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Archive for February 7th, 2011

Last May, I was in Chicago for a conference the week before Memorial Day.  That friday, I flew from Chicago to Charleston for Jennifer’s bachelorette party.  I opted for the earlier flight with the connection, which was not intelligent.  That particular Friday, summer thunderstorms raged across the Southeast, and I ended up sitting in a bar in the Charlotte airport, praying my flight would take off.  While waiting, I made friends with some guys who were also heading to Charleston, and it turned out they were great friends with my friend’s little brother, and we had all sorts of mutual connections.  Eventually, after boarding the flight, sitting on the runway, and having the flight canceled, my three new friends and I rented a car and drove to Charleston.  I had already done background checks on my new friends via text, so they weren’t absolute strangers, and they weren’t all traveling together either, we had all four run into each other waiting on the flight. 

As I was pulling out of the rental car lot at 12:30 am in the torrential downpour, my mom called.  “Hey, where are you?”  “Flight canceled, had to rent a car, driving to Charleston.”  “By yourself?!”   Pause.  “No. With Friends!”  Pause.  “Friends.  Like friends you just met at the airport, or friends you’ve known for a long time.”  Seriously, why would she assume I’d just met them, even if I did?  “Friends I just met but we know all the same people and I checked them out and I’m going to be okay let me call you later!”  Eventually I gave her their names and our connections and it was fine.  In the end, we split the $200 cost of the rental car four ways, and made it to Charleston around 3 am.  One of my new friends did not have a checkbook or cash, and he promised to mail me a check as soon as he got back to New York.  He worked in publishing, and also promised to send me books.  The promise of books alone was extremely exciting, and he was nice enough to ask me all about what sort of books I enjoyed and who my favorite authors were. 

As Monday was a holiday, the first business day after our Friday night trek was the following Tuesday.  On Wednesday afternoon, I returned home from work to find a large box on my doorstep.  True to his word, my New York friend had overnighted me a check for $50, and an impressive array of books.  Y’all, seriously, this was probably one of the most exciting presents I have received in recent memory.  I ripped into the box, and spent a long time sorting through my newly acquired treasures, which included coffee table books, cook books, hardback short stories, paper backs, including books that were already in print and not yet published.  I was struck by the obvious thoughtfulness that went into the book selection.  I told him I enjoyed classics, loved Fitzgerald, and above all, enjoyed a good story, specifically novels and short stories.  I’ve been meaning to tell you all about the books he sent me, and which ones I would recommend, but it has taken me months to read them all.  I have included the covers that I found particularly engaging, but you can’t always judge a book by its cover, I just didn’t want y’all to miss the pretty cover artwork.   

My favorite of all the covers and the books in general was the short story collection – Stories.  This collection was put together by Neil Gaiman and Al Sarrantoni, and includes stories by all sorts of amazing writers, some you will recognize, some you might not.  In the introduction, Neil relates a discussion concerning short story anthologies in which he and Al came to the conclusion that the only thing they really cared about, when it came down to it, were the stories.  That good writing was important, but the stories were where the real magic happened.  The reason he reads comes down to four words.  “…and then what happened?”  This entire short story collection was built on those four words.  The dedication says it all – For all the storytellers and tale spinners who entertained the public and kept themselves alive, for Alexandre Dumas and Charles Dickens, for Mark Twain and Baroness Orczy and the rest, and most of all, for Scheherazade, who was the storyteller and the story told.  I could talk about this book forever, and I was going to tell you which stories were my favorites, but I realized I’d basically need to copy the table of contents for that to happen. 

I’m realizing it could take me days to get through all my thoughts about these books, so I’m going to have to come back to this discussion.  In other news, it has been raining pretty consistently for about the past week, I’m still eating lots of oysters, Briscoe looks like a muppet dog because she hasn’t had a hair cut in so long (someone called her Benji the other day), and we had a fire drill at work this morning.

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