I am doing the A-Z challenge. Today’s letter is M for mystery.
It’s a Mystery!
I will be the first to admit that my current reading agenda is extremely one-dimensional. I like mystery stories, and so I indulge in them. When I make a comment to that effect, Annie reminds me, that after a lifetime of reading the classics, and ingesting that which was assigned to me, I deserve a break. Whereas that makes sense to me, I also feel a little out-of-the-loop when others wax on eloquently about their lists of to-read books.
When I was a kid, and trudging back and forth from the Vine Street Library, lugging an armload of books (Where were those handy backpacks then?), much of what I read consisted of biographies and autobiographies. I wanted to discover what others had said and done. At different times in my life, I have taken on specific authors, and read everything I could get my hands on.
I have been a lifelong Charles Dickens fanatic, having been assigned four of his novels to read as a freshman at Bishop Amat High School. We were given two weeks to read David Copperfield, a feat I accomplished with time to spare. At the time I was of the opinion that I was the only boy in our honors English class (there were no girls) to have accomplished this task. In addition to David Copperfield, I was required to read Hard Times, Great Expectations, and A Christmas Carol.
Altogether, we were required to read twenty-six classics that year. My favorite on the list? Alexander Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo. As a junior, I was introduced to The Epic of Gilgamesh, Beowulf, Camus, and Shakespeare. I always felt that the education I received as a high schooler was the best money could buy.
When I was a sophomore in high school, I discovered John Steinbeck, and devoured every one of his works, my favorite being The Winter of Our Discontent. When I revisited Steinbeck, sometime during my attendance at San Jose State, I reread the ten assigned books, and argued vehemently as Professor Cox asserted that Winter was not one of his better novels. I couldn’t figure out where this woman was coming from; after all, Steinbeck earned the Nobel Prize, after it came out.
When I was a senior in high school, I discovered Robert Heinlein, the only excursion into science fiction I have ever experienced. I read Stranger in a Strange Land with fascination, my Catholic upbringing taking its first serious hit. Later, long after moving up here on the mountain, I scoured the used bookshops of Willits, Ukiah and Eureka, keeping my list of Heinlein books with me on these ventures, trying to complete my collection.
I attended Cal Poly, Pomona and San Jose State for the entire decade of the seventies, not counting the two years I spent in the military. At some point in the late seventies, I realized that I had taken more than a dozen English classes, including four semesters of Old English, a semester of Chaucer and four semesters of Shakespeare. Though my major was Humanities, I had enough for a Minor in English, without having to take a single additional unit.
Now I am perfectly happy to read Robert B. Parker. His protagonist, Spenser (with an “s”) is one of my all-time favorites. I also read Elizabeth George, John Sanford, Peter Robinson, Reginald Hill, Tony Hillerman, Sue Grafton, Dick Francis and a host of others. I remember my mom introducing me to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the original mystery writer, with his fictitious protagonist, Sherlock Holmes. I couldn’t get enough.
If I vary from the mysteries, it is only to read isolated authors such as John Grisham or Nelson DeMille. I can’t seem to motivate myself to read non-fiction these days. Maybe it’s because my little pea-brain is shutting down. Well, it’s a mystery to me, but one that I am not interested in solving.