Saturday, May 14, 2016
"And you're taking notes ...?"
So ... this morning ... sitting in Open Door Coffee Co. ... reading ... taking notes. And I become aware that someone has moved to stand by "my" table. I look up. A friend from English Teaching World. We have never taught in the same school--and he has not yet retired (poor guy)--but he lives in town; we see each other now and then; we are friendly; say hello; talk occasionally about books and writing.
"So what are you reviewing?" he asks. (He knows I'm a reviewer.)
"Oh, no review. Just reading this--it won a Pulitzer this year." I show him the cover of Custer's Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America by T. J. Stiles.
"I've been a Custer Freak for a long time ..." I explain.
"Oh, not a fan," I add hurriedly (don't want him to think I admire what Custer did at the Washita). "At least, not since boyhood." When I did run around the neighborhood, escaping my Last Stand. (Which Custer--not nearly so clever as I--did not.)
"And you're taking notes ...?" he asks.
"Yeah." Pause. "Not sure why."
"Do you always take notes on books you read?"
"No. Sometimes there are books I just, you know, read." (I think of the thrillers and mysteries I routinely consume--and the books I read in bed at night; there, I generally do not take notes on sheets of paper--though I do make little (pencil) marks in the text and jot brief notes inside the dust jacket (also in pencil).)
"Well, he said, "maybe you'll want to write about Custer one day."
"And then I'll be glad I have the notes ..."
The conversation shifts to weather and the end of the school year, and he drifts away while I finish the 25 Custer-pages I've assigned myself for this morning, pack up, and head home.
Where I have a half-dozen file cabinets jammed with notes on books I've read--arranged by author, natch.
And as I float home, the rain splattering my umbrella, the temperature more appropriate for early November, I begin to wonder myself: Why?
And the only answer that makes any sense at all to me? Because.