Technology saved me as I attempt to live on our sail boat. I’ve taken to reading books online through my Kindle App on my iPad. Not only does this method eliminate the lugging and storage of books, but I can also read in the dark with no night-light, and I can increase the font size when my tired eyes give way to the fuzzies at the end of the day. But, the pièce de résistance is the website, Bookpub.com with its email newsletter that offers me 6 to 8 books at extremely discounted prices (say, free to 2.99) every morning to ponder over as I drink my sacred coffee while sitting in the cockpit. The offers fit my selection criteria that I set up when I registered. Now, the books by well-known not as well-known authors, all highly recommended by critics and fans alike (or at least its seems that way).
In the past nine months I’ve read over 50 books. It’s a perfect strategy to keep reading while living aboard and sailing. I can download them and be internet free away from the dock. Perfect you say? That’s what I thought. If I didn’t like a book I could just erase it without losing more than a dollar or two of investment and having to leave the book on the marina shelf in the laundry room.
However, beware of user error. I had just finished Pat Conroy’s memoir of his time teaching on an island off Hilton Head, The Water is Wide, and was basking in his lyrical, yet direct language that is heart rendering and animatedly comic simultaneously, when I scanned the offerings for what I thought was my next good read. There it was, A Book of Bees, a book of the Ozarks, rated a 4.5 in “good reads”. Zip-zap — I downloaded it and dove into the first chapter, ready to be captivated as I’d heard several good friends rave about the “bee book” several months ago.
But, after 50 pages I was completely bogged down. I was learning more about bee keeping that I ever wanted to know and the plot consisted of the author primly instructing on the making, maintaining and moving of bees and hives over the seasons in rural Arkansas when she wasn’t drinking coffee and chatting about the weather and bee problems with insecticides with local farmers.
This “bee book” troubled me because I am a die-hard southern writer fan. Give me a book by Pat Conroy, Truman Capote, William Faulkner, Patricia Cornwall, Zora Neal Hurston, Cormac McCarthy, Flannery O’Connor, William Styron, Anne Tyler, Alice Walker, Robert Penn Warren, Eudora Welty, Thomas Wolfe, or Toni Morrison (to name a few) and I’ll stay up into the wee morning hours whether I’m laughing, crying, puzzled by the mystery or angered about what I’m reading. It’s all about the language, the flow, the pace and the way their words paint pictures within the action that capture my imagination. Maybe, it’s because by reading these books I feel reconnected to my early years living in a white clapboard two-story farm-house with a red tin roof outside Decatur, Alabama. A share cropper family’s farm was on one side, tall pine woods were down the hill from the front yard, and a cotton field with a deteriorated slave cabin butting up against it was behind us. The heat, the smells, walking in the field with my little red wagon picking cotton, the dirt road leading up to the house and my segregated grammar school with its segregated outhouses jump out of my memory.
But I digress. This story is about user error. Fast forward to yesterday. We’re on a lazy light wind sail with plenty of time to chat unlike the pressured excitement of big winds. I complained, “I want to stop reading this book about bees, but my dad always told me to finish what I start. I was nearly up all night once because the veggies on my plate and I were at war and my dad took the veggies side. I lost,” I told the group. “You’re a big girl now Dorine, and your dad is long gone. I think you can stop reading that book. I think will be okay,” said someone sarcastically.
“Yes, but he’s still living in my head,” I replied and my friend agreed that voices were in her head as well. We laughed, hoping her voices were nicer than the ones I heard.
“Well, I saw the movie and like it, so maybe it’ll be worth keeping going,” recommended another friend. With that, it was time to tack so our sailing direction and the conversation changed.
The next day, determined to find out why I was not interested in this memoir while others thought it was so good that a movie about it was made, I dove back into the internet to quickly to discover that I had down loaded the wrong book. What I had wanted to read was the Secret Life of Bees, a novel about a young girl, haunted by memories of her late mother and abused by her father, who runs away with her friend and caregiver to the South Carolina town that holds the key to her mother’s past.
Once again, I had leaped before I looked, or as my husband and daughter contend, I didn’t listen — not only to them, but also to myself by rushing to buy before taking a few minutes to make sure I had the right item.
I just deleted my bee book, still half unread. Like the veggies, I just didn’t like it. Forgive me Dad, wherever you are.