is a narrator to whom I first was introduced this year. Karen White and I organized a narrator/blogger luncheon during BEA and Kathe joined us. Boy did she make me laugh. She is lovely and meeting her was a treat.
Kathe is the narrator of over 100 audiobooks and has recorded a titles by a wide variety of authors, such Hillary Clinton and Anne Coulter. There is definitely something for everyone. She has won an AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award for her work on Cage of Stars by Jacqueline Mitchard. She recorded A Partial History of Lost Causes by Jennifer DuBois, one of my favorite reads this year. I am looking forward to reading Becoming Clementine by Jennifer Niven very soon. Other titles that have caught my eye are The Nanny Diaries by Emma Mclaughlin and Nicola Kraus, Loud and Clear by Anna Quindlen, and City of Masks (Stravaganza, Book 1) by Mary Hoffman.
Though I live in Los Angeles, where the only dominant season is “Pilot”*, I grew up in snowy New England, where in Winter, it always felt as if you were one step away from a different time; the 19th century Christmas of Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women, for instance.
Still, when I’m back there, and the snow is falling in the glow of the streetlamps, which may well be the same streetlamps from the late 1800’s, I feel as though I should be carrying a basket of warm muffins and going a-visiting.
Living there, it always felt as though we were closely connected to the past, to history. On a street winding through my hometown, bronze horseshoes mark the route of the Midnight ride of William Dawes, a shoemaker who, along with Paul Revere, set out to warn the colonials that “The British are coming, the British are Coming!!!” This ride was immortalized by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, “Listen my children and you shall hear of the Midnight ride of Paul Revere….” And down near the Charles River was Longfellow’s own house, where he lived with his family, and where his beloved wife was burned to death from a fallen match. He threw himself over her to save her, and sustained such injuries that from then on he wore his long beard to cover them.
Here he is:
For a wonderful mystery/thriller about this time and place, read The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. Longfellow and his friends are the main characters, and it’s delicious.
Twenty-five minutes away, in Concord, you can stand on the bridge where “The Shot Heard Round the World” that started the American Revolution, was fired.
And from the bridge you can look across at the house where Nathaniel Hawthorne lived. Nearby, is the house where Louisa May Alcott herself lived with her family, lead by her nutty, forward-thinking, irresponsible, and always struggling educator father who lectured outside in the barn. The sisters in Little Women are based on her own, and you can still see the drawings that her artist sister (the real Amy) made on the wall of her bedroom because the Alcotts couldn’t afford wallpaper. Emerson lived across the street from them, where he coined the term “Shot heard ‘round the world” in a poem, “Concord Hymn”, which he wrote in 1837.
And you can visit Alcott’s grave in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow cemetery, where she’s buried on Author’s Ridge, right next to Hawthorne, Thoreau, and Emerson himself, who, instead of having a finished tombstone, wanted to be buried under a rough, untamed boulder.
Down the road, you can sit right on the site at Walden Pond where Thoreau lived in a tiny one-room cabin and wrote Walden.
Christmas always seems to me both beautiful, and a little melancholy like in the movie Meet Me In St. Loius when that tiny Margaret O’Brien, outside in the snow in her nightgown, smashed all the snowmen because she was so heartbroken about leaving her hometown. And Judy Garland sings “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas” to her, which has got to be one of the saddest little songs ever made. I’ll be buying eggs at Trader Joe’s and get weepy in the aisles when they play it.
Christmas seems to me to carry with it excitement and anticipation, but also longing. Longing for what you remember Christmas felt like as a child, or at some other golden time in your life. Or a longing for what it never felt like, but you thought it should have. For what you dreamed of. What you wanted. What you miss. Or a longing for things to stay exactly as they are at this moment. It’s nostalgic, a story you hear from inside.
Christmas is story.
Christmas always hints at another time, when you weren’t able to sleep the night before, when you had snowball fights or made snow angels. When the thing you desperately wanted just might be in that shiny wrapped pile of presents. It’s the stories we tell each other, and ourselves. My son Jake is 5. What will he remember? Blizzard-stuck at an airport hotel, Jeffrey pulled him around on a sled in a snowstorm, in the moonlight. I could see, from the window with my glass of wine, that they were laughing, their faces bright red from the cold, the effort, and the glee.
When I was growing up, my mother always read to my brother, Dan, and me. On humid summer nights, I remember her reading Nightbirds on Nantucket, and we went to bed scared and thrilled. And every Christmas, she would read us A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas. Then, she would play us a recording of Dylan Thomas himself reading it, which I guess you could say was the first “audiobook” I ever heard. Here’s a piece of that recording I found on YouTube:
We’d have hot chocolate with marshmallows, a roaring fire, the thrill of not knowing what was inside those packages (what could that shape be???). And the gratitude, even then, knowing that we were lucky to be together, and to have a warm house and plenty to eat, and my father’s laugh, and Dylan Thomas’ voice, and my mother’s.
So Merry Christmas, People of the Word, and Happy Hannukah.
To the ones who write the stories, the ones who tell the stories, and the ones who listen.
To my Audiobook community, and to every community, from my family of the past and my family of the present to all of your families, and all your found families.
May your holidays, whatever they’re called, be filled with excitement, love, and Story. And may at least some of your longings be completely fulfilled.
And, as Longfellow wrote,
“Peace on Earth, Good-will to men!”
*When the new season’s TV shows are cast.