451 Fridays is based on an idea from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. In his novel, a group of people (Bradbury calls them Book People) are trying to keep the ideas found in books alive. Instead of actually saving the books, the Book People each "become" a book - memorizing it, word for word, and passing it down to the next generation.
451 Fridays asks what books you feel passionate about. What book do you think is so important that you would be willing to take on the challenge of "becoming"?
In case you missed it, earlier this week I had the pleasure of interviewing Margot, from Joyfully Retired, for the BBAW interview swap. She graciously agreed to participate in a special edition of 451, so I'm re-posting her response in case you didn't see it earlier in the week. Once again, Welcome, Margot!
The whole idea of absolutely no books in the world is too grim for me to comprehend. I've lived a wonderful life surrounded by books. I honestly can say that, in my sixty-something years of living, I've spent some part of every day with a book or two.
For me part of the pleasure of books is in talking about what I'm reading. One of the joy of motherhood and now being Nana was/is sharing with my children the stories and books I love. In turn they share with me their new discoveries. If there was any possibility of future generations being denied books that have given all of us so much joy, I'd better start memorizing, or "becoming a book" right now.
Based on this fear of a world without children's books, the first three books of my 451 Fahrenheit assignment are for future children. I know that children who are exposed early to good stories, ones that fire their imaginations, are the children who go on to love reading and thinking and learning. But first, books have to be associated with pleasure. These three have certainly done that for me.
1. Nursery Rhymes by Mother Goose. (There are a number of editions but my favorite is Richard Scarry's.) I don't have to start memorizing this one and I bet you know them too. We can't let them die. These are the rhymes many of us remember from our childhood. It was thirty years between reading this book to my children and then to my grandchildren but the rhymes came back easily. See if you can finish these:
"There was an old woman who lived in a shoe. She had so many children . . ."
"Three little kittens lost their mittens and they began to . . ."
"Elsie Marley's grown so fine she won't get up to feed the swine but . . . "
2. Charlotte's Web by E.B.White.
This is a charming tale of Wilbur (the pig), Charlotte (the spider),Tempelton (the rat) and other animal and human characters. The story revolves around the goal of keeping Wilbur from becoming bacon. Charlotte spins words in her web and the humans are astonished. The ploy works as they all believe Wilbur to be an outstanding pig. No one catches on that it's really Charlotte who is amazing, except, of course, the reader. I love that the author does not talk down to children and in fact uses some big words that are defined in an easy to understand manner. If at all possible, read the book way before seeing the movie. I have yet to read this book to a child whose eyes do not grow big. I know they are "seeing" their own version of the pictures.
3. Little Women by Louisa Mae Alcott. This classic tale of girls coming into their own and family togetherness has rung true for generations even after 140 years. Who doesn't want to be like the spirited Jo or one of the other girls? I reread this book again earlier this year and it still brings out the same emotions as it did all the other times I've read it.
The next two books are just for my own, adult pleasure. They are great stories with great characters and I want to make sure they are not forgotten.
4. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver. (You should read the sequel, Pigs in Heaven, while you're at it.)
The is Barbara Kingsolver's debut novel. It's the story of Taylor Greer who has left her home in Kentucky and is heading west in her VW bug. She has no particular destination, she's just enjoying her independence. At a stop in Oklahoma, someone thrusts a small child through her open car window and begs her to take her away. Something about the child causes Taylor to take her. She continues on her way and only stops when her tires wear out in Tucson. The book is filled with wonderfully quirky people that I still think about. I loved the character of Alice, Taylor's mother. As Taylor gradually learns to become a mother, she draws on the example Alice set in raising her. Here's an example from the book:
"There were two things about Mama. One is she always expected the best out of me. And the other is that no matter what I did, whatever I came home with, she acted like it was the moon I had just hung up in the sky and plugged in all the stars. Like I was that good."
5. Garlic and Sapphires: The Secret Life of a Critic in Disguise by Ruth Reichl
I would just hate for the world to lose out on great food writing. I'll bet a world without books would probably also be a world without good food. This true story of Ruth Reichl's experience as a the restaurant critic for the New York Times is such good fun. Because her picture was hanging up in the backrooms of all the New York City restaurants, she had to disguise herself. Rather than get special treatment and the best food, she chose to become an ordinary person and see how the restaurant would treat her then. Ms. Reichl didn't just put on a wig and glasses. She "became" the new person starting with the life story of that person. She chose where the person lived, what they did for a living, how they dressed, and why they were in New York. She found that when she was in disguise she talked and behaved differently. It had quite an impact on her. This book is also a treat when Ruth Reichl describes food. The reader knows exactly how it smells, looks, feels on the tongue, against your mouth and going down your throat. You can get very hungry reading this book.
Which one of these five books should I choose as my book-people book? Tough to choose. I've read the first four numerous times and it wouldn't take much work to have every word memorized. So - I'm going for the challenge of "becoming" Garlic and Sapphires. I could tell you about the time she dressed like her mother and began speaking like her. Or the time she became an out-of-town woman and some guy tried to pick her up. Or the woman she saw on a bus and followed her home to see how she walked and what kind of life she led. And, did I mention recipes? I've made a couple of the recipes in the book. Her New York Cheesecake is so smooth and creamy. And then those perfect potato hashbrowns . . . m-m-m-m, I'm already working on it. Becoming Ruth Reichl's Garlic and Sapphires will be pure pleasure.
If you enjoy reading 451 Fridays each week, why not participate? I'd love to have you - leave me a comment and I'll get you the details!