Friday, August 22, 2008

Six Degrees of Literature

Sometimes one book will lead to other books. I was talking with one of the regulars from a book discussion here at the library. She mentioned that in preparing for the discussion of Finn by Jon Clinch, she went back and reread The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and that enhanced her understanding of both books. The book by Clinch is a darkly fictional portrait of Huck Finn's father and it is beautifully written. I too went back to reread the Twain classic. I find it fascinating to follow the strings of interest that reading can provide.

Several years ago I read Evidence of Things Unseen by Marianne Wiggins. It is a profoundly moving, yet tragic story of a man and his family so caught up in the brilliant promise of science in the 1940's that they fail to see the unseen dangers before it threatens to tear them apart. There are a lot of intriguing references to Moby Dick throughout the novel.

I recall being so inspired that I went on to read Moby Dick (or at least a good portion of it). That was followed by In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex by Nathaniel Philbrick. This is a true story of survival at sea following a whale attack on a ship and it was the inspiration behind the Moby Dick story.

I liked Philbrick's storytelling so much that I then read his other book Mayflower which recounts the true story of the Pilgrims. It caused me to view our country's origin, the Pilgrims (as well as the Native Americans) and the New England region in an entirely new way. I had been to New England the year before to attend a library conference. I wish I had read Mayflower before that trip so I could have explored some of the places it covered.

Then I remembered that during that trip to Boston I explored some of the places I recalled from reading another book, Mystic River by Dennis Lehane. Mystic River is fantastic suspense novel, which was later made into a very good movie starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and . . .

Kevin Bacon.

I wonder where the next book will take me . . .

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