There are three reasons I am excited about buying and reading E.L. Doctorow’s latest book Homer and Langley.
The first is that of course, he is a famous writer and the book is already a best seller. I say he is a great writer, yet the only work of his I have read is Ragtime, the classic written in 1975. The book was later made into a movie (well done) and a Broadway musical (fabulous). Therefore it’s easy for me to say that everything I ever read by E.L. Doctorow was good.
The second reason is that the Homer and Langley he writes about are the Collyer brothers. In 1947, these siblings were found in their Manhattan home surrounded (literally buried) by tons of rubbish they had collected and hoarded. These famous recluses became the poster boys for obsessive compulsive disorder and paranoia. I was a child when their bizarre life style was discovered, but in 1955 I read My Brother’s Keeper, a novel by Marcia Davenport, based on the Collyer brothers’ lives. The story is fascinating and I can’t wait to read another take on it.
The last reason is E. L. Doctorow is 78 years old! Go Edgar! At the time when lots of folks are kicking back and watching Game Show Network, he’s turning out a best seller. So, I will applaud that in a way that every writer will understand. I’m going to buy and read his book.
This is on the list of 15 books that have made a lasting impression on me. Since I discovered Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman by Anne Ortlund about 25 years ago, I have read it several times. My copy is stained with some sort of a spill – water or coffee. The title is taken from Proverbs 31, where Solomon describes the ideal woman. Busy, organized, spiritual – a person in her own right, but supportive and caring for her husband and family. “Her husband calls her blessed, and her children also.”
This book was just what I needed in 1984 as I struggled to be wife, mother, stepmom, grandma, working woman, church woman, spiritual woman (there’s a difference), and trying so so hard to find out what God had planned for me. I was a mess of fragmented pieces. It may sound cliched to say a book changed my life, but this one did.
Anne Ortlund wrote this little book in 1977. It’s about the disciplines of getting to Christian maturity. She says, “Our sensuous age forgets that feelings come and feelings leave you but the disciplines of life are what get you to where you want to go.” And it’s about organization. She devotes one chapter to describing her notebook/calendar … ten years before day planners went on the market.
She gives practical suggestions on everything from managing a schedule (to avoid being overwhelmed with activities) to maintaining a wardrobe (to avoid spending hours deciding what to wear). But most importantly, she writes about choosing priorities. Solomon says a beautiful woman gives her life to God, family (including church family) and the needy people of the world.
I Googled Anne Ortlund to see what she’s doing nowadays. She is still a part of Renewal Ministries, begun by her husband Ray, who died in 2007. She continues to host spiritual retreats for women at her home in Newport Beach, California, and to disciple women one-on-one.
I was tagged on Facebook to list 15 books I’ve read that will always stick with me – the first 15 I thought of in no more than 15 minutes. This was fun. Later, I’ll probably think of others that should be included. Many of these I have read more than once, most I plan to read again. One day I’ll elaborate on my choices. Here’s the list in no particular order.
1. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
2. Flag Full of Stars – Don Robertson
3. Disciplines of a Beautiful Woman – Anne Ortlund
4. Nineteen Minutes – Jodi Picoult
5. A Thousand Splendid Suns – Khaled Hosseini
6. Gifts of the Spirit – Kenneth C. Kinghorn
7. Jewel – Brett Lott
8. Me & Emma – Elizabeth Flock
9. Writing for the Soul – Jerry Jenkins
10. Meeting God at Every Turn – Catherine Marshall
11. Bridge to the Sun – Gwen Tarasaki
12. Black and Blue – Anna Quindlen
13. Light on Snow – Anita Shreve
14. Saving Graces – Elizabeth Edwards
15. Bird by Bird – Anne Lamott
I am currently reading Without a Map, a memoir by Meredith Hall. Written in 2007, this is her story of becoming pregnant during her junior year in high school. (Though she doesn’t describe it as such, we might now recognize this as date rape, since she was a sixteen year old virgin seduced by a college man looking to score.)
The year was 1965 and what followed the discovery of her pregnancy was shaming and shunning by everyone she knew – her friends, her family, her church and any total stranger who might hear the story. In her whole world, there was not one person who stood beside her. Her father and his wife provided a roof over her head, barely, but never a word of love or understanding. Not even a question as to how this might have happened, which in itself would have shown a certain amount of caring.
The effect the shunning had on the young girl, the lack of empathy for the loss of her child, society’s need to mete out a lifetime of punishment for one moment of indescretion is told bravely in this bestselling memoir.
This is a powerful book you would do well to seek out.
I recently re-read the classic Heidi by Johanna Spyri. This children’s book was written in 1880 and translated into English I don’t know when. Heidi was the first book I remember reading more than once. And I don’t remember having a problem with difficult words in the text when I was ten years old. I must have picked up the meanings from context clues.
The book is over three hundred pages, considered excessive in today’s literary climate. Those in the know about children’s reading abilities maintain that such a long story cannot hold a child’s interest to the end. J.K. Rowling proved them wrong.
In addition to “above grade level” words, Johanna Spyri breaks other “rules” of today’s writing. Long sentences, long paragraphs, long chapters. Yet, as the several times before when I enjoyed this story, I couldn’t seem to put the book down, even though I knew the outcome.
Shirley Temple immortalized the little Swiss girl, Heidi, on screen many years ago. Through the magic of remastering and cable networks, children of today can experience this old movie. I only hope this might then inspire some to search out and read this wonderful book.