Saturday, September 01, 2007

An Embarrassment of Riches

I have been blessed with uncles.

I was reminded of this fact tonight when speaking to my sister about a book I counted among my most cherished as an undergrad and recently rediscovered in the dustiness of a bookcase. I have five uncles and I can honestly say, despite the difficulties of time, geography, and context, I would lay down in traffic for any of them.

There is Neal. Neal once materialized from the fog of Fluvanna, Texas at five in the morning decked out in camouflage and a cowboy hat to take my father and I quail hunting. It was cold and silent. My father and I were huddled in the cab of a pick-up truck with my grandfather half awake and questioning the intelligence of going out to shoot birds at such an early hour. I think we were eating powdered doughnuts and drinking orange juice or milk purchased from a gas station on the way out to the forgettable outpost that is Fluvanna. We asked Neal what he had eaten for breakfast and whether or not he wanted any of our's. He responded with a now famous family line. "Shoot," he said. "All you need is some"

There is Dan. Dan has long been the favorite uncle of my sister and I. This is not a judgement on my other uncles, but a consequence of geography and frequency of contact. That being said, Dan is pretty freakin' solid. Dan is a sailor. Dan used to work on an offshore oil rig. Dan also used to dance in the Royal Canadian Ballet. Dan taught my sister and me such famous and delightful maneuvers as The Wiggle-Bottom Walk and Children For Shoes. Dan also used meticulously to paint egg shells and airplane glue toothpick halves to them creating colorful and dangerous looking works of art that he would then mount on six inch tall wooden crosses. He dubbed these small and outlandish products of his imagination "He Fried For Your Sins". Dan is a badass.

There is Jerry. Jerry was a cyclist as a younger man and has developed a scientist's affinity for cooking. I fancy myself a not-so-bad amateur chef, but Jerry consistently puts my sometimes brilliant sometimes awful productions to shame with his precise and artfully well-portioned offerings. I used to fake illnesses at school as a child so that Jerry, our emergency contact, would have to take off work to pick me up and hang out until my mom got off work. Jerry eventually got wise to this and an end was put to the hang out times, but I still feel like I got the fat end of the deal.

There is Michael. Michael is the uncle with whom I have has the least contact, but I still have quite the high opinion of the old boy. Michael is an evil computer genius and I blame him for my, even now, strong like of video games. We have pictures in my family photo album of Michael at Cape Hatteras on an outing with my parents before I was born. He is in a speedo and has ridiculously large chicken's feet fashioned from sand and seashells where his actual feet should be. There is a child-like lack of shame in this. I admire it greatly.

There was Sandy. Sandy passed away when I was a sophomore in high school. I was in the living room of my family's house with my mother, sister, and Dan when my mother received a phone call from my grandmother informing her of Sandy's death. The night was immediately transformed from light laughter to painful tears. I remember my mother saying "Oh, Dear," over and over on the phone with my grandmother. Her expression was one I never want to see again. I never believed in Santa Claus (Thanks, Mom.), but if I had, Sandy could have been his brother. He was red and hilarious and mischievous in a way that let me know the fun of being a child did not stop when one reached adulthood. I was proud and honored to be a pallbearer at his funereal.

Finally, there is Patrick, and the reason I was reminded of my uncles when discussing my favorite book with my sister. Patrick has an engineer's view of life, a comedian's sense of timing, and an artist's quirky eye for the world. Patrick used to keep a list of all the books he had read and his thoughts on each book. His reading habits were voracious. When my family and I lived in Saudi Arabia, Patrick would write long and detailed letters to my mother that would be passed around to all of us or sometimes read aloud. They were hilarious and they did more to save our collective sanity than the few American television programs we were able to get on a pirated Armed Forces Radio and Television feed. Patrick is also an avid cyclist, and -completely unrelated, yet somehow important - once regaled me with a story about attending a Dead Kennedy's concert in El Paso, Texas.

I have been blessed. Now I just need to do a better job staying in touch with them all.

Apparently, I'm Not As Well-Read As I Thought Or Stolen From Katie Or This Entry Was Also Sandbagged


! = want to read
Not in a million years= do NOT want to read
?= never heard of it

(plus combinations thereof)

1. The Da Vinci Code (Dan Brown) *
2. Pride and Prejudice (Jane Austen) !
3. To Kill A Mockingbird (Harper Lee) *
4. Gone With The Wind (Margaret Mitchell) Not in a million years
5. The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (Tolkien) !
6. The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (Tolkien) !
7. The Lord of the Rings: Two Towers (Tolkien) !
8. Anne of Green Gables (L.M. Montgomery) Not in a million years
9. Outlander (Diana Gabaldon) ?
10. A Fine Balance (Rohinton Mistry) ?
11. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Rowling) Not in a million years
12. Angels and Demons (Dan Brown) Not in a million years
13. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (Rowling) Not in a million years
14. A Prayer for Owen Meany (John Irving) *
15. Memoirs of a Geisha (Arthur Golden) !
16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (Rowling) Not in a million years
17. Fall on Your Knees(Ann-Marie MacDonald) ?
18. The Stand (Stephen King) *
19. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Rowling) Not in a million years
20. Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte) !
21. The Hobbit (Tolkien) Not in a million years
22. The Catcher in the Rye (J.D. Salinger) *
23. Little Women (Louisa May Alcott) *
24. The Lovely Bones (Alice Sebold) !
25. Life of Pi (Yann Martel) !
26. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Douglas Adams) !
27. Wuthering Heights (Emily Bronte) Not in a million years
28. The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (C. S. Lewis) *
29. East of Eden (John Steinbeck) *
30. Tuesdays with Morrie (Mitch Albom) Not in a million years
31. Dune (Frank Herbert) *
32. The Notebook (Nicholas Sparks) Not in a million years
33. Atlas Shrugged (Ayn Rand) !
34. 1984 (Orwell) *
35. The Mists of Avalon (Marion Zimmer Bradley) Not in a million years
36. The Pillars of the Earth (Ken Follett) *
37. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay) Not in a million years
38. I Know This Much is True (Wally Lamb) ?
39. The Red Tent (Anita Diamant) Not in a million years
40. The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho) ?
41. The Clan of the Cave Bear (Jean M. Auel) ?
42. The Kite Runner (Khaled Hosseini) *
43. Confessions of a Shopaholic (Sophie Kinsella) ?
44. The Five People You Meet In Heaven (Mitch Albom) Not in a million years
45. Bible *
46. Anna Karenina (Tolstoy) !
47. The Count of Monte Cristo (Alexandre Dumas) *
48. Angela’s Ashes (Frank McCourt) *
49. The Grapes of Wrath (John Steinbeck) *
50. She’s Come Undone (Wally Lamb) ?
51. The Poisonwood Bible (Barbara Kingsolver) !
52. A Tale of Two Cities (Dickens) *
53. Ender’s Game (Orson Scott Card) *
54. Great Expectations (Dickens) Not in a millio years
55. The Great Gatsby (Fitzgerald) *
56. The Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence) ?
57. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Rowling) Not in a million years
58. The Thorn Birds (Colleen McCullough) ?
59. The Handmaid’s Tale (Margaret Atwood) *
60. The Time Traveller’s Wife (Audrew Niffenegger) ?
61. Crime and Punishment (Fyodor Dostoyevsky) *
62. The Fountainhead (Ayn Rand) !
63. War and Peace (Tolstoy) !
64. Interview With The Vampire (Anne Rice) NIMY
65. Fifth Business (Robertson Davis) ?
66. One Hundred Years Of Solitude (Gabriel Garcia Marquez) *
67. The Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants (Ann Brashares) NIMY
68. Catch-22 (Joseph Heller) *
69. Les Miserables (Hugo) *
70. The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) ?
71. Bridget Jones’ Diary (Fielding) NIMY
72. Love in the Time of Cholera (Marquez) *
73. Shogun (James Clavell) ?
74. The English Patient (Michael Ondaatje) !
75. The Secret Garden (Frances Hodgson Burnett) *
76. The Summer Tree (Guy Gavriel Kay) ?
77. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Betty Smith) ?
78. The World According To Garp (John Irving) !
79. The Diviners (Margaret Laurence) ?
80. Charlotte’s Web (E.B. White) *
81. Not Wanted On The Voyage (Timothy Findley) ?
82. Of Mice And Men (Steinbeck) *
83. Rebecca (Daphne DuMaurier) ?
84. Wizard’s First Rule (Terry Goodkind) ?
85. Emma (Jane Austen) !
86. Watership Down(Richard Adams) *
87. Brave New World (Aldous Huxley) *
88. The Stone Diaries (Carol Shields) ?
89. Blindness (Jose Saramago) *
90. Kane and Abel (Jeffrey Archer) ?
91. In The Skin Of A Lion (Ondaatje) ?
92. Lord of the Flies (Golding) *
93. The Good Earth (Pearl S. Buck) *
94. The Secret Life of Bees (Sue Monk Kidd) !
95. The Bourne Identity (Robert Ludlum) NIMY
96. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton) *
97. White Oleander (Janet Fitch) !
98. A Woman of Substance (Barbara Taylor Bradford) ?
99. The Celestine Prophecy (James Redfield) !
100. Ulysses (James Joyce) *