Thursday I teach John Berger's A Fortunate Man. My grandmother gave me the book, but I didn't read it for years. Now, each time I re-read it, I'm more amazed. I think of the books my grandmother gave me. She was second oldest of twelve, I think, pretty certain she didn't finish high school, became a reader when someone left behind a box of books in a shack her family moved into. She gave me Balzac and Dostoyevsky, Oliver Sacks and John Berger, Flannery O'Connor and Peter Taylor, Ian Frazier--Great Plains was probably the only book she gave me I appreciated as a child--and many others, each one a time-release capsule. In college it was Dostoyevsky, then O'Connor and Sacks; now it's Berger.
Union dues bought her books. My grandfather was an organizer for the Boilermakers union. No college, labor, and a library. She told me she'd leave me her books, but when she died my uncle, as I understand it, sold them. He didn't know. What I have left are paperbacks, yellowing crisp. I'm teaching from one this Thursday.