Like The Queen
Whatever happens to strike my fancy, but surely some sort of fiber content.


Dearest Bess,
Thanks so much for the LOVE WALKS IN recommendation - I am almost ready for the next book & I will look for it & if necessary, put a request for it.
Will let you know about it.
And I think any book you write would be a must read!

By Blogger Martha, at 6:51 PM  

Bess, thank you for the recommendation, as if my list needs to be any longer. Oh, the dangers of working in a busy library. I felt the same way about a book I read earlier this summer called "Prep" that you did about "Love Walks In."

I was part of the chick-lit crowd for a while then after about a year they all started to seem the same because they were. I'm just happy that people are reading though and keeping librarians employed, I'll need a job for the next 30 years. :)

By Blogger erica, at 8:06 PM  

Bess, I must agree with Marth "I think any book you write would be a must read!" I think I've told you that before....I can see your book on the "Best Sellers List"! Seriously!

Big Hugs My Virginia Friend,
Love Patti

By Anonymous Patti, at 2:18 AM  

Ah, BooksBooksBooks. This is what I did at the bookstore: The Chick Lit was threatening to overrun the place, and it galls me to have to shelve it anywhere near a Real Book in the Literature section. I created two spin racks, named them "Light Literature," and filled them with all the fluff that's not brand new. The customers flock to them, they haven't a clue that we're being a bit snooty, and we are happy that Picoult and Proust no longer share shelf space!

Your book, however, will reside next to Hemingway.

By Blogger Jane, at 8:41 AM  

Well, I will have to check out that book -- your loving it is high praise!

But I wait, as do many others, with baited breath for the day we get to read a novel, (surely a novel, right?) written by that great Southern writer, Bess Haile. Please don't let us wait too terribly long, will you?

By Blogger Mary, at 9:39 PM  

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Tuesday, July 25, 2006  


Didn’t mean to drop off the earth like that. Just something wonderful happened over the weekend that swept me away for a bit.

I work with books all day long. I read reviews. I recommend titles. I organize them in alphabetical and numerical order, and then re-order them because at night they like to get down and dirty and party big time, so that, come 10 a.m., all those lovely 746.43’s are off somewhere with the 315.02879’s and for sure there are JB’s in the J555.093’s. I suffer from all the classic librarian’s disorders - the belief that There Is An Answer, the sense of obligation to Know Every Answer, the absolute surety that If It’s In A Book, I Can Learn It.

But just because I review, purchase and manipulate books all day doesn’t mean I have found many books I really value - especially when it comes to fiction. As long ago as the late 1980’s I began to notice a certain disappointing quality to the novels rolling off the presses at an alarmingly swift rate. Whining, bitching women and weak (and definitely worthless) men. Not a hero among ‘em, other than Jack Ryan and well, wouldn’t you rather wait for the move and just look at Harrison Ford instead? One sarcastic, vocabulary swollen chick in a New York or L.A. office can be entertaining, but 36 inches of them on a shelf is ... enough already. As these gals wrestled with their silent Dads and WickedWitch mothers, as they had endless Erica Jong type encounters on closely watched trains with limp men, as they Sorta Triumphed in Sisterhood - I grew ever more cynical about modern fiction.

It is very hard to spend $ on what I mostly consider garbage. It’s even harder to not grow jaded with people who gush and swoon over what I think should be in a mental dumpster. My emotional attachment to all the women who closed the covers of Ya-Ya Sisters longing to move to Florida and become a member of their sorority suffered irreparable damage. As I think back over the past decade and a half I realize that’s probably one reason I was first to leap on Internet as a Library Option and devote $ to computers and rural access instead of books, years before even some of the more urban libraries. It’s also probably why I’ve spent so much on audio books - because I have to spend the $ and audio books cost more than paper books - so at least I’ll have bought fewer dreadful stories about people I find repulsive.

Shame shame, OhQueen. An entire post’s worth of words about Yourself when what you really wanted to say was that you’d just finished reading a Wonderful Novel.

Yep. That’s what’s kept me away from Blogland. A patron returned a new book about a week ago, saying “it’s a wonderful book.” How I wish I could remember who it was - because I’d love to talk to her about it. Something in her voice - some sincerity of tone - some trust I unknowingly put in her judgment - made me take it home, whereupon I promptly misplaced it, not finding it till I cleaned house on Saturday. Carying it upstairs, I peeked at page 1, sat down on the half made bed, read a chapter - and was lost.

It’s called Love Walked In by Marisa de los Santos. It’s set in present day Philadelphia. It’s about a young-ish, single woman and falling in love and it has a happy ending but it doesn’t take you on a sappy journey to get you there. It’s got a kid in it who’s believable enough, it’s got a bunch of people I immediately cared about. They weren’t so crippled that making a cup of coffee would be considered mental health. They weren’t so perfect they had no room to grow. The author skillfully told the story from two points of view and put one in the first person with the other in the third. The author cleverly displayed her own esoteric knowledge of classic films by endowing her heroine with the same database of actors, plot and dialogue.

Best of all, though, are the beautifully chosen words with which Ms. de los Santos swaddles every scene. Exquisite words that slip rich knowledge of Cornelia’s pajamas - and of the sort of woman who would pick such pajamas, into your consciousness so softly it’s more as if you remember that about her, rather than find it out. Lovely, friendly, chatty without being inane, painting word pictures you want to go back and linger over on page after page, this novel was pure pleasure from start to finish. This isn’t just a book I loved reading. It’s a book I wish I had written. I picked it up on Saturday evening and read through chapter one. All day Sunday I kept putting it down to DoDootifulThings but then abandoning housecleaning, preparing for unexpected Monday guests, languishing knitted projects and HeyBaby, with her almost full second bobbin, to pick it back up again. I shrugged off BD’s offer of a boat ride and a trip to town, I didn’t bother to get dressed, I carted the book from room to room and regretfully finished it just before dinner on Sunday.

I can’t remember the last time I didn’t want a book to end. Non-fiction doesn’t count, since it ends when whatever was being talked about happens - you can wear the sweater, World War II comes to an end, or your stock portfolio swells enough to allow you to take early retirement. Historical fiction doesn't count either, because it has to come to an end when all those bold kings and strong queens eventually die and their dates are carved upon tomb stones. Their personal calendars are known quantities. Unlike the life you’re living now - with it’s endless moments of waiting for the next thing, giving time an elasticity and mystery that can’t be measured, a historical novel has a structure, the fact of which is already accepted, even if it’s not yet known. But a contemporary novel with that mind bending ability to put you in a Philadelphia coffee shop, introduce you to a tee-tiny woman and her Cary Grant boyfriend and ... and make you want to stay forever - well. That has been a rare pleasure for me made all the more valuable for its very scarcity.

It’s funny about how Things can happen all at the same time. My darling BD had just been scolding me for Not-Writing-A-Novel - something he does about 4 times a year. Not mean scolds, not put you on the spot God I wish he’d shut up scolds, but the most tender praising prodding chide of a scold that fairly shouts out how much he believes in me. And then I read this book that makes me think ... “If I wrote a book I’d want it to be like that.”

I’ve foot-dragged for a long time about making a commitment to authorship because I think there are Too Many [BAD] Books already. Also - I don’t like people to behave in adaptive, dysfunctional, self destructive ways. Not in real life. Not in movies. Most definitely not in hard cover fiction. I am certainly not going to make some up and have them go their destructive ways. I couldn’t bear to spawn such children. It’s enough that I have to buy them with Your Tax Dollars and clog the rapidly diminishing shelf space in the library. If I had to accept responsibility for their existence I’d become clinically depressed.

Ahh. But. Then along comes a Marisa de los Santos who shows me that people I like can also be interesting! Wow. What a thought. A person could be the mother of people like that. A person could spend a year in the lives of Other Folk You’re Glad You Met.


What a thought.

What a book.

I hope you give it a try.

posted by Bess | 7:25 AM