May was a busy month for me, but I did read Mark Richard's House of Prayer No. 2: A Writer's Journey Home. Set in eastern Southside Virginia, Richard's memoir gave me a different perspective of our area of the state in the 1960s as well as of what I might find in reading books for this blog. I find reading books set in Southside Virginia appealing because I can usually relate to the characters or feel some sort of familiarity in the landscape being described. In this case, neither was true, but it did not matter. I found it to be a fascinating and engaging story that I could not put down. Stay tuned for a blog post explaining why soon!
One of reasons why May was such a busy month is that I finished library school and my brother (the next great American author) graduated from Hampden-Sydney College. As I sat under the massive and old trees at his graduation, I was reminded of another Hampden-Sydney man with a Southside Virginia connection: William Hoffman. As a talented writer of novels, short stories, and plays, Hoffman (H-SC, '59) won numerous literary awards while teaching at the college. To call him literary royalty does not do justice to the real and harrowing challenges his faced as a medic in World War Two; to call him literary elite ignores the fact that he was a very kind and down-to-earth man. As another local writer, Jeffrey Pillow, put it, Hoffman "is/was (even after his death) one of the best writers in literary fiction in 20th century America." In fact, Pillow commented on this blog a week after my brother's graduation to suggest that I blog about Hoffman's works. I have started The Trumpet Unblown (1955) at my brother's suggestion, and Pillow recommends Yancey's War (1966). These are more blog posts that you can look forward to this summer. Have you read anything by William Hoffman? Which are your favorites?
Finally, I wanted to let you know the titles of three other books that I have on my bookshelf for Southside Virginia summer reading. They are:
- Matt Bondurant. The Wettest County in the World. New York: Scribner, 2008.
- Kelly Cherry. Girl in a Library: On Women Writers & the Writing Life. Kansas City, Missouri: BkMk Press, 2009.
- Alan Pell Crawford. Unwise Passions: A True Story of a Remarkable Woman - and the First Great Scandal of Eighteenth-Century America. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.