Tuesday, October 16, 2012

My Sunday Book

No, I'm not talking about the Bible. That's my everyday book. I don't read great quantities in it, but I read some every day.

No, I'm talking about the book I read a few pages in on a Sunday afternoon, after church. It might be while I'm eating lunch, or possibly after lunch. I have, for several years, kept a book or two in our sun room. This is an unheated, un-coolled room off the back of the house, elevated with a deck beneath it. It gets quite hot in summer and cold in winter. It actually has some heater elements installed, but I'm sure they are way too expensive to run.

But when I'm ready on Sunday afternoon, I fix a mug of coffee (maybe not in the heat of summer), and pick up one of these books. They are generally writing type books, either writing helps. My current read is Arthur Conan Doyle: A Life in Letters. As I've written here before, I love letters. And I love letters by writers. I have to confess that I have read very little of Doyle's work, though I've been accumulating them and they are definitely on the to-be-read list. But I knew something of his life, from reading it somewhere, and so his letters interested me. I picked the book up off the remainders table at Barnes & Noble a couple of years ago, and have been reading it on selected Sunday afternoons.

I've been reading in the chapter "Struggling Doctor", covering the time when Doyle had completed medical studies, and either worked for other doctors or set up his own practice. He finally set up shop at Southsea, in the south of England. While he looked for an office/residence, tried to get customers, struggled with money, tried to join some social circles, etc. All the while he was working on his writing. In letters to his mother during this time (1883-1884) he talked as much about writing as about being a doctor. He spoke about his struggles with money, how he extended credit to patients and had to pay his bills with credit as well.

In 1883, he earned about as much from writing as he did practicing medicine. He wrote mainly short stories at that time, on a variety of subjects, submitted them to a number or literary magazines, and then waited for an answer. Since he had no money to hire a scrivener to make copies, he sent off the original and hoped it didn't get lost, and hoped the magazine returned it to him if they rejected it.

I find this period in his life fascinating. Doyle was in his twenties, unmarried (having once been informally engaged but the woman broke it off). Sherlock Holmes and the fame that would bring him are a few years away. His delving into spiritualism are a couple of decades away. Right now he's sort at the point of his writing career where I am in my writing career. A big difference, of course, is I have a job that I'm well-established in, and don't lack for money to pay for necessaries and even some unnecssaries.

I normally read about 10 pages on a Sunday afternoon. I started the day at page 210. I looked ahead and was reminded that it's a 700 page book, and that if I didn't still want to be reading it in late 2013 I'd better pick up the pace. So I read to page 233, which was the end of the chapter. The next chapter is titled "Cracking the Oyster", which I assume will be where the axis of his life shifts much more strongly to literature. I'm looking forward to next Sunday.

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