By Laura Grimes
Oregon Battle of the Books didn’t disappoint. It was nerve-wracking. And it wasn’t just me.
After the Ninja Unicorns’ sudden-death face-off among three teams for the eighth and final position to move on to the elimination rounds in the regional competition, I poked a dad who graduated from the Naval Academy.
“Tell me that didn’t get to you.”
“Are you kidding? Of course it did.” He slouched all his muscles as if to show the staggering weight. “I’ve been trying to be restrained. I’ve been calling my wife constantly to give her updates.”
I overheard one adult say to another, “I had no idea this could be so intense.”
Continue reading OBOB: It’s all about the stories
By Laura Grimes
Today is the big regional competition for Oregon Battle of the Books. As we say in the Scatter household: Go Ninja Unicorns! Kick book!
The Small Large Smelly Boy has been reading and studying for months. Really, the plotting for this competition started a year ago when the team lost a late-round nail-biting battle at regionals by, well, a hangnail. It was a heart-breaking defeat, made more so because they had given the right answer. But they had to prove it. In an official challenge, after two minutes, they were off by two pages. The other team got to advance to the next round. That’s just the way it goes, though it turned my head about how a quiet, erudite book competition could be incredibly thrilling.
A year ago, we had to drive to (hell and gone) Estacada (motto: “We’re in the boondocks … just keep driving”). I was simply the schlepper. Water, lunch, reading material — I was good to go all day. I was happy to support my kid and all his hard work, but I didn’t take it too seriously.
Then the competitions started.
Continue reading Books and the greater share of honour*
By Laura Grimes
I said hello and called her name. She sat on the side of her twin bed, reading an aged book. She didn’t respond. I called her name again. I stood in front of her for several moments. I raised my voice. Nothing. I finally stooped down and looked into her face.
Josephine raised her head just a little, looked at me and smiled. She put a mark in her book and closed it. Gold serif type spelled out two words on the blue cloth cover: Silent Spring.
I put my bag on the floor and moved a portable potty out of the way to give her a sideways hug.
I looked at her square in the front again. “Hello,” she said cheerfully. “It’s been a long time.”
“I know. I never meant to stay away so long.” It had been more than four months.
I looked around for the low wooden stool I usually sit on and found it under a wastebasket. She was wearing a purple dress with white polka dots, the material a thin synthetic. Two strands of Mardi Gras beads matched the color of her dress, one of little hearts and one of little dice. She wore a short-sleeve jacket with a cut out lacy design on the collar, all white like her hair.
Continue reading Josephine, Chapter 2: The long return
I’ve been keeping someone to myself much too long. I’ve collected reams of notes and have a stack of material. Now I feel somewhat prodded, thanks to Rose City Reader, who posted this review of Anne Fadiman’s “Ex Libris: Confessions of a Common Reader.”
I left this comment on her post:
My copy of this book first belonged to my friend, Josephine, who was exactly twice my age when I first met her. She writes in pen in all of her books. She underlines words she doesn’t know, she makes little comments, she traces routes on maps, and on the very last page of every book she reads she signs and dates it and sometimes writes a short comment. It doesn’t matter if it’s a paperback or a gorgeous leatherbound edition from Easton Press. When I pointed this out, she shrugged and said simply she was a carnal book lover. When I was confused, she said I had to read this book and gave me her copy. In the middle of Fadiman’s essay about courtly vs. carnal book lovers, Josephine wrote in very scratchy script at the bottom of Page 40: “Mom used to use a bill to mark her place in a book. She told me to look through her books when she died. Yes, I found a few bills. I was astounded a couple of months ago to find $60 in a book I had read some time before. My mother’s daughter.” The last page is signed: “J.D.P. Jan. 16, 2009. Truly loved this book!” She was 92 years old at the time.
Continue reading Books are for lovers: Meet Josephine