by Dr. Laura Bloxham
“I’ll want to hear,” Samuel said. “I eat stories like grapes.”
–John Steinbeck, East of Eden
I’ve eaten a bunch of grapes so far this summer. For my somewhat structured reading, a couple of reading groups, I’ve read two notable stories. Actually, I’m still reading one of them, Steinbeck’s East of Eden, with the group of young women, now in their mid-twenties, who are meeting for the fifth summer. We read big books, usually, classics often. East of Eden is full of biblical parallels to chew on, commentary on the growth of the West, progress, depth and surprises, plus good old narrative pull.
For the Kick Ass Women Readers, who read kick ass women authors who write about kick ass women characters, I read Helene Tursten’s Detective Inspector Huss, a mystery with a main character who is a European judo champ, a police detective, a wife, and mother. There are conflicts all over the place, including with the men in her department, as well as the bad guys.
Jenny Brown, in the Kick Ass group, recommended, no, forced me to read one of her favorites, John Crowley’s The Translator. Now it is one of my favorites. A young female student finding her way meets a Russian poet on registration day of her first year in college. But there’s more to both of their stories. And lots of good poetry, thoughts about translation, the power of words, not to say about politics, including the Cuban Missile Crisis. A gripping journey for the characters and the reader.
The best of the rest of the grapes is Michel Quint’s tiny novella, In Our Strange Gardens. It’s an extremely poignant Holocaust story that Vic Bobb passed on to me. And now I’ve passed it on.
Laura Bloxham is a Seattle native who grew up in the Seattle Public Library, where she spent the Saturdays of her youth — those Saturdays, anyway, when she was not watching Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris on the Game of the Week. Laura has her undergraduate degree from Whitworth, and her M.A. and Ph.D. degrees from Washington State University. She has become a generalist in the 19th and 20th centuries, focusing on British, American, and some world literature. Her current favorite courses are Modern World Literature, British Romantics, Southern Writers, Jane Austen, and Holocaust Literature. Laura facilitates a murder-mystery study group that includes Whitworth faculty and administrators.