Wednesday, November 3, 2010

What Isabel Reads

I once went to see Isabel talk, back when she was promoting Aphrodite. She was at one of the local bookstores in Berkeley. I didn't know her well at the time. Her daughter-in-law is a friend, and I hadn't yet gotten over the fact that she was famous. She would walk into a room and I would go into a stupor. That night, though, I managed to ask her what she reads when she isn't busy writing. She totally blew me off. Her answer was vague and calculated, as if she got the question often. I don't think she wanted to say. Perhaps her publisher forbade it; I was never sure. Luckily I am pretty sneaky and occasionally manage to peruse the stack of books on her nightstand.

Among the pile of books she always has on her nightstand I saw Great House, by Nicole Krauss (The History of Love, Man Walks in the Room) and Corduroy Mansions by Alexander McCall Smith, an author she says she often reads to reconcile her feelings about humankind.  Fortunately for her, she will never run out of books by this guy: he has written 57 novels and he produces an average of 5 books per year. She told me she met him at Book Passage in Corte Madera, which is located near here in Northern California.  It's Isabel's favorite bookstore in the whole world because they have made a shrine of her books.
When I last saw Isabel, she was curled up in her living room, completely absorbed in Man in the Woods, Scott Spencer's most recent novel.  Spencer is an author she says she follows faithfully (A Ship Made of Paper, Willing, etc.).  The protagonist of Man in the Woods is a self-made man—a quiet, moral, and solid human being.  One day he sees a man in the woods brutally beating a dog. He intervenes and his life changes forever. Suspense, fate, death, redemption, crime and regret—it has all the elements of a memorable story.

From what I can see, Isabel can't live without a story.  Preferably a good story.  She always carries an audio book in the car so she doesn't have to focus on the traffic.  She has crashed her car 36 times, surviving with minimal scars and only a couple of missing teeth.  One wonders how she still has a license.  Right now she is listening to To Kill a Mockingbird, beautifully read by Sissy Spacek in a Southern accent.  This Pulitzer-Prize-winning novel, the only book that Harper Lee ever wrote, is one of Isabel's favorites.  I am told she reads it, watches the movie (starring Gregory Peck), or listens to the audio at least once every decade.

I will try to sneak a peak at the books on the nightstand from time to time and post what I see. Just so you know: She won’t endorse your book here. I’ll simply report what I spy her reading or listening to.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Spy; Are you sure she didn´t mind you to look at her nightstand´s books? You are dangerously friendly...