The Free Range Reader travels with fiction

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BY ZIA GIPSON, June 7, 2013

When I think, “curl up with a good book,” it’s a book of fiction I have in mind. I love a good story and deeply etched characters. I appreciate a well-made plot and social commentary. A good book of fiction should offer all of the above and more.TBIF Gipson

When I travel I do a great deal of reading. Besides the hours involved in coming and going, there are the long nights in the hotel bathroom with the flash light reading and wondering, “Will my body ever get on this time zone?” On the road, books keep me company and help me while away afternoon hours, when shops are closed or my feet have given out.

I love the sensation of being deeply engaged in a book that is set in say, India, only to step outside and find oneself in Italy. This frisson of time and place happens to me at the movies, too. I like the pleasant jolt of dislocation from the usual reality, as I quickly readjust to figuring out where I’ve left the car, or if I still have my umbrella.

I’m sure I’m not alone in feeling I have “grown up” with set of characters who’ve appeared in books I have read over a decade or longer. Do I sound misogynistic if I say some of my favorite people live in the novels of Donna Leon and Elizabeth George to name two? Leon’s Brunetti family is born and bred Venetian. They have deep roots in this watery, tourist-swamped Italian city. In the course of Leon’s novels, I’ve learned about Italian politics, pollution, industrial meat production, and opera, just to name a few subjects.


Thanks to Whidbey’s own Elizabeth George, I’ve become fond of London-based detectives Thomas Lynley and Barbara Havers, both of whom make bad choices and therefore good reading. I find myself nonplussed when a book is set for a movie or TV and the actor playing a lead character doesn’t correspond to the characters as one first encountered them. Some characters are so familiar I’ve developed an attachment to them and look forward to seeing them in the next novel.

Also in the suspense and mystery novel category, I’ve recently read more of British author Robert Wilson’s novels. One of his series’ detectives is Javier Falcon. Falcon is more than the usual brooding, crime-solving policeman. He’s approaches his cases with intense physical and emotional fervor. The novels take on personal, social, national and international issues and the writing can be beautifully poetic.

Recently I picked up Charles Cumming’s “A Foreign Country.” It has less texture and psychological depth, but is still a pleasurable read with just enough of a plot twist to keep me engaged.

Isn’t it wonderful that in books, as in life, we can greet old friends and make new ones?

My “Catch of the Day” is “The Accidental Masterpiece, On the Art of Life and Vice Versa” by Michael Kimmelman.

Next time, I’ll cover books of fiction and the Whidbey Reads program.

Look for weekend island book sales at your local Sno-Isle Library. In the meantime, don’t forget to put libraries and librarians in your bedtime prayers. I love my library!

Zia Gipson is a mixed-media artist who is working on a series of collages that incorporate printmaking, stamping, drawing, painting, and other forms of mark-making. She’s active in the artists’ groups, Whidbey Island Surface Design and Northwest Designer Craftsmen.


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