Reading at the Crossroads

Reading at the Crossroads is an archive for columns and letters which appeared in the Terre Haute Tribune Star. I also blog here when my patience is exhausted by what I feel is irritating, irrational and/or ironic in life. --gary daily

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Location: Terre Haute, Indiana, United States

The material I post on this blog represents my views and mine alone. The material you post on this blog represents your views and yours alone.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A dirk, a dagger, and a squizamaroo . . .

[gary daily col. 14 April 28, 2002]

Because I have heard from a number of people about my not too veiled criticisms of “books” on tape, I want to go on record and state that very talented adults read to me early in my life. And they continue to do so. Here’s a little personal history on the subject.

The well-named Ms. King was the story hour reader at the local public library near my childhood home on the southwest side of Chicago; her readings were performance pieces worthy of Anna Deveare Smith. The imperious Ms. McCarthy handled this job with consummate skill at my elementary school. Ms. McCarthy was blessed with a permanent scowl, movements resembling a cat, and a voice of liquid silver. She was Laurie Anderson before there was a Laurie Anderson.

King was incomparable when it came to ghost stories. Around Halloween, her prowess in creating an atmosphere of dread and fear from the words in stories makes all the special effects blood and gore on TV and movie screens today something akin to Martha Stewart creating “Pumpkin Surprise” cookies. McCarthy’s forte was poetry–the words “a ” embedded in my near consciousness are entirely her doing.

Today, when I crave a professionally polished and impassioned reading performance, an oral interpretation fix, I will cheerfully revise a tight schedule to listen to Dailey, Davis, Hagan, Wright, England or Hantzis. Locals who can find the magic on the page and give it back to you in ways that can make your body laugh and squirm involuntarily, your mind bend with discovery or pain, and your emotions spin into sunny and dark corners you never realized existed. Listening to their readings is always a sublime experience.

This reminiscing and praise also comes to me because of Sheron Dailey’s reading of passages from “Snow Falling on Cedars” at the April 18th program announcing the “If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book” selection. David Guterson’s novel of World War II and its post-war aftermath has been chosen by readers as The Book. Dailey’s superb oral interpretation of selections from Guterson’s novel made it clear to all that this is a book filled with the complexities of times past and emotions and concerns of times present.

A nice crowd gathered for the announcement. A representative from Mayor Anderson’s office, Michele Neaderhiser, read a proclamation declaring Terre Haute a “City of Readers.” I hope we can live up to the Mayor’s observation. Her Proclamation also pronounced David Guterson’s “Snow Falling on Cedars” as “the book which readers in our community have chosen in order to examine and experience what it might mean: If All of Vigo County Read the Same Book.” Brad Anderson of the County Council was in attendance and he announced the Council’s support for “If All” and encouraged the reading of “Snow Falling” by the community.

I suppose it’s my job as a good citizen reader to check back with the Mayor’s office and the Council to hear their views on Guterson’s novel. I suggest that they set a tone for the city and county and organize a discussion of the book for themselves and their staff. I would be thrilled to hear from them on how their book discussions went. They might even consider inviting the public to the discussion. Only a (good!) suggestion from a reading taxpayer.

Jan Arnet and Tom Derrick from the ISU Summer Reading Program announced “Snow Falling” as the Program’s selection for the Fall 2002 freshman class. The university is working on programming which will complement the book-- speakers, film presentations, discussions. They extended an invitation to the community at large to attend and participate in these “If All” related events.

Tom Derrick proved to be as nimble with his fingers as his mind is with literary analysis. In less than five minutes, using his knowledge of origami, he created a featherless dove of a thousand folds. While doing this he lucidly and profoundly related elements of literary art and social significance in “Snow Falling” to the paper sculpture he was creating. His paper creation and his ideas really took flight.

If you haven’t been downtown for the ArtsFest extravaganza, you still have time. It ends this afternoon. It’s all worth your while, but, surprise, I’m going to plug the VCPL Theater Stage presentation on “Snow Falling on Cedars,” the “If All” book everyone is reading and talking about or soon will be.

This “If All” program features dramatic readings from the novel by Gene England, information and guides about the book, and drawings for T-shirts and book bags. It’s scheduled for 1-1:30 p.m. today.

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