A TREE GROWS IN BALTIMORE
Okay, so I’ve become persuaded that I can keep the Memory Project on track, if I a) post less often and b) cannibalize my pre-teen youth, while saving my teen years for the next book.
But I also want to add a new feature to this blog, a reading project. As some of you know — hey, Joe! — I’m a huge fan of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, a book that has been held back from straight-up classic status, IMHO, because it has a female protagonist. Anyway, those who know the book well may remember that Katie Nolan, the matriarch, is given some interesting advice by her mother.
“The secret lies in the reading and writing . . . Every day you must read one good page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be done until the child learns to read. Then she must read every day, I know this is the secret.”
Her mother advises Katie to read from Shakespeare and “the Protestant Bible.” (“It’s not fitting for a good Catholic to say but I believe the Protestant Bible contains more of the loveliness of the greatest story ever told on this earth and beyond it.”) Katie follows through, with some interesting results: Frannie asks another little girl to wait while she “begats” her jump rope.
So, in 2006, I’m going to try it. A page a day, from each volume. I have a new Bible and an old collected Shakespeare. And when I travel, I figure I can take photocopies to cover the days I’m away.
But I also have another ambitious reading project, and I’m not the only one. Like a lot of folks, I’ve fallen hard for Jane Smiley’s “Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel.” As Jenny Davidson reported on her blog there are blogs set up for those who want to read Smiley’s list of 100 books (actually 101) in order, month by month. I’m going to go backwards, starting with Jennifer Egan’s Look at Me, and I’m allowed to make substitutions as I reach books I’ve read. (On the other hand, I’m also allowed to re-read those books I just don’t remember. Yes, that’s you, Moby-Dicky!)
I’m going to use this blog for interim reports on both reading projects. And if you know one thing about me, you know I’ll be honest, even if I’m an abject failure or if my self-imposed required reading makes me start reading all sorts of contraband, anything but the books at hand.