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Friday, 15 May 2009

Confessions of a Bibliophile #2 - I Love You

Have you ever fallen in love with a character from a book - were they fictional, were they real, were they dead? When reading, sometimes the characters or people become so real to me they are like friends. So I revisit them year after year, rereading the books. With others I wonder what they are doing after the time of the book, two years later, five, or ten years later. I wonder what they are up to. I have fallen in love with five women while reading about them, one fictional, two dead before I was born, and two living. In this week's column I will briefly describe each of them and hope it will inspire you to check out their writings or the writings about them.

Meg Murry is a fictional character created by Madeleine L'Engle. She appears in six of the books in L'Engle's Karios series of books. She is a child in the first books and a mother in the later books. She is a strong woman, an intelligent woman. She appeared so real in the pages. I tried her favorite sandwich and it became one of mine, toasted bagel with liverwurst, cream cheese, tomato slices. L'Engle is one of my all-time favorite authors and when I met her at a conference, she stated that recently she realized that one of her characters had just finished her PhD. Her characters were real to her, and time kept passing for them. Meg was the first woman I ever fell in love with in a book.

My first term here at UW, I took a course called RS100C Faith Quests with Dr. Michael W. Higgins. We read 13 books over the term. I fell in love with two of the women we read about and studied. The first was Etty Hillesum, when I read her book The Letters and Diary of Etty Hillesum. She was passionate about life, and she was determined to understand herself. Even after the Nazi advance and occupation she did not stop living. The last words we have from her are on a post card thrown from a train on its way to Auschwitz. She was an incredible woman, and her life is an amazing testament of the human spirit.

I am not sure what to call the next woman. I met her as Joy Gresham, the woman C.S. Lewis married, then fell in love with. Lewis wrote about her in his book A Grief Observed. It recounts his experience of her illness and her death. It was the basis for the film Shadowlands. Lewis originally published this book under a pseudonym N. W. Clerk. It appears the book was so well written, he received a number of copies from friends to help him with his grief.

Five Feet of Fury - www.fivefeetoffury.com. That is the current blog of Kathy Shaidle. As a fulltime blogger since 2000, Kathy has offended nearly every one. I encountered her previous blog, relapsedcatholic.com, through other Catholic blogrolls. After reading her blog for a while I tracked down her books and read them. I have read most of her books more than once and her autobiographical piece God Rides a Yamaha six times (The God on the Yamaha was wearing a UW jacket with Math on the armband). It is a series of columns published after she was diagnosed with Lupus. I fell in love with her because of her vulnerability in this book. Yet most of her writings are sassy, humorous, poignant and very political. Kathy states: "Social justice is the stubborn application of unworkable solutions to imaginary problems." or "Racist' is the new 'commie."She is considered one of the top Conservative bloggers in Canada. Mark Steyn declares about Kathy "Kathy Shaidle is one of the great virtuoso polemicists of our day: If the "human rights" racketeers get their way, she'll be unpublishable in her own country. But, in the end, that's a reflection not on her but on them." In his intro to her latest book The Tyranny of Nice.

Finally, a Mormon woman from Utah, Terry Tempest Williams - and she does live up to her middle name. Terry's book Refuge is the story of life and the story of death - death of women from cancer, and death of birds in a flooded sanctuary. Williams is a poet, author, environmentalist, and is very passionate about life and life in the desert. Her books are moving and powerful; she writes about the clan of the one-breasted women. She states "I belong to a Clan of One-Breasted Women. My mother, my grandmothers, and six aunts have all had mastectomies. Seven are dead. The two who survive have just completed rounds of chemotherapy and radiation." All of her books are powerful and moving.

I fell in love with each of the women because of the power of words. Words can shape us, change us, challenge us and transform us. Each of the women profiled above can have lasting impact on your life. So check out the books and remember you never know what you will find between the covers, or who.

(First published in Imprint as 'I Love You' in the column Confessions of a Bibliophile 2009-05-15.)

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