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Daydream of these spring reads



The Avid Reader
Thursday, May 17, 2018

I once read that daydreaming is a healthy activity for the human brain. Apparently, lots of research suggests that daydreaming allows the brain to rest and engage in healthy healing. This is good because I have some favorite daydreams that let me imagine how I could make things better. My best daydream is where I release a djinn from a bottle and he grants me three wishes. My first wish is to clean up all the pollution from the planet and send it to the sun to be burned. My second wish is to have loving homes for all the children of the world, and the third wish is to stop all cruelty to animals.

I like to think novelists sometimes begin with a daydream about making the world better too. Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org the first planet-wide grassroots climate change movement, has penned “Radio Free Vermont: A Fable of Resistance.”

Radio Free Vermont is an underpowered, underground, and underfoot renegade radio station intermittently broadcasting from undisclosed locations throughout the state of Vermont. Their mission is to rally Vermonters around the idea of declaring Vermont an independent republic. Since this idea has actually been around for a while, at least in Vermont, it is clear that McKibben has daydreamed his way into how this might come about – in a fable-sort of way. The main characters in this novel include 72-year-old Vern Barclay the voice on the radio, 18-year-old Perry Alterson the electronic radio genius, Sylvia Granger (we do not discuss the lady’s age) the pacifistic terrorist, Trance Harper the 30-something sharp shooter, and Vern’s 96-year-old mother who makes the new republic’s flag. Without giving away too much of the plot, I can guarantee that no one gets killed, restitution for all property damage from the fire is made, the federal government (and a few state level politicians) get their comeuppance, and the sub-contracted, soldiers-for-hire that are now so popular at the national level are profiled perfectly. Ye, it is funny, hits the mark every time, and makes you want to root for Vermont. I like this book so much that I chose it for “Turning The Pages With Elaine” – my Friday night broadcast on WSMN 1590. My listeners loved it too!

To keep things in the family, my next daydreaming author is Sue Halpern – wife of Bill McKibben (see above). Halpern wrote “Summer Hours at the Robbers Library.” The setting for this book is a small library in New Hampshire. That means quirky, independent, and offbeat. You didn’t think Vermont had an exclusive franchise on unconventional did you? The library is staffed and frequented by a number of eccentric individuals including the librarian Kit who just wants to fly under the radar at all costs, the fifteen-year-old dictionary-stealing homeschooler named Sunny who gets community service hours at the library as the punishment for stealing the dictionary, and Rusty the refugee stockbroker who hit the skids during an economic downturn and is trying to find out who he really is. All these characters are on a path of self-discovery that keeps the pages turning and reader interest growing right up to the end.

Lives unravel – only to knit back stronger, secrets are revealed – only to make things better because of it, everyone grows up – whether they like it or not, and once again all ends happily ever after. That is what a good daydream does, by the way. It has to end happily ever after or you wouldn’t want to ever daydream again.

Sometimes the daydream is so good that you want to have it many times. Certain stories are like that too – you want to read them again and again just to revel in the ideas. Richard Powers, a master storyteller, really put together some amazing daydreams – because the intertwined stories in his new novel “The Overstory” could be nothing less.

Powers knows that most humans have successfully separated themselves from the rest of the living world. I know, I know, not here in the Monadnock Region! We all tromp through the forest, take pictures of local wildlife and post them on our Facebook page, advocate for alternative energy, and stand up, much like the Lorax, and speak for the trees. The rest of the planet, my dear readers, is not like us. Powers recognizes this sad state of affairs and takes his thoughts a step or two further. He has the trees summon some unsuspecting, and disparate, individuals to act as their resource to save the last few acres of the world’s virgin forest. Will the trees and the humans succeed? Not telling…. But, the stories contained in this book are built in magnificent layers, one atop the other, all leading to that fateful end. I actually hated to finish this book because I love the way Powers uses words. The rhythm of his writing, along with the syntax, is like a symphony of language, or the harmony of swaying branches in a summer wind. I get lyrical when I read Powers and it takes a while to wear off. When you finish the book you will most likely be that way too.

These are all beautiful books that really give us a chance to live through another’s daydream and imagine how things could be to make the world better. I felt great after each one. Now, if any of you come across a very old bottle with a lead stopper and looking cloudy inside, just drop it off at my house – I have a daydream or two I can discus s with the bottle’s resident.