Book Talk

Lynn Horton is a freelance writer and editor who in another lifetime taught English and Creative Writing at McIntosh High School and later worked in the Starr’s Mill High School Media Center.

I have tried very hard to reduce my library but without success. It is like, every time I give a book away, two enter the stacks on my bedside table, or next to my favorite chair, or they find their way onto the shelf in my walk-in closet which was designed for shoes, not books. Try as I may to put one or two books in the “Little Library” box on Seavy Street just off Main street in Senoia, my sister will come from Auburn for a visit dragging a bag full of “must reads” with her.
I am, right now, looking at a series of four mysteries by Margaret Maron, a southern writer who lives in North Carolina that Deb dropped off on her last overnight here. While I had never heard of the writer, the settings are very familiar to me. I have so far finished two of the 250-300 page hardback books this week although there are a hundred little chores and three or four big projects calling my name. But not as loudly as the Siren Song of a good book, a glass of iced tea, and a cushiony porch chair.
I had never before heard of author Maron, but her description of the coast of North Carolina and the popcorn shrimp I first ate in a “joint” just over the South Carolina line in Murrell’s Inlet, was no stranger to me. I’ll bet you a fried flounder dinner that just about any of you who visited Myrtle Beach in years past made that drive from the busy golden strand up to the Inlet to get some of the best fresh seafood you ever put in your mouth!
The second book I read by this author was an eye-opener about the furniture business. Well, Bill and I both worked for Futorian Mfg. Co. (home to the famous Stratolounger) in the 60’s, and the High Point Market she chose as the place where a poisoning took place is real and so are, I assume, are all the behind-the-scenes ploys used by buyers and sellers alike in that business. Wow, did I ever learn a lot from Ms. Maron’s careful research.
Today at the gym, the lady on the treadmill next to me was reading a paperback that she had propped up in front of her with something called a FlipKlip designed just for reading while on a treadmill…. $11.95 at Amazon. I have got to have one!  Seriously. This thing may be the key to a newer, slimmer, healthier ME. I’ll get back to you on it.
This lady kindly removed the gadget to show me the back of it and how it worked. When she did, I discovered she was reading a little book, “Epiphany” by Ferroll Sams, one of my all-time favorite writers who just happened to live and “doctor folks” over in the next county. Oh my! Do ya’ll remember when his first book “Run with the Horsemen” came out in 1982, the very same year we moved to Peachtree City? We didn’t know what all the stink was about at the time. My, oh, my. Seems he had let the cat out of the bag and more than a few skeletons out of the family closet. God bless them all. Most of the sisters, aunts, and uncles have passed now and I sincerely hope—as I later heard, that everyone made up and forgave him for overstepping his literary license, at least I heard that they did. Sweet people. True Southerners.
One of his most beautiful books is called “The Passing,” which through paintings and illustrations by Jim Harrison captured the fading American landscape: images of rural pastures, barns, chimneys, and farmhouses crumbling into the red dirt where cotton fields or tobacco crops once flourished. Strangely, I had met Jim Harrison, a South Carolina native, a few years before we moved here and when I attended the University in Columbia, S.C.
Even stranger, when I went to check on facts relating to Mr. Harrison, I found his obituary alongside a recent photo of him reading to children at Hammond Hills Elementary School in North Augusta, S.C. That is where my daughters went to school over thirty years ago. Weird, right? This profoundly gifted artist who collaborated with Dr. Sams in 1988, died almost exactly one year ago from today at his home in Denmark, S.C. on June 17, 2016. Jim preferred staying in his home state and coaching high school sports rather than being part of the New York art scene although he was very successful there and in San Francisco. All sorts of awards. Accolades. The State Highway Department has named a section of Hwys 78 and 321 “Harrison Crossroads.” That is truly cool.
Forgive the nostalgia, friends. But how can one, when presented with a pictorial history book, not go back in memory to a time when you first discovered something so wonderful. So beautiful. So bittersweet. A writer and an artist whose stories and paintings have reached right into your heart and laid down the roads on which you walked, scuffing up dusty red clouds around your skinny ankles. There’s the plank on that old outhouse door that put a splinter the size of a toothpick under your thumbnail, and the CocaCola sign on the side of the barn across the field from my grandaddy’s cotton patch. All there. Right in a book.

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