Standing in the Rainbow

When an avid reader and dear friend recommends a novel, her favorite one at that, I gladly agree to read the loaner.  In this case, Fannie Flagg’s Standing in the Rainbow does not disappoint.

standing

Following the lives of residents from the small town of Elmwood Springs, Missouri, through generations, the reader becomes emotionally engaged, and, in essence, a member of middle America.  Visualizing Bobby Smith, the only son of the Smith family, overcome his fear in order to climb the water tower as a young boy and his coming to the realization of his smallness in this vast universe offered the reader his raw humanity:

Could it really be possible that . . . [I] was nothing but just another small dot among a bunch of other small dots? . . . always thought . . . [I] was something different, something special.  Now . . . [I] was thrown for a complete loop.  (21)

Furthermore, reading of Bobby’s school work struggles which resulted in the repeat of sixth grade allowed me to bond with this young man, and I found myself silently cheering him on.  His eventual enlistment in the Korean War caused me great tension because I was so invested, fearful he may not return, so I proceeded slowly and with caution while reading as my buddy who had given me the loaner has probably been wondering when I was planning to return her novel.

Flagg writes with such humor as in her depiction of the Oatmans crammed in their car travelling cross country to their next singing gig.  With the older brothers and daughter, Betty Raye, in the back, and the chaos and noise from the front seat, the reader learns, “Chester the dummy was out of his box, yammering away at Ferris and complaining because Floyd had also wanted to stop at the gas station and get himself a cold Dr. Pepper”  (100).

Flagg, in her writing, is able to capture such a simpler time, bringing forth a sense of nostalgia for the reader.  When Bobby’s Cub Scout field trip is canceled due to rain, he is not bothered or unable to entertain himself.  Instead, he spends the day on the porch watching the rain and listening “to the sounds of the cars swishing up and down the wet streets” (102), no cell phone or computer needed.  Later, when his grandmother joins him on the porch, and he inquires about life when she was a child and whether she was bored with no electricity, movies, or radio,  Mother Smith explains, “We had books and we played games and sang and went to parties.  You know, you don’t miss what you don’t know”  (103).  This brought to mind my many weekends spent with my own grandparents feeding the geese, helping grind meat, and walking around their farmhouse in the ice and snow pretending I was on quite the explorer’s adventure.

Just a friendly suggestion, but towards the end of Standing in the Rainbow, be sure and keep the tissues within an arm’s reach.  As the reader concludes following roughly four decades of life, there is the inevitable end of life and reflection on what has been, what could have been, and what inevitably remains.  Thus, take the time to meet Tot, Macky, Neighbor Dorothy along with the other residents of Elmwood Springs and really listen to their stories.

Day out of Days

Lately, I have been on a short story kick.  Perhaps with my kiddos home with me for the summer, I can only find time to read in short increments which is just fine with me because I wouldn’t want to be doing anything else besides savoring every minute I can with my squirts.

So, while searching for books in the short story genre, I came across Sam Shepards’s Day out of Days.  Having enjoyed his work on the big screen, I was anxious to discover his writing.

dayoutofdays

Immediately I was taken with Shepard’s choice of epigraph, a quote from Samuel Beckett, “That’s the mistake I made . . . to have wanted a story for myself, whereas life alone is enough.”  I found this quote fascinating as I once read (can’t recall where now) an interview with Shepard where he was compared to the above Irish author.

Shepard’s writing style is conversational to the point I felt as if  he was in the same room with me telling me stories.  In “The Lost Art of Wandering,” Shepard captures the reality of human misunderstandings in speech and gesture through the telling of an American assisting a German stranger.  When the German man repeatedly offers the American money for solving the problem with his Kodak camera and the American matches each offering with a refusal,  a fist fight nearly ensues until eventually the money is lost to them both when two children snatch the bills and run away.  The absurdity of the situation simply brings to light how quickly good intentions can result in less than savory outcomes.

“Normal (Highway 39 South)” again offers the reader the complex in what some can construe as mundane when considering “. . . scrapings on the steel frame of the window”  (210) in a jail cell.  What one prisoner may glance over or miss altogether, the narrator goes to great length contemplating how such marks could be made so high when all pocket contents are confiscated from people once arrested and held.  One scenario the storyteller envisions is that the one being held must have used a zipper to create such markings, but ponders, “. . . how anyone [could] manage to get their crotch up that high to the window frame without being spotted through the thick glass by one of the zealous young officers in crew cuts”  (210).  Yes, by this time I was giggling aloud on a flight to the happiest place on earth.

Speaking of flights, in “Land of the Living,” the narrator while conversing with his wife in the customs line describes his euphoria when he survives travel by airplane:

I always feel like I’m actually going to die when I get on an airplane.  Like this is it, the end of the line;  inevitable.  Then, after we land and get back on dry land it feels as though I’ve lived through a certain kind of death and come out the other end.  (226).

Thus, a prime example of an author writing what he/she knows as Shepard has revealed in interviews his distaste for flying.  Thus, his description accurately (spooky accurately, in fact) summarized my own less than favorable thoughts about flying.

A keen representation of the human essence with all its unique characteristics, Sam Shepard’s Day out of Days is a must read.

Ralph Paul

Why do you write?:  I write because it makes me happy. I like writing fiction and watching the characters come alive in the world that I’ve built for them. It still amazes me how even if I plan, things still change when I write. My characters become almost like real people to me. I enjoy that.
I write because I’ve always loved to read. Loved to escape from the boring and unfairness of everyday life into a world of adventure where good always wins. I want to create that kind of world for others to read and enjoy. I bring people into my world to see how I view things and my opinion.
Describe where you write.:  I write in my dorm room with the lights dimmed and nobody else in the room. I like complete silence; I put my phone away and just kick my feet up and let my mind think.
Who or what is your muse?:  my muse would have to be my girlfriend. She inspires my writing. The way I feel about her is what I put into my writing
Three wishes . . .:  graduate from college, have a great career and marry my girlfriend
Favorite childhood book, and why?:  The Cat in the Hat because it takes you into a world where anything is possible and that’s what I try to create in my writing
Explain when is your ideal time to write.:  my ideal time to write would be in the middle of the day when the sun is just right and you can hear the birds outside; its just so relaxing.
Name a book you would reread again and again, and why.:  Gym Candy, that book goes into how hard it is to stay away from steroids as an athlete. The reason why I would reread it is because I can relate to the book and it brings me into a fantasy world. I can really read this book over and over again.
E-book or print? Why?:  print because I like putting my ideas on paper; I think it flows better when I am writing.
Favorite magazine, and why?:  Sports Illustrated because I love sports and it breaks down every sport and what’s going on in the world of sports.
What would you like readers to take away from your writing?:  I would like readers to be yourself always, and express how you feel and stay true to your friends and family. always follow your dreams no matter how hard it may seem.