently she''s listening to something by Nora Roberts. 

 

Aynsley Wright, a student at Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, walked into Beans and Cream holding a copy of Tess of d''Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy. School reading, she said. Aynsley, who is from Columbus, threw out "Memoirs of a Geisha" as something she''s read recently and liked. 

 

Amanda Miracle, a history prof at MUW who has been in Columbus since August, arrived clutching a copy of "Dazzle," a romance novel. Amanda says she indulges in the genre to offset the monotony of reading "monograph after monograph" on historical subjects. 

 

Sue and Les Berry, who are both retired, say they read large-print books only. "The book club loves us," said Sue as they enjoyed their afternoon libation. They enjoy the same books, said Les, preferring crime and mystery. 

 

The Berrys particularly like Patricia Cornwall''s Scarpetta series about a forensic pathologist of the same name. 

 

"We read 25 to 30 books a year," Les said. 

 

Anne Griffin, proprietor of the Mississippi Coffee House, is reading "Shephards Abiding," from Jan Karon''s popular Mitford series. The books detail the exploits of an Episcopal priest in a Mayberry-like world, where as one reviewer says the "grass is greener and the pickets whiter." One of the books in the series, "Home to Holly Springs," is set in Mississippi. 

 

"So much in there is comparable to Columbus," said Griffin, who grew up in Toronto. "You fall in love with the characters." 

 

As for myself, I''m reading "Rabbit Redux" by John Updike. After his death in January, The New Yorker reprinted a selection of Updike''s work published in that magazine, including an excerpt of his brilliant 1960 piece about Ted Williams'' last game for the Box Red Sox, "Hub Fans Bid Kid Adieu." 

 

"Gods do not answer letters," is how Updike explains Williams refusal to acknowledge a screaming ballpark after he homered his last time at bat. A few days after reading about Updike, I found the Rabbit book at an estate sale and have since sought out the other three in the series.  

 

Like Gail Laws, I''ll throw out a title: "In the Skin of a Lion" by Michael Ondaatje, author of "The English Patient." 

 

"A beautiful novel ... it explodes in fantastic directions," reads the blurb on back. Yes, that pretty much says it. 

 

A good book is a way to visit a distant place with an agreeable and erudite companion. It''s an opportunity available to us, and one we should all take advantage of. We''d be fools not to. 

 

Shop talk: We appreciate all the kind words about our new size and design implemented Wednesday. The biggest complaint has come from crossword fans who don''t like having to fold the paper three times when they work the puzzle. Help is on the way, dear readers. It should be corrected this week. 

 

Write or phone Birney Imes at The Commercial Dispatch, 516 Main St., Columbus, MS 39701, 328-2424, or e-mail him at birney@cdispatch.com.

Birney Imes III is the Editor and Publisher of The Dispatch.