Whenever my local world is too much with me, I often turn to a book to get myself out of the doldrums (perhaps many of you do, too). Once when I was feeling weltschmerzty about working in academe, I read the book, Blue-Collar Journal: A College President’s Sabbatical, and then during vacations took a series of blue-collar jobs (doing inventories, picking and packing toys in a cut-rate factory, and others) to get some perspective on life and work. Another time I read William Least Heat-Moon’s Blue Highways and embarked on a number of trips around the U.S., seeing for myself what some of the rest of this country was like, and talking with folks whose worlds are very different, yet in some ways, remarkably similar, to mine.
Sometimes, I’ve let Georgette Heyer take me to 1930′s-40′s England, into whodunnits with witty, sophisticated characters whose repartee always brings glee to a reader’s heart. Other times, Joan Hess, Janet Evanovich, Caroline Haines, and Margaret Maron take me to foreign places right here in the U.S., peopled with characters that fascinate me. But when I get really cranky and distressed about the world immediately around me, I turn to James Lee Burke — he is a sure-fire cure for what ails me. When I compare my life with Dave Robicheaux’s tribulations, and those of most of his other characters, I realize just how good I have it, comparatively speaking (although God knows I envy Robicheaux the house his Daddy built, all those pecan trees, and his bait shop in New Iberia).
So even though I have lots of work to do this weekend (an e-review, a book in progress, etc.) I took some time this AM to immerse myself in Neon Rain, the first Burke / Robicheaux novel, which makes my lot look like paradise. And now I’m ready to face my work, knowing it’s a helluva lot easier than what many folks have to do.
More as it happens on an overcast, humid October day in southern Mass.,