Monday, September 20, 2010

Books and Friends

One of my favorite places in the world is in the middle of a room lined with book shelves. The e-book craze notwithstanding (and don’t get me wrong--I think it’s a wonderful development for us all), there is nothing quite like the company of strangers who can become old friends through the simple act of reading their words.

It used to quite literally freak me out to hear from readers who said, “I feel like I know you,” mostly because I haven’t ever consciously put myself into my own books. On the other hand, I have come to realize that the thing that resonates most with me as a reader may well be the intuitive hand of the author that enables me to make an emotional connection, not just with imaginary friends, but with the “friend” who created the imaginary worlds we love to inhabit when we read. With that in mind, I suppose I could say that I count Jane Austen among my friends.

When I stand in my personal library at home (about thirty running feet of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves) and peruse the shelves, what makes me smile isn’t the books themselves as much as it is the people they represent. How about you? Do you feel a friendship kind of bond with the writers whose worlds you like to visit, even though you’ve never met them? If you were going to have one in for coffee, who would you invite?

You’ve likely never heard of the two women I’m introducing today, but because of the things they wrote, they have had a profound effect on my life:

Katie Goar Maze, author of Looking Backward, who emigrated to western Nebraska in 1883. Met by her husband at the train in Plum Creek, Katie was taken “thirty-five miles away through canyons and hills” to a sod house. When Katie’s young child died, she “could not quite understand why God had permitted our little blue-eyed boy … to be taken from us.” In 1886 a Reverend Brooker conducted meetings and Katie said, “We had come west to find a home and now we had located on the homestead, but God never slumbers or sleeps. He had His eyes on our future welfare … I had always felt the need of being a Crhistian, and I wanted to know more of the life of Jesus and His power to save and keep.” Katie and her husband were saved in those meetings, and went on to full time ministry. Katie wrote, “I think, when I am permitted to enter the pearly gates, that I shall seek out those early missionaries the first thing after greeting my Savior.” I hope to meet Katie Goar Maze soon thereafter and thank her for writing the memoir that has come to mean so much to me.

Dixie Oblinger, who knew life in a sod house as a child and grew up to be a cab-driver in 1936 Washington, D.C. She wrote of one husband (Dixie was married more times than the average woman), “I realize now that what I should have done was call his bluff, even if I had to do it with a chair wrapped around his neck.” “One more of my philosophies is, adversity is for our instruction. Gosh, but I must really be a Dumb Dora, it takes so much adversity to teach me anything.” “It seems like the good are dieing [sic] young. I’ll sure live to a ripe old age if that is the case.” And, lastly, “I live in the best country on earth and I intend to do my share to keep it the best …” As the country faced WWII, Dixie was hoping she would be allowed to enlist in the Navy as a chauffeur. “I could relieve a man around Washington and let him get behind a gun.” Who wouldn’t want to meet Dixie?

May your week be decorated with new friends you meet in books!

Do you have anyone you'd like to introduce us to?

Stephanie G.

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