Saturday, January 20, 2018

101 Books, Number 59

59: Jack London: An American Life, 2013 , by Earle Labor (1928–)

I owe so very much to him*—
He gave life to my London life.
And so I’ll go out on a limb—
I’ll pound the drum and play the fife

In celebration of his scholarship—
His friendship, generosity.
He caught me when I’d nearly slip—
My eyes he opened so I’d see.

A 1990 seminar
With Earle and others paved the way
For me to travel, near and far—
The Yukon, San Francisco Bay—

Oh, all those places London saw
And wrote his many books about.
The frozen North, the cold so raw—
Oh, there cannot be any doubt

Yes, Earle had launched me on a quest
To learn and read and travel on.
So as an influence? Just the best.
I owe him, deeply. He was dawn.

*I wrote and published several books about London—Earle-inspired: a YA biography of Jack London (1998), annotated editions of The Call of the Wild (1995, 1997)

Friday, January 19, 2018

101 Books, Number 60

60: The Fixed Period, 1882, by Anthony Trollope (1815–1882)

Its kind of cheating—yes, I know—
A second Trollope novel, Yo.

But this one is so very odd—
A time when people act like God,

Decide how long a life should be—
Then end it (somewhat mercifully)

If it exceeds allotted time—
Which seems, of course, a moral crime.

But all goes well—until the first
Achieve the age and in a burst

Of opposition cry, “No way!
I do not want to die today!”

So what ensues? I will not tell
Just read to see if all is well!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

101 Books, Number 61

61: Election, 1998, by Tom Perrotta (1961–)

This is the book that started me
On my fine happy journey through
Perrotta’s work. I’d gone to see
The film,* but really had no clue

That movie would bring on the book—
And that the book would bring much more—
Oh, such a gleeful time I took
Afloat on prose—oh, did it soar!

I’ve read them all since ’98–
And buy the next when it appears.
(Okay, not all of them are great—
But some bring laughter; others, tears.)

Perrotta is a favorite now—
Oh, one of many—this I know.
And I have taken such a vow:
Not one of them will I forego!

*Election, 1999, with Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon (link to film trailer)

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

101 Books, Number 62

62: The Letters of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley,* 198088, ed. Betty Bennett (19352006)

I read these letters early on—
I’d only just begun
My Mary Shelley research life—
And still I am not done!

Professor Bennett—what a job
She did with these rare texts!
I gobbled each—nutritious food!—
Then moved on to the next.

The annotations—marvelous.
The insights keen and rare.
The more I read, the more I thought,
The more I came to care.

And soon a correspondence with
Professor Bennett I
Commenced. And she was such a help!
I was a lucky guy.

The Shelley World lost such a friend
When Betty passed away.
I miss her books—her email, too.
I long to hear her say

Yet one more thing about the life
Of Mary Shelley and
The others who composed her world
Who formed that magic land.

*Mary Shelley (17971851)

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

101 Books, Number 63

63: The Kid Comes Back, 1946, by John R. Tunis (1889–1975)

Roy Tucker was the “kid,” the one
Who lived and who “came back.”
He’d served in World War II—
Survived a bad attack.

Back to the Brooklyn Dodgers he
Returned—but problems rose:
His injury had slowed his game—
So what do you suppose?

He underwent some therapy;
Improved a lot (surprise?)
And roared back to the game he loved—
What perseverance buys!

I loved this book in boyhood—
I read it many times.
Re-reading this fine baseball book?
The least of boyhood crimes!

Monday, January 15, 2018

101 Books, Number 64

64: Savage Beauty: The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay, 2001, by Nancy Milford (1938–)

This is a title I reviewed—
And here I think it’s best to say
I had a poor, dim attitude
About this poet named Millay*

Until and read this book—and then
I dived into Millay’s rich verse
And realized that I had been
A fool of sorts (just hear me curse!).

She’d fallen out of favor in
The academic world, so she
Had disappeared, I fear, back when
I had been studying poetry.

But as I read of her wild life—
Her gifts and, yes, of course, her fame—
Her less-than-loyal years as wife—
About that puzzling middle name**—

I realized I’d much to learn—
And so my reading years commenced—
For books remain the way to earn
The best of things, I am convinced.

And Milford’s text is full—alive—
The way I love biography—
You read the thing—and you arrive
At Truth—or close as you can be.

**the “St. Vincent” part of her name—for the hospital that had saved the life of a relative

Sunday, January 14, 2018

101 Books, Number 65

65: Cross Country, 2006, by Robert Sullivan (1963–)

It’s got the greatest subtitle*
Since days of long ago—
Too long for me to reproduce—
And … rhyming problems, Yo!

I loved this book—for it brought back
The road trips I have done—
Throughout my life, those trips have been
The purest kind of fun.

I liked this book so much that I
Read all his others, too.
He writes of rats and whales and folks
As weirdly weird as you!

I coaxed him to come to our school,**
And here he spent a day
With classes—an assembly talk—
A pleasure, every way.

I read his books when they come out—
The day that they arrive,
For he creates a Wonder Pool—
And into it I dive!

*Fifteen Years and 90,000 Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, a Lot of Bad Motels, a Moving Van, Emily Post, Jack Kerouac, My Wife, My Mother-in-Law, Two Kids, and Enough Coffee to Kill an Elephant

**Western Reserve Academy, April 14–15, 2009