I finished reading Wally Lamb’s “The Hour I First Believed” in the first hour of Wednesday, June 17, 2009.
Have I told you he mentioned me on page 353? I did? In December? And again in January? Well, consider this the hat trick. I’m bringing it up again, because I noticed today that Colin McEnroe is touting a Wally appearance at the Hartford Public Library on June 26th. I will be otherwise engaged in that work thing, but it sounds like fun if you’re interested.
I’m also bringing it up again because, while page 353 was clearly the class of this novel, the other 722 pages were fabulous as well. Every time I begin reading a book, I’m making a commitment to the author. I’ve already committed my money, now I’m committing something even more valuable: my time.
My time with “The Hour I First Believed” started last month on a plane to the Caribbean. This was to be my airport/plane/hotel room book, because it was a signed hardcover that I was not about to soil with sunscreen, sand and salt water. I had a paperback and magazines for la plage. But I ran out of time before I ran out of pages, and that meant yet another commitment: carve time out of the day-to-day routine to finish. That meant midnight-to-two in the big chair.
When I completed my commitment to Mr. Lamb, I read about his commitment to me. In his afterword, he wrote that it took him nine years “to construct the novel.” Nine years! This is mind-boggling to someone who writes 18-second blurbs on traffic accidents and 47-second stories on the state budget. I spend an hour of my day writing these blog posts and consider it my literary triumph. And this man took nine years “to construct the novel.” As the late, great Red Sox announcer Ned Martin would say, “Mercy.”
As constructed, the novel took me from Columbine to Connecticut…from the Civil War to a party at Mark Twain’s house in Hartford. It was a cross-country trip through time and history with fascinating people, real and imagined.
My first “big smile” moment came early: the mention of Chuck Schilling. Who? Schilling was one of two Red Sox rookies in 1961. Pretty good second-baseman, whose best year, as it turned out, was his first year. To this day, when one of my brothers leaves me a phone message, he’ll just say, “Chuck Schilling. Call me.” (The other 1961 rookie was some guy named Yastrzemski.)
My other “big smile” moment came, of course, on page 353, even if he had me working on a Saturday night. Did I tell you I’m mentioned on page 353?