Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, May 7, 2012

Isn't "Trollope" a Dirty Word?

Last Friday, as I've written, I spoke at WRA at Morning Meeting.  My topic: how many readers (me among them) want to read everything a writer has written.  I mentioned how, in recent years, readers of all ages have charged through The Hunger Games, the Twilight saga, The Hobbit & The Lord of the Rings, and, of course, the Harry Potter books.

I talked about my reluctance to start with Harry Potter when he arrived in 1997 and how I didn't read any of them until 2007 when Hudson staged its "Last Extravaganza" in July, the celebration for the publication of The Deathly Hallows, the final novel, the celebration that brought as many as 14,000 people here, many of them in costume, everyone swarming around to hear rock music, shop in the stores that had given their merchandise a Harry-theme, watch a Quidditch match, and wait in line at the Learned Owl (our local book shop) and its midnight sale.  The newspaper said the Owl sold 2000 books that night.

When Joyce and I drove into town that night (we'd been to a late movie in Solon) and saw the line at the Owl--hundreds of people at 12:30 a.m.--I snapped.  Bought the books.  Read one a day for seven days while Joyce was off at a week-long conference.

Anthony Trollope, 1815-1882
But my focus in the talk was on the related activity of my reading, over a ten-year period, all forty-seven novels of Anthony Trollope, a quest that had begun in the late spring of 1996 when a student in Aurora, Kym Good, gave me a gift certificate for the book store that used to be out at the Aurora Outlets (can't remember the name right now--Book Warehouse?).  Once night, Joyce and I drove over there, and I saw on a display table some paperback copies of Trollope's Barsetshire novels.

I'd never read any Trollope--but I had just finished reading the complete novels of Dickens and was looking for another project.  Little did I know.

I bought six paperbacks but didn't start the first in the series--The Warden--for more than a year.  (Not sure why.)  But once I started it, well, my fate was sealed.  I charged through those first six, then read in greedy gulps the six Palliser novels, then the other titles that were usually available in local bookshops (The Way We Live Now is a great novel).

But then, after about 15 or so, I decided I wanted to read the rest in the order that Trollope wrote them.  That took some doing.  Many are out of print, so I was ordering through ABE and other used-book sites on the web.

It warn't always cheap, either.  But soon I was so obsessed I was choosing Linda Tressel over food.  (Not really--but close.)  I once paid $38.07 for a used paperback of Marion Fay.  And to show you how quickly things have changed: All 47 Trollopes are now on Kindle for a total of $2.99--cheaper than one of my books on Kindle!  Value!

As I told the folks at WRA, I was always reading a Trollope during those years, always had one with me when I traveled--to Europe or to Mickey's Barbershop.  And just a few months after I finished the Harry Potter books, I finished Trollope #47, his unfinished novel The Landleaguers, whose final word--the last word he wrote--was peace.

In my talk I blamed my former Hiram College English professor, Dr. Abe C. Ravitz, for creating in me this obsession to read everything by a writer.  I like blaming others for my own madness.  It's comforting.

Here's what I said in that speech about Trollope's works ... and I will end with those words ...

In all these novels I read of Members of Parliament—and wealthy folks—and landed folks who’ve fallen on hard times—and grumpy old men who don’t want to leave their estates to their no-good sons—and vicious women (mothers even!) who insist on their own way, who, though bounded in nutshells, count themselves queens of infinite space—and fox-hunters and shooters of game birds—and clueless but arrogant Americans—and young men who must learn about the importance of your word, your honor, about how to love—and profoundly moral young women whose values eventually (though not always) educate and snare the right young man, young women whose goodness can remind a flint-headed grouch what the human heart looks like, what, in fact, it is for.

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