After watching the daredevil athletes of the Winter Olympics for more than a week now, I feel as though I know some of them personally. I cheer for them when they achieve an amazing feat and wince when they fall. I cannot do any of the things they do at all, yet feel close enough to them to criticize their performances when they are less than stellar. The only problem with watching the Olympics is that they cause me to neglect my faithful, regular friends-the characters in the books I am reading.
I found a book on our book sale rack several months ago that was a very old friend of mine, “Little Flower: The Life and Times of Fiorello La Guardia” by Lawrence Elliott. It is a fascinating biography of La Guardia, the mayor of New York City in the 1930s and 40s. He stood up to the powerful and corrupt politicians and mob bosses who ran the city for decades.
I first became friends with this book in the 1983, shortly after its publication. I was married at the time, and my husband and I were poor college students. On Sunday evenings, our entertainment was a program on the local public radio station that featured books on tape, one chapter each week. I know I am dating myself but this was long before digital audiobooks existed. All week we eagerly anticipated hearing how our good friend Fiorello was going to deal with the thugs who threatened him and his plans to clean up the city’s government. By the end of the book, we were sad to say goodbye to him. When I saw the book on the Library’s sale rack, I knew I had to reconnect with my old friend. He sat on my bookshelf alone for a while. I finally reconnected with him a little over a week ago, but unfortunately, the Olympics got in the way. Fiorello, I promise to catch up with you again next week.
Another old friend I have neglected for far too long is “Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man” by James Joyce. I began this friendship several years ago. For some reason, I lost touch with only a few chapters before the end. It has been so long that I forgot what was going on. I will have to rekindle this relationship from the beginning, after I catch up with Fiorello.
I also have a brand new friend waiting to hear back from me. “Empire Falls” by Richard Russo is the first book in our upcoming “Food for Thought” book discussion series. I read the first few pages. I was then distracted by highflying snowboarders, sparkly figure skaters and crazy people sledding down an icy course at 80 miles an hour. The diners at the Empire Café will just have to have another cup of coffee and a slice of pie while they wait for me to say goodbye to my dazzling friends in South Korea.