This reading Life: Letters from the mailbag

Corey Mesler

Today we are featuring messages from the mailbag, as my friends at Doonesbury might say. Recently I got this lovely note:

“Dear Corey,

I just read your article in the latest issue of Lamplighter and really enjoy the idea of an Immersion reading experience. I am a fellow book lover and frequent Burkes as often as I can! I didn’t like reading as a kid which is strange because my parents were always reading, but the last few years I’ve truly become their daughter and created my own household library, thanks in large part to Burkes! Thank you!

I hope to see you in the store soon!”

–          Katie Detroit

A woman with a passion for books and for used book stores. I love women like that. I married one. Thank you, Katie Detroit.

And then a few days later this:

“Good morning Corey,

I enjoy your Lamplighter column. Thanks for doing it.  Book talk is fun.

I don’t get ‘immersion reading’. I admire the discipline involved, but my tastes (unfortunately probably) run to an inch deep and a mile wide.

Don’t think I’ve ever read Gulliver’s Travels.  Though I did read your Talk: A Novel in Dialogue.

My current read is My New Orleans, Gone Away  by Peter Wolf.  Recent ones are, Hank Hung the Moon by Rheta Grimsley Johnson, A Flame of Pure Fire: Jack Dempsey and the Roaring 20’s” by Roger Kahn (who also wrote one of my all-time favorites, The Boys of Summer.

Next up for a trip to Destin, The Racketeer by Grisham.  After that Undaunted Courage (selected from a shelf at your store).

I sympathize with your frustration at not getting much feedback.  I do a show on WEVL and I often wonder if I am just talking to myself.

Know that you have one appreciative reader.

good luck,

–          Harry Freeman.”

God bless you, Harry Freeman. He not only has read one of my novels, endearing him to me forever and placing him in a select group whose membership is somewhere between “John Calipari’s Fan Club: Memphis Edition” and “Movie Lovers Who Lobby for Pauly Shore to Win The AFI Lifetime Achievement Award.”

Harry asked me if he could dedicate my favorite traditional country song to me on his show that afternoon. Not listening to too much traditional country I said Patsy Cline’s “Crazy” or Hank Williams’ “Why Don’t You Love Me Like You Used to Do?”  Obvious, exoteric choices. I wish he’d asked about ‘60s psych pop so I could throw in arcane names like The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band. Or Fever Tree. Anyone listen to Fever Tree? “The Man Who Paints the Pictures” still sets my inner Twyla Tharp loose.

And this note came from Perry Hall:

“Thanks for including Garp. Nothing against Irving but I’ve had a long running argument with a friend over this and Clockwork Orange. Fall reading  –  I always read parts or all of Pilgrim At Tinker Creek –  not my favorite A. Dillard (For The Time Being)  – but a book that seems to resonate when the cool air hits. Also Jack Gilbert.”

Readers, friends, with apologies to Barbra Streisand, are the luckiest people in the world. Perry agreed with me that, though Garp, the novel, was good, the movie by George Roy Hill distilled the book into its essence. Irving is too garrulous; Hill is a smart prospector who pans till he finds the gold nugget in the stream.

Also, I keep meaning to get to Jack Gilbert. Everyone loves Jack Gilbert suddenly, or so it seems, and I had never heard of him before a couple years ago. Gaps, always gaps in one’s reading.

What am I reading? I’m just finishing the new Thomas Pynchon, Bleeding Edge. Pynchon is a force of nature, like a hyper-intellectual tsunami. He is a true polymath and seems to be aware of everything, from pop culture to high. Here he makes reference to video games, Saturday Night Live, computer code, the stock market, slasher movies and “Friends.” The Pynchonian pinball sentences are here (which were sorely missed in his last novel) and this might be the closest he gets to writing a thriller. It’s not unlike a Don DeLillo novel. Here is one character’s take on a Halloween party: “Children of all ages enacting the comprehensive pop-cultural moment. Everything collapsed into the single, present tense, all in parallel. Mimesis and enactment … Nowhere is there a perfect copy of anything. Not even people who said, ‘Oh, I’m just going as myself’ were authentic replicas of themselves.”

Cool, Mr. P. Highly recommended.

As always, you can reach me here:

Corey Mesler is the owner of Burke’s Book Store in Cooper-Young.

Author: LampLighter

The voice of Cooper-Young, a vibrant, diverse neighborhood to live, work and play, in the heart of Midtown Memphis, Tennessee.

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