Monday, June 25, 2007

You Can Find It Anywhere

I’m not a big celebrity follower but from time to time, someone catches my radar. I like to find out something that the person is interested in and use that as a jumping off place to discover something about the world that I didn’t know before (what can you expect from someone brought up to read the dictionary). This is the way that I found one of my all-time favorite books. I rarely remember how people stumble onto my radar – I just take it for granted that they did and leave it there. Usually it’s because I was reading something else that led me somewhere else that mentioned the person and, before you know it, Bob’s your uncle, and I’m there.

For instance, did you know that England’s Prince Andrew used to (may still for all I know) carry a copy of the book “I Heard the Owl Call My Name” by Margaret Craven with him in his travels. Now this fascinated me. For a book to have that sort of impact on someone with his background and experience was intriguing. But not half so intriguing as the book itself. I read it through and can now thoroughly appreciate how it could have impacted him (and said something to me about him that he would impacted by it). Such a simple sweet story with a depth beyond description. I have now read it at least a dozen times and every time I read it I can feel myself slowing down inside, simplifying and weeping at the ending. Silly, I know. It ends the same every single time I read it, I know it’s going to end as it does but every time it hits me like it’s the first time. I don’t guess I would have ever come across this book if it hadn’t been for the little detour that took me to that quote from him. Thanks, Prince Andrew.

A few months ago I discovered the Lord of the Rings movies (better late than never, right?). In poking around finding out little bits about the cast, I found that Viggo Mortensen starred in a Spanish movie called, “Alatriste.” It was made based on a best selling series of Spanish novels, the first called “Captain Alatriste.” Can’t find the movie but I did find the book. I had also (before this) found a book that sounded interesting on Spain’s Civil War – something I was aware had happened but didn’t know much about. From time to time Spain has popped up but now seemed the time to dive in. I had started the Spanish Civil War book and began the Captain Alatriste book but decided I wanted to know more about Spain post-Franco. Again, my little rabbit trail led me to a book that I can easily say was one of my most exciting reads in a long time. It’s by John Hooper and is called, “The New Spaniards.” I just couldn’t put it down - insight into the amazing intricacies of language and culture and politics that goes into modern Spanish life. I will never again call the main language of Spain Spanish. It’s Castilian, to differentiate is from Catalan (spoken by several millions of people and used as the main language for TV stations and newspapers in that region) or Basque or a number of actual dialects spoken throughout the country. Did you know that more people on the planet speak Catalan than speak Norwegian or Danish? Why do I find that fascinating?

Where did our friend Viggo learn to speak Spanish? Why, Argentina, of course. (Ha! Another place that I know is there but don’t know too much about.) Now I’m reading a books with a wide variety of articles about Argentina and its history, culture, politics, etc. Again, fascinating. All I knew about Argentina was the Falkland Islands (I moved to the UK in 1983 just after the Falklands War – or Guerra de las Malvinas/Guerra del Atl├íntico Sur as it was known in Argentina) and, peripherally, Evita. I’ve since seen a Travel Channel show about Argentina and Uruguay so that piqued my interest as well. (It just dawned on me that Prince Andrew was active in that conflict so we come neatly full circle.)

So, I guess my point is that you can find out all sorts of interesting things if you don’t limit where you get your inspiration from and don’t limit where that inspiration takes you.

What have you been reading?