Saturday, September 11, 2021

On Distractions and Mixed Emotions

This is one of those days that I'm filled with mixed emotions, even to the point of not being able to focus on the things I need to be doing. It is, of course, the twentieth anniversary of the 9-11 murders, a somber day to be sure, but an anniversary (considering recent events in Afghanistan) that fills me with a whole new kind of regret. So today I feel guilty about not wanting to think much at all about what happened to all of us all those years ago.

Instead, I'm focusing on the little things that are happening all around me right now, like finally getting my car back from the body shop after four weeks of waiting for a new headlight to arrive so that the repairs could be completed. The covid pandemic has caused our supply chain to be crippled in a way that the world's interconnected economy is obviously still struggling to overcome. Four weeks for a headlight to make it to Houston from the supplier is ridiculous! The fellow-who-hit-me's insurance company ended up paying almost a $1,000 in rental car payments on a repair that the shop only charged $1,605 to complete. But now, after a month, it feels like I'm driving a brand new car...and I don't have to putter around in that boxy little Kia Soul anymore.

And college football is back. It feels so good simply to type that sentence. As I do every season, I have high hopes that my team, the Texas A&M Aggies, will have a great season. It doesn't always happen...make that it hardly ever happens...but I always hope that this will be the year. The problem is that A&M competes in the same conference and same division as Alabama, a team that seldom loses more than one game a year. That means that finishing second is almost the most we can ever realistically hope to achieve. Still, I can't wait to see how the Aggies fare against Colorado this afternoon in the second game of the season.

And I visited a couple of used-book bookstores last week and came away with some good stuff. At one store, I found a 1965 copy of Rex Stout's The Doorbell Rang and even though the book was minus its jacket, I am happy to have it on the shelf. I also found an unread copy of Ian Rankin's A Song for the Dark Times in the same shop, and despite already having read and loved it, I added it to my Rankin collection. 


At a different shop, I came home with three books I didn't even know I wanted when I walked through the doors - love when that happens. One is a signed copy of Sherman Alexi's 2012 short story collection called Blasphemy. Alexi is a native American author whose work I've really enjoyed in the last few months, so I'm looking forward both to reading this one and adding it to my permanent collection of short story compilations. 

I'm also a huge fan of Gerald Seymour's books and was happy to find an unread copy of one of his novels, The Walking Dead, that I was unfamiliar with. Thankfully, just so you know, there are no zombies in this book. This is the story of a British secret service agent who is sent to Saudi Arabia on an anti-terrorist suicide mission. Seymour writes some of the best thrillers of this type imaginable, so I'm really looking forward to reading this one. To show how highly Gerald Seymour is thought of around the world, The New York Times says of him, "The three British masters of suspense, Graham Greene, Eric Ambler, and John le Carré, have been joined by a fourth - Gerald Seymour." I agree.

The third book I picked up in that bookstore was the last one I reviewed here: I'd Rather Be Reading, a book I responded to with a different type of mixed emotion. I don't exactly regret purchasing this one, but...well, you get it by now. 

The highlight of my book-buying week, however, was the arrival of a copy of The Library of America's volume of Theodore Dreiser's 1925 novel, An American Tragedy. This one is over 900 pages long, and I've already read it three times, but I know I'll want to read it again. This is a novel I first read in high school, and I feel as if it is the one that made me fall in love forever with crime novels. Even though it is fiction, because of Dreiser's style and the nature of the crime he describes, it reads very much like a true crime book at times. And the physical book itself is absolutely beautiful - as are all hardcover books coming from Library of America. As the 121 LOA books on my shelves clearly shout out, Library of America is my favorite publisher of them all. 

Well, it's almost game time, so I'm going to fix a quick lunch and settle in for that. Maybe tomorrow, I'll be ready to think about this twentieth anniversary of the tragic mass murder of September 11, 2001, at least in small doses. I just can't do it today, so I'm purposely avoiding tuning in to certain television channels. 

20 comments:

  1. I don't think anyone should feel badly if they aren't thinking about it. It doesn't mean you care less or that someone cares more who makes mention of it being 20 years. It was so scary at the time, and we had to make snap decisions. Like my daughter was supposed to go visit someone in Boston, and we didn't want her to go. Cities were dangerous. Who knew what place might be hit next. I guess I would just as soon not think about it.

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    1. Thinking about it brings it all back very clearly, and I really don't like focusing on that horrible day. I was in the Sahara Desert when it happened, fairly near the Libyan border, and heard about everything via an Algerian employee of mine. We were stuck there for a long time until we could finally get a flight out of the desert into London...where we were stuck for a while because of the grounded flights. It seems unreal somehow, even though I can recall so much in great detail.

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  2. Oh, and SO tickled about the Wolfe/Archie find!

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    1. I'm looking forward to reading it. I used to have a bunch of 1970s-1980s paperbacks of the series but somehow or another they are now long gone.

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  3. It is a terrible anniversary. We don't need to listen to or watch every memorial event, we remember very well the shock and grief, where we were, how stunned we were. It is an ache in the heart.

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    1. It comes very vividly back to me, Jen, when I see some of that old video. It's one of those days that none of us will ever forget, very much in the manner that those of us of a certain age remember the JFK assassination.

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  4. I couldn't watch more than an hour of the 9/11 shows today. We recorded some for perhaps another day. We did go to our first library book sale today since before COVID. Masks were required and it wasn't as crowded as in previous years but, it was a treat. We each walked out with a bag full of books and only spent $11.00 between us. Congrats on your new book additions. I need to check out Dreiser: An American Tragedy. That's quite a collection of LOA books you have! They are beautiful books.

    I'm not a football fan but the hub is a huge Penn State and Philadelphia Eagles fan.

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    1. I couldn't entirely avoid the coverage but managed to keep it to just a couple of minutes at a time. Some of the tributes from around the country that I saw were beautifully done, and I watched a bit of those. I just couldn't face all the commentary and the same old video thrown in my face over and over again.

      The LOA book are truly wonderful. They are a nonprofit publisher with the mission of keeping American classics and other writing in print and they are doing a great job. I buy several of their books every year, and they are starting to add up.

      As your husband knows, college sports are a great distraction...especially in times like these. Don't know what I'd do without them.

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  5. There's been a lot on our TV in the UK and I've not watched any of it. It feels raw and almost intrusive somehow but I can't explain why I feel like that. It also worries me how mesmerised you can get watching the planes fly into the towers, like some disaster film being repeated over and over. Cheapens it somehow and that concerns me.

    As to Gerald Seymour, I haven't read any of his books but I'm old enough to remember him as a TV journalist on ITN and journalists often do make excellent writers of thrillers or crime yarns. So what you say about the quality of his work doesn't surprise me.

    Enjoy your college football season, Sam!

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    1. Exactly right, Cath. It's akin to watching an old movie from the beginning when you know how terrible the ending will be 20 years later. I think that's my big problem with it right now...all those lives squandered then and since then only for everything to end in the political disaster it ended in.

      I discovered Gerald Seymour in the Richmond Library in London mainly because they had about ten of his books on the shelf, an eye-catcher. I didn't expect much at first, but the man is a terrific writer and he uses current events in his thrillers really well. He's part of a small group of my favorite all-time thriller writers now, and I'm always happy to get my hands on something new of his.

      Well, my team did manage to win 10-7, but we lost a key player probably for the rest of the 2021 season so it was a bit of a disaster in the end. Still hopeful...

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  6. This weekend has been hard, and more emotional for me than I thought it would be. But hey, you got your car fixed and your football team won. Yay! I root for BYU and my football team won yesterday, too. So that was a happy thing for me. And I'm a little jealous of your new edition of Dreiser's An American Tragedy. I really like that classic. Hope this next week treats you well!

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    1. I hear you, Lark. And you're right...it was gone so long it's like I'm driving a brand new car. Kind of fun.

      I watched the BYU game and was happy with the result. BYU should get even better if it moves into the Big 12 conference in a couple of years. That will help with the player recruiting for sure.

      An American Tragedy was a real eye-opener for me. I read it in the mid-sixties when it was about 40 years old and remember being surprised that it could have been written so long ago. Soon, I'm going to start trying to read a chapter or two a day...if I don't get so hooked on it that I decide to read the whole thing more quickly.

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  7. I was feeling a little guilty about avoiding 9/11 coverage yesterday... we never even turned on the television. It will be easier to watch some highlights today.

    Beautiful edition of An American Tragedy. A favorite high school English teacher gave me a copy back in the 70s that I finally got around to reading in 2014! (Unfortunately a different edition because the 70s mass market paperback type was just too small.) Loved it and went on to read Sister Carrie a year or two after that. Have a good week, Sam.

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    1. Isn't Dreiser a good writer? I love both those books, but it was Tragedy that forever hooked me on quality crime fiction. Dreiser's book is much more than that, of course, more a condemnation of society, I guess, but it is enthralling. I don't think I could have read that seventies edition...tend to lose my place when the type is too small.

      The only coverage I saw was on the local news and while watching a few football games this weekend. Lots of colleges prepared some moving tributes to the anniversary and those were very much worth a look. But that's about it.

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  8. 9/11 anniversaries are always tough, especially the 20th. Such a horrific thing to have happened. My kids talked a lot about it at school and it's been interesting to share with them where I was when it happened, how I felt, etc. It opened up some really good conversations.

    I hear you on the vehicles in the shop. Two of ours were in at the same time a few weeks ago thanks to our 16-year-old son! The truck he drives is still there, needing a new engine. Parenting is SO fun sometimes :)

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    1. It's really kind of hard to believe that today's young adults were not even born when the murders happened in 2001. My 22, 19, and 18-year-old grandchildren only know of it what they learned in school and see on television. I don't think they will ever truly comprehend the horror of that day.

      Hey, don't be too tough on the boy. After all, for me it was a case of two grown men trying to exit a store parking lot at the same time. LOL

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  9. Enjoy your college football. That's one of the best things about fall. I watch more NFL but the fall gets me in the mood for ... the game again.

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    1. I used to be a big NFL fan, too but it gets hard when your local team is bad for your entire life. And that's what Houston fans have pretty much experienced. And now we have such an incompetent owner that there is no hope at all.

      I'm much more loyal to my college favorite, and always come into a new season with at least some hope.

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  10. Sam, I have been meaning to comment on this post ever since I read it several days ago. I haven't been keeping up with blogging as well in the last week or so, too many things going on at home.

    It has been so long since I have read The Doorbell Rang. I need to read it again soon. We have been to a book sale (that lasts 10 days) on Friday and this morning and I picked up two hardcovers with dust jackets (later ones, book club editions, but still nice covers) of Rex Stout books, and also several paperbacks by him. I already have copies of every book and in many cases multiple copies, but I never can resist. One of the hardcovers was Murder by the Book and that might be my next read. It has been a long time since I read that one too.

    I smiled when I saw your mention of Texas A&M playing Alabama. I graduated from U. of Alabama so of course attended a few football games at that time. My uncle attended Auburn and there was a huge rivalry between the two colleges, with a game every every Thanksgiving weekend in Birmingham, where I lived (when I wasn't at college). But I don't follow football enough now to know that they are still doing well. Interesting and surprising. If I watched basketball like I used to I would probably know that, just from reading the sports pages.

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    1. That Murder by the Book title reminds me that I need to visit one of my favorite Houston bookstores, Murder by the Book, soon. It's been too long. I have a couple of teeshirts from the store with Nero in profile sitting in an easy chair with the Archie Goodwin quote below the picture saying "Go to hell, I'm reading." Love the shirt...wife hates them.

      Congrats on the book sale pick-ups. Those are great. I can't remember what happened to all my Nero Wolfe paperbacks, but I imagine that they all disappeared together at some point. Wish I had them.

      Yeah, Alabama has been on a roll for more well over a decade and it is frustrating to play in their conference division. This is our tenth season in the SEC and our record against Alabama is 1-8 before we play them here in a couple of weeks.

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