Jon Stevens

Planning a reading escape

Planning a reading escape

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My goal this summer is to take one week and do nothing but read, and I really don’t care if my literary adventures are fulfilled on a beach or in a lounge chair in my backyard.


It’s not that I’m feeling a void for the written word (I deal with it every day), but while slouched on the sofa recently, I reached for the television remote and accidentally knocked several books stacked on an end table to the floor.


Grumbling and cursing, I got up, gathered the books and put them back on the table, but not before I noticed something quite troubling. Three of them had bookmarks sticking out the top, a strong indication I started to read them but never finished.


The first, “The Returned,” by Jason Mott, tells of people returning from the dead, not in Zombie mode, but just as they were when they died.


This book marker indicated I had less than 100 pages to read. This will be first on my list.


Then, and considering my passion for the horror master, I discovered I barely cracked the binding of Stephen King’s “Doctor Sleep.” I mean, this was the sequel to “The Shining” when we meet up again with Danny Torrance, now an adult who has taken up his father’s legacy of anger and alcoholism.


Hey, if I can get through King’s “Under the Dome” and “11/22/63,” I can surely plow through this one and find out if Danny, now Dan, still goes around calling out “redrum.” This one will be second.


Now, the other books that fell off the table were about vampires and Scandinavian police detectives, not necessarily connected, and I have great expectations of tackling these, too.


And no, Dickens is not on my summer reading list.


So, I am going to gather all the books that are piled here and there and put them where they belong, in a bookshelf, and in no particular order.


I do recall, however, doing something similar awhile back, consolidating books that were stuffed into smaller book shelves, or had become coasters on end tables and generally added to household clutter.


While doing that, a small paperback fell onto the floor. It came from somewhere between “Moby Dick” and the latest novel by James Patterson. Perhaps you can understand why I felt a need to reorganize. Melville definitely is top-shelf material, while Patterson, well, he can be relegated to second- or third-shelf status.


That paperback book explains the origin and development of the “pungent and colorful phrases we all use.” It is filled with treasures, such as when a grandparent said he was “as independent as a hog on ice,” why did it mean he was confident and self-assured? How did the expression, “a wild-goose chase,” originate?


I am sure we all have heard, “to face the music,” “to bury the hatchet,” “swan song,” “know the ropes,” “get down to brass tacks,” “pay through the nose” and “worth one’s salt.”


But how about “whip the devil around the stump,” “to leap apes in hell,” “plain as a pike-staff” and “man of my kidney”?


How about “red-letter day?” A red-letter day can be traced to the 15th century, though in that period, the allusion was to a holy day of some sort. The name came from using red or purple colors for marking those days on the calendar. Just look at a calendar that shows Sundays or other holy days marked in red figures.


But I digress. Summer reading for me is total escapism. No historical novels nor autobiographies. Just good old stories of murder and mayhem.


I noted King is releasing or has released a new novel, “Mr. Mercedes.” How can you go wrong with this publisher’s tease: “In the gloomy pre-dawn hours of a distressed Midwestern city, hundreds of unemployed hopefuls are lined up for a job fair. Without warning, a merciless driver plows through the crowd in a roaring Mercedes. Eight people are killed; 15 are wounded. The killer escapes into the early-spring fog never to be seen from again. Until now …”


So, if anyone reads this before me, don’t say anything, or in other words, don’t “let the cat out of the bag.”



Jon Stevens is the Greene County bureau chief. He can be reached at jstevens@observer-reporter.com.


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