DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — On Reading

Reading has been important to me since I was a first-grader at Fram Township School No. 3 in Wellsburg, N.D. My teacher, Sylpha Hovland, inspired me. I still have my “report card” from that year long ago — the marks were great for reading, not so hot for “deportment.”

Here are the first lines of 10 of my favorite novels. The answers are at the end of this blog. Add your favorite book or books in a comment if you wish. (Don’t worry: this post is not like one of those Facebook “quizzes” that allowed Cambridge Analytical to influence the presidential election).

(1) “In the late summer of that year we lived in a house in a village that looked across the river and the plain to the mountains.”

(2) “Laura was washing the dishes one morning when old Jack, lying in the sunshine on the doorstep, growled to tell her that someone was coming.”

(3) “For a long time, I went to bed early.”

(4) “If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you’ll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don’t feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth.”

(5) “Call me Ishmael.”

(6) “I will begin the story of my adventures with a certain morning early in the month of June, the year of grace 1751, when I took the key for the last time out of the door of my father’s house.”

(7) “On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru precipitated five travelers into the gulf below.”

(8) “In the year 1896, my great-uncle, one of the first Catholic priests of aboriginal blood, put the call out to his parishioners that they should gather at Saint Joseph’s wearing scapulars and holding missals.”

(9) “Bright, clear sky over a plain so wide that the rim of the heavens cut down on it around the entire horizon.”

(10) “In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father give me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.”

THE AUTHORS
(1) Ernest Hemingway.
(2) Laura Ingalls Wilder.
(3) Marcel Proust.
(4) J.D. Salinger.
(5) Herman Melville.
(6) Robert Louis Stevenson.
(7) Thornton Wilder.
(8) Louise Erdrich.
(9) O.E. Rolvaag.
(10) F. Scott Fitzgerald.

DAVE VORLAND: It Occurs To Me — Yet More Hemingway

I’ve been reading biographies of Ernest Hemingway, dead for more than half a century but who remains an author who can sell books, his own as well as those of scholars trying to interpret his life to the readers of 2017.

I’ve read six new ones so far this year, including most recently Nicholas Reynolds’ book, “Ernest Hemingway’s Secret Adventures, 1935-1961: Writer, Sailor, Soldier, Spy.” It’s 357 pages long, including 88 pages of sources, acknowledgements, permissions, endnotes and index.

Despite the documentation, I’m not completely sold on the Reynolds book. It’s more than OK but contains too many qualifiers such as “could have been” and “perhaps.” Reynolds (not to be confused with Michael Reynolds, among the best of the earlier biographers) pretty much concedes Hemingway was never an actual spy, although he knew many of them beginning with the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s.

I have another unread biography on my night stand: Lesley M.M. Bloom’s EVERYBODY BEHAVES BADLY,” centered on the real life events that resulted in Hemingway’s first novel, “The Sun Also Rises.”

After that, my goal is to reread “The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway,” all 650 pages of them, first published by Scribner’s in 1938 and re-issued in 1987 by Hemingway’s sons, John, Patrick and Gregory, with additional until then unpublished stories.

That should get me through the year.

As always, I wish my Hemingway mentor, the late University of North Dakota English Professor Robert Lewis, a founder of the Hemingway Society, was here to guide me through this reading project.