Here's a story from this morning's New York Times that fits in well with the June selection for the Women's Book Group, "The Warmth of Other Suns." To buy the June book, go to the link in my "Books We Like" section and click on the Amazon link.
By Bobbi Olson
If she left now, it would save a lot of trouble. Fewer memories made. Less of an attachment. More time to recover. And she’d never be stronger. Weak as she was now, she’d just get weaker.
The suitcase lay on the bed. It wasn’t very big. It could fit in the overhead bin of an airliner, but now it could luxuriate in the huge trunk of her 1969 Catalina.
The hard beige case was tiny, compact. Which, really, was the way she wanted her life to be. Her life had grown bigger, more complicated. There were so many entanglements now that had grown onto her like invasive vines. Climbing, clinging, reaching ‘round her throat and already covering her mouth. Breaking free was the only chance she saw, even though those vines, once broken, could grow again, the roots would stay behind, ready to send out shoots on someone else. These encumbering vines that might still cling to her would soon die, cut off from their source.
She had packed the suitcase once already and then had taken everything out again. Not because she was changing her mind, but because she had been too ambitious about what would fit. She had to lose about half of what she thought she could stuff inside it. The plastic sides didn’t give, so there wasn’t any cheating. It would take what it would take, and not a bra or panty more.
This part she found comforting, though. She had always thrived when given the sparest of opportunities. She knew how to make things work. She could make dinner for two nights with three ingredients bought at a 99 Cents Only store. She could go a week on less than 10 bucks. She could write everything she wanted to say in a goodbye letter in a few words. If she had more – more money, more clothes, more to say – it would only make things harder to figure out. She hated the greater expectations of plenty.
Down to two changes of clothes, pajamas, sneakers, her notebook and a framed photo (the photo, really?), it was time to latch the dented clasps and put away the things she didn’t need.
Before she walked out to her old car carrying the even older suitcase, she wrote a note. Two lines.
I have to go.
I did love you.
David L. Ulin & Paul Kolsby discuss and sign "Ear to the Ground" with Steph Cha at Vroman's in Pasadena.
7 p.m. Monday, May 9
Seismologist Charlie Richter, grandson of the inventor of the Richter scale, knows earthquakes, and has a method for predicting them. Arriving in Los Angeles to begin work at the Center for Earthquake Studies, a mysterious agency that seems more Hollywood than science, Charlie settles into his new life. His only distraction from work is Grace, an assistant to a powerful producer, and her deadbeat scriptwriter boyfriend Ian. It's only a matter of time before Charlie sees the "Big One" looming on the horizon. When Charlie alerts his boss at the Center, he is the one that's in for a shock: this is exactly what the Center was hoping for. With the news leaked, everyone's suddenly looking to produce the next disaster blockbuster. One of the few scripts Ian actually wrote, "Ear to the Ground," happens to be about an earthquake disaster, and soon it's plucked from obscurity and given the fast track. But with a little bit of luck, Charlie may just foil everybody's plans. He just needs explosives, a helicopter, a little more time. (Unnamed Press)
The Wonder of Ray Bradbury
By Bobbi Olson
It started with “Dandelion Wine.” I was 12, and I had never read science fiction. The Illinois town, so much like my own, the way Ray Bradbury described nightfall, it was so perfectly right. You could feel the heat of a summer day shifting into a cool breeze, see the lights begin to wink on as night fell. The transformation of that flat landscape into a dreamland of mystery and adventure struck me deeply.
1969 became my Bradbury summer. After “Dandelion Wine,” I checked out “The Illustrated Man.” Each story unwrapped a truth, a reality made sharper, clearer, as if back then Bradbury knew how to Photoshop his words to make them acid-washed and hyper-real, whatever he needed to serve ideas that were as alien to a young girl as they were astonishingly familiar. I then read “Golden Apples of the Sun,” “R Is for Rocket,” every Bradbury book in my school’s small library.
Then came “The Martian Chronicles.” That summer I stayed with an aunt and uncle in Illinois. Their old house was large enough to have a room downstairs that had been a parlor. No one used it, so I staked a place on the sofa and disappeared for days. My cousins walked in and out of the house. From the corner of my eye I could watch my aunt’s progress as she polished a brass light fixtures in the dining room, but I was as much a part of that sofa, for three glorious months, as an antimacassar.
I learned things no adult would or could explain to me. About loneliness, racism, dreams, fears, cruelty, heartbreak.
Then came “Something Wicked This Way Comes.” It was then that I realized not just what a good story is, but what great writing is. It was my literary epiphany. It was with this novel that I realized how Bradbury could create an entire world in a sentence. Not even a particularly long sentence. But with each word, carefully balanced, meticulously chosen, life was born. It was like the way Picasso could create pathos, beauty and form with three pen strokes.
Of all the worlds, the planets, the galaxies, the carnivals, all the exotic places Bradbury would take me to that summer, this thrilling world of literary creativity was what held me most in awe.
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