I have just finished reading “The Reader” by Bernhard Schlink. It was published in 1995, and somehow I missed it until now. The best measure of a book, for me, is how long it stays with me. If I can turn the last page of a book and put it aside without regret or memory, it has nothing for me. If I turn the last page and ponder what it said to me, even if it disturbed me, the book ranks high in my estimation. “The Reader” is disturbing, thought-provoking, cerebral and satisfying. I often tell others, students and colleagues, that to write good literature, one must read good literature. I believe that, but I also believe that doing so can be both stimulating and depressing when our talents do not match that of those whose production we admire. One must persevere. One must write, rewrite and rewrite. Writers must enjoy the journey and not be discouraged on reaching the destination. Then select a new destination on a higher hill, and push on.
I had DNA testing from both ancestry.com and 23andme. Alas, neither discovered the long-sought American Indian ancestor that my family has been talking about for generations. I’m sorry to put that legend to rest. The testing confirmed that my ancestors were mostly from western Europe, no surprise there. I was surprised to see that there was a 4% ancestry from the Middle East. Also 2% from Africa, but the latter figure, said the analysis, can be chance rather than significant.
There has been a persistent rumor in my family about an Indian ancestor. Well. Every native Texan wants to find a horse thief and a Cherokee princess in their ancestry, but some in my family insisted that the Indian ancestor was really there, if only we could find her. Yes, the rumor held that the ancestor was a woman. I did some research, but came up with nothing definitive. So I had DNA testing done years ago when it was first offered to the public, but the results were inconclusive, even after a re-test. When the Indian ancestor story surfaced again during a recent clan gathering, I decided to answer the question once and for all. DNA testing is much more sophisticated now, so I decided to try again. I registered with ancestry.com and 23andMe, both respected testing companies. The 23andMe test kit has arrived, and I expect the ancestry.com kit to arrive any day. I’m pretty excited about the test, not just to settle the Indian ancestor question, but to learn with more accuracy the regions where my European ancestors lived. By the way, the testing for Indian ancestors often can identify the tribe, or at least the region.
I am happy to report that the advance reading copies for my new novel, The People, have arrived. Nice to know that the publication process is proceeding nicely. Five Star Publishing will release the book in August.
I wrote a second 100-word piece for the CWC newsletter.
Rain and the Raeburn
On the platform beside the road, our milk, unpasteurized, unhomogenized. I exchanged empties for full bottles. We turned for home, in a hurry now for large raindrops had begun to fall. I shifted the heavy rack from hand to hand, dissuading two-year-old Jennifer who wanted to carry it. The wind increased, chilling us. We were running on the bumpy road before reaching the house.
The warm kitchen had never seemed more a haven as we stood near the Raeburn, drinking hot chocolate in silence. Rain pattered against the windows, making little puddles on the stone walkway outside the kitchen window.
I wrote a 100-word piece for a feature in the newsletter of the Mt. Diablo Branch of California Writer’s Club. An interesting exercise. Here it is.
We walked down the lane, hand in hand. The bumpy road, the girls called it.
She stopped, pointed to the hedgerow, remembering.
I pondered. How to explain death and cruelty to a two-year-old. The mangled fox, pulled from the hedgerow and displayed to the riders, in their red coats and top hats. I brushed a cheek, picked her up, held her close. She hugged my neck, pulled back, smiled.
“Boo-bell,” she said, forgetting, a child’s advantage.
I put her down.
She took my hand, pulled me down the bumpy road toward the little wood, carpeted with bluebells.
Covers are the lure and the preview for books. There are many options for the author in building a better book cover. I have put together a page showing something of my experience in constructing covers. See http://harlanhague.us/BookCoverOptions.htm.
I am delighted to report that my novella, Belize in My Dreams, is up and running on Amazon. Too short to be called a novel, too long for a short story, too much fun to throw away, I put it up as an ebook only. The story was inspired by a tour that I organized to Costa Rica, Belize and Tikal. Halcyon days.