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Monday, June 27, 2011

The crows, the books, the project

by Jamie Lutton

I have curtailed my crow watching for a while, and the crows have been seeing less of me. Part of that is the leafy canopy that hides the people on the ground, I am sure. The crows nearest my home do not come and visit me as much partly because they cannot see me. When I was first feeding them, the trees were bare, now, in full summer, I am camouflaged under all the green leaves.

The crows up on Broadway, who roost on buildings, still can spot me, and still greet me gaily. They fly overhead, stealthy; I am stalked by them.

A cross between Angels of Death and my very own falcons.

When I look up and see a crow, and she sees me, and begins to fly parallel to my steps, it is a comedy. When I throw her a treat, six or seven crows I did not see will suddenly appear, saying 'what about me?'

The other day, when I  had a crow or crows following me, I recalled My Side of the Mountain, a young adult novel wherein a young man captures and tames a falcon to hunt small game for him.  He had been living in the Appalachian wilderness by himself, and needed the help to survive.  He names the bird Frightful. The author of this book based her character on the exploits of her young twin brothers, who grew up to be famous naturalists.   So, when I look up and see a beautiful crow flying overhead or near me, looking down, I think about this book, which is a favorite of mine. The wilderness in this book still lives in my heart, a precious place.

I have tried, as a bookseller, to get everyone I know to read this book. It is an amazing American novel; written in 1959, it is still a steady bestseller, and ripped off (or borrowed from) to write other chidrens classics like Hatchet. It has a quiet, beautiful tone, written in journal form; like a young persons Thoreau.

I have been trying to assemble a book on books; 500 titles and poems that I think should be read by an educated reader in English.  I am bypassing most fiction, sticking to nonfiction and poetry. People have written more than enough guides to fiction.

I have been reading some of the other must-read book guides; and I am surprised by how often I catch the author cheating. The books are often profusely illustrated, flashy, but make glaring errors. The outlines of the books show that the editors did not actually read the books.

The novels I have read, that I could check this for sure, I caught one author missing the plot line completely.  The second glaring mistake they make is that they reveal too much of the plot, this is called being a 'spoiler'; people who review movies and books who do a good job usually avoid this mistake, or signal that in the text.  The review of The Martian Chronicles gave a plodding blow by blow review of every plot twist, which would make it unnecessary to read the book; and ruined the experience beforehand. Yick. If I had not read the book already, I would have been quite annoyed by this entry.  The wonder of this book is that the author surprises and astonishes while reading; knowing what will happen beforehand is like going to see that film Fight Club, say, for the first time, and know how it will end.  Reviews who spoil books should be strongly discouraged.

Another book that I saw spoiled was The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime by Mark Haddon. The reviewer said that the narrator was suspected in the dog's death - and  I do not recall that. I think that is a glaring error; he was never a suspect.  The whole interview looked like it was a summeary from the dust jacket read while under the influence of a shot of whiskey; rushed and blurry.  And that is not the only review that had that feeling; That read from Cliff notes feeling.

I am going to try to avoid these mistakes with my book. I am taking three years to get it down, and I am sticking to books I have actually read. I like to read everything. I hope I have a critical eye, so that I choose well. Soon, I will post part of the book here, so I can get some feedback.

The result, I hope will not resemble the rushed, trivial book encyclopedias other committees have produced.
       
    

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