Wednesday, May 4, 2016

It Started in Wood Shop: Chris McClelland’s Library and Its First Resident, J.R.R. Tolkien

Reader:  Chris McClelland
Location:  Provo, Utah
Library Size:  Approximately 250 books

My personal library had its humble beginnings with a wood shop project bookshelf I built in the seventh grade and a new Lord of the Rings paperback trilogy. Throughout high school, I filled that shelf, and some others, with the latest sci-fi and fantasy books. It wasn’t until I got to college and decided to become an English major that my library began in earnest, with the best of the classics as well as some choice contemporary novels and fiction collections. After grad school I gravitated toward nonfiction, mostly history, and biography. Interesting stories and people continue to fascinate me.

Over the years the size of the library has diminished. At one time I had almost a thousand volumes, maybe three quarters of which I had read, but now I read less often, and more selectively and I often gave away still-unread books that on second thought seemed less interesting. I always try, though, to buy books by writers whose works I admire but also to whom I want to show support. I think we here in the reading and writing community owe it to ourselves and each other to devote a large portion of our book spending to contemporaries. Let the public libraries furnish us with the classics. That’s one of their missions, right? Meanwhile, we can help support each others’ writing and get the word out to people who are not typically “literary” readers that they may find some of our work interesting, too.

Book I’d run into a burning building to save:  My father’s copy of The Sun Also Rises. He and I share an appreciation for Hemingway, and the imagistic, descriptive nature of his work. It was the first Hemingway novel I ever read when I was a junior at the University of Florida. The value of that particular copy is sentimental in value and has both mine and my father’s notes in the margins.

Favorite book from childhood:  Without a doubt, it would have to be The Lord of the Rings. I read it at just the right time (age 12), when I was innocent enough to take the honor and nobility of the characters very seriously, and at an age when my imagination was ready for a range like Middle-Earth to explore. I got so lost in that world, the sub-cultures, the peoples, the histories. It was fascinating and remains one of my favorite books to this day.

Guilty-Pleasure Book:  Probably Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney. I read it in my early twenties when I was first considering writing fiction as a serious vocation, and I was very impressionable. I was very lucky not to have ended up with a drug addiction from reading that book! But it was a fun, heart-breaking book all the same, and I admire what he accomplished with the second-person point of view. In fact, I say guilty pleasure but really, especially recently, his work has grown and matured in many interesting and dynamic directions.

Chris McClelland is a fiction writer and editor currently living in Provo, Utah with his wife and two stepsons. Before that, he lived in Orlando. He attended the University of Florida for three years, finishing out his BA and MA at Central Florida. He worked for seven years as an adjunct professor, and four years as a technical writer at Siemens Westinghouse Power Corporation. He was an assistant editor at Narrative Magazine for four years, and currently edits The Provo Canyon Review with his wife, Erin. His collection of short fiction, Fine People, was praised by Joe David Bellamy: “The journey is always insightful, surprising and deeply-felt, and the reader always knows he is in good hands with Chris McClelland. Fine People is fine work.” McClelland is currently at work on a novel set during WW II.

My Library is an intimate look at personal book collections.  Readers are encouraged to send high-resolution photos of their home libraries or bookshelves, along with a description of particular shelving challenges, quirks in sorting (alphabetically? by color?), number of books in the collection, and particular titles which are in the To-Be-Read pile.  Email for more information.

No comments:

Post a Comment