The Wandering Dude: Reading

            They’re having the National Book Festival this weekend. I’ll miss it terribly but I wouldn’t go without the girls and it’s gotten too hard for us to travel all the way to Washington together. Too bad … we used to go at least every other year.

            Couldn’t list all the famous writers and great books we’ve seen there. From Taylor Branch to Miss Manners (Judith Martin) to Bob Woodward to Tim O’brian to David Baldacci to Khaled Hosseini to Doris Kearns Goodwin to the late John Hope Franklin, we saw these and many more.

            After writing my own book, I have come to the conclusion that Americans, from a literary view, can be roughly divided into two groups. The first, and this includes our current family, comprises those people who cannot imagine living without reading books. The second, and this includes a distressingly large percentage of America’s population, comprises those who cannot imagine sitting down to read a book without being forced to as a requirement for educational credentials.

            Can you even imaging going a year without reading a book?

            Oh, there are those who say they read The Bible. I’m becoming increasingly aware, however, that most of them only scan the parts that support some media-induced belief that they harbor beforehand.

            So much of what I know about the world and life I learned from books. I was delighted not long ago to find that my dear friend Rob Middleton shared a childhood love of Richard Halliburton, author of such classics as The Royal Road to Romance, The Glorious Adventure, and Seven League Boots. It was such a thrill to read, as a young boy, his travel exploits and to imagine one’s self tracing the route of Ulysses through the Aegean Sea or sneaking into the Acropolis to spend the night conversing with the statues on the Caryatid Porch.

            Who could forget his relating of the emotions he felt upon visiting the grave of the British poet Rupert Brook and contemplating the lines that formed his epithet?


IF I should die, think only this of me;  

  That there's some corner of a foreign field  

That is for ever England. There shall be  

  In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;  

A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,          5

  Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,  

A body of England's breathing English air,  

  Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.


            It was especially fascinating, later in life, to learn that Halliburton, the epitome of masculine dash and daring—lost at sea in 1939— favored members of his own sex. The literary life is one filled with surprises.

            But, back to the Book Festival, I’ll just follow it on Book TV. That won’t allow visiting our favorite spot at the festival, the Tent of States. There, a group of Arkansans shared space with those from other states to distribute material from our little part of the world. It was always fun to drop in on them. Oh well.

            They’ve reduced the festival in scope and moved it indoors. Too bad. Maybe they will have Miss Manners there again and she will tell them it isn’t appropriate.


“For one who reads, there is no limit to the number of lives that may be lived, for fiction, biography, and history offer an inexhaustible number of lives in many parts of the world, in all periods of time.” -  Louis L'Amour


Always fun visiting nice folks from Arkansas
Always fun visiting nice folks from Arkansas

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