Friday, April 23, 2010

In praise of the phrase

Since The Book Club began, a few things have changed about my reading habits.

I now feel less guilt letting the household chores slide to read a book, because, after all, I have to, it's for the blog.

And I now find myself noticing the clever turns of phrase authors use. And, of course, wishing I were as clever.

That was certainly the case with "Gone Tomorrow" by P.F. Kluge.

My usual reading speed was slowed so I could attach Post-Its to the pages that held the passages I admired.

"Gone Tomorrow" tells the story of George Canaris, a small-town Ohio college professor killed in a hit-and-run accident. The author of acclaimed works early in his career, now he was being forced out of his position at the college. The professor named his literary executor sets out to find the Canaris' unpublished works.

Perhaps that description doesn't do it justice, because the novel really is a page-turner.

Some of what gave me pause:

In a description of parents leaving their children at the college for the first time: "They pulled out of their parking lot, their left or right turn signal waving goodbye and I saw their kids walk away thoughtfully, fighting a tear perhaps."

In a description of his collection of books: "They survive one move after another, they sit on shelves for decades, reminding us not so much of how much we have read as how much we have forgotten, an uneven contest between reading and memory which might well end with someone surrounded by all the world's books yet incapable of summoning up his own name."

And this, in a description of the weather: "And when I walked over to invite her to join me, I saw what she hadn't noticed yet: that our monotonous, month-old gray sky was shedding snow."

Can't you just picture that Ohio winter sky??

- Tricia Ambrose


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