Saturday is for Sharing
Across Two Novembers: A Year in the Life of a Blind Bibliophile
by David L. Faucheux
Miss Opal & Lynda
Welcome YOU to
Saturday is for Sharing
Meet David L. Faucheux
Across Two Novembers: A Year in the Life of a Blind Bibliophile
Lynda_ I’ve been hearing so many good reports on your first book, Betweeen Two Novembers. I am so pleased to present your book and hear your thoughts today on SCAN. Thank you for coming to our little SCAN office here in Western Pennsylvania. You’ve come a long way to visit with us today.
Miss Opal_ Our readers will know so much more about you and your life-long love of books and reading. I have a few questions for you this morning, just to get the conversation started. I always worry I won’t remember what I wanted to say, so I will begin first with my question for you.
Miss opal_ I am going to ask my favorite question!
What could you never live without? And, why? What wold happen if this would go away? That is something that I always worry about myself, David. I hate to lose things!
David_ Books and libraries. Let me tell you why and how I actually wanted to make my love of books and libraries my job. Part of this essay is taken from an article I wrote in 2001, at a time before Bookshare had taken off, before Kindle and eBooks, before Audible and BARD.
“What is a library?” Depends on whom you ask, right? For me, this question immediately conjures up that hot summer many years ago. My guide dog, Nader, and I had just entered library school at the Louisiana State University School of Library and Information Science in Baton Rouge. I had been emailing the dean for months, endeavoring to discuss the many concerns I had. Yes, I knew I was throwing the faculty and other LSU officials a proverbial curve ball. I was sitting in the auditorium, wondering what I was doing there, overdressed in a silk tie and linen blazer, and listening to the dean talk about professionalism and what that meant, with Nader was blissfully half-dozing at my feet, tail occasionally twitching.
LYNDA_I am a former professor, so I am getting the picture here that you are creating. I can’t help but ask you to talk a little more about your academic challenges. I am thinking about how a blind man would be so interested in pursuing the disciplines that you were thinking about. How did that work for you?
David_ I know, it may seem almost ironic to some that a blind person would even be interested in a profession that upon first consideration might seem to be so dependent on sight. For as long as I can remember, my interest in reading has been counterbalanced by the scarcity of braille and recorded materials. As a result of eagerly awaiting the next book in the mail during school breaks, having my aunt look up words in her encyclopedia during long weekend visits, later having the 145-volume 1959 edition Braille World Book literally at my fingertips during junior high study hall, and developing various strategies to obtain materials in high school and college, I have become increasingly concerned with the availability of print materials to the blind library patron.
Miss Opal_ But what do you get from a library?
David_ For me, that question is complicated by my rapid vision loss. I remember as a child during the endless summers of swimming lessons and crafts classes also going to the public library with my mother and brothers. They looked at shelves of books, adult novels for her, and books my mother thought we would like. She often read to us before bed. I remember wondering if breakfasting on green eggs and ham would be half as repulsive as the Dr. Seuss character Sam-I-Am insisted and if buying a feline as sagacious as The Cat in the Hat would be possible. I remember liking the stereopticon slides that lived in a box that reposed on top of one of the low bookcases in the children’s room below a window. I even listened to the long-playing recordings of what I later learned were Newbery books. I just thought they were funny-smelling records with a silhouette of a profile and a gold medallion. They were never long enough. I was always running out of books to hear.
Miss Opal_ But isn’t a library more?”
David_ Yes, it is. After I lost my remaining vision, I turned more and more to a different kind of library: a postal library. That’s right, a postal library. Let me explain. The Library of Congress National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped is a network of cooperating regional libraries that serves those who meet the qualifications. I would receive mysterious black cardboard–later blue plastic–containers full of slow-playing records. My talking book machine was my magic carpet to such fantastic realms as Oz, the center of the earth, the moon, Venus, the Italy of Romeo and Juliet, and the mitochondria of a cell. I endured the exquisite suspense of Madeline L’Engle, laughed at The Jack Tales and some Scott Corbett books, and was scared to death by several John Bellairs books. I had a hard and fast rule: Talking books were for home, and braille books were for school. I rarely wavered from this rule. And then 4-track, slow-speed cassettes made their appearance. I enjoyed the portability, ease of storage, and knowing that each pale green box held hours of listening and even a kind of para-social-friendship. I learned to speed-listen. I used the variable speed control switch to gradually increase the speed of the machine. This made reading books such as Jennings’s Aztec, Clavell’s Noble House, or Michener’s Texas faster by 50 percent. I do also remember the torture of waiting for the library in Baton Rouge to send a replacement for a cassette that had the impertinence to break before I had finished it.
And I’m glad that because of so many online and physical resources today, I never have to wonder what I’d do if books and libraries disappeared!
Lynda_ Your thoughts on what a library is are so interesting TO US, dAVID.
iT MADE ME THINK more about What would you like to know more about?
David_ I have always been subtly aware of scents and fragrances. Certain perfumes take me back. One day in 1996 when a student came into my braille class, I instantly thought of my sixth grade teacher. The student’s perfume was Wind Song, by Prince Matchabelli. This floral perfume was launched in 1953 and has top notes of coriander, orange leaf, mandarin orange, tarragon, neroli, bergamot, and lemon. Middle notes include cloves, carnation, orris root, jasmin, ylang-ylang, rose, and Brazilian rosewood. The base notes that anchor this fragrance are sandalwood, amber, musk, benzoin, vetiver, and cedar. The ingredients seem so exotic and sing of foreign climes, mystery, and romance.
lYNDA_ Tell us about how you began to write your book. Please give us a sample page that would sum up what the book is about and give us insight into your themes.
David_ My book was written to take you into my world. I wanted my voice to be heard. Seems today, everyone is being heard somewhere: on a reality TV show or on Twitter, Facebook, or other online venues. I wanted to add my voice to the growing field of memoirs by blind authors. In any event, I put the fears of writing and disclosing aside and jumped in. Here is how I explain it in the introduction to Across Two Novembers: A Year in the Life of a Blind Bibliophile, which I am now attempting to have produced as an audio abridgement, as well as in print and e-book formats, with a slightly different title.
I have long wanted to write and publish something, be it an historic novel, a young adult novel, or nonfiction. When, in November 2013, Dr. Katherine Schneider asked me to read and review her just–published Occupying Aging, I conquered my usual reservations: Would I be a good reviewer? Would I be able to write something interesting and help her book sales? I dove in and came up with this review, which appeared on http://www.goodreads.com:
This book, with its mixture of the quotidian and sublime, stands as an interesting glimpse into the life of one early 21st–century woman. Schneider, a retired psychologist, recounts a year of thoughts and events in this journal. Her ruminations on death, spirituality, dogs, and navigating the landscape of the sighted as a totally blind inhabitant of her Wisconsin college town are enlightening. Touches of humor involving Fran, her Seeing Eye® dog, add a sense of fun.
As someone who is acquainted with Dr. Schneider (we have exchanged emails), I could wish I occupied my forties quite as well as she does her sixties. The proactive attempts to educate about disability issues, the volunteering, and the public speaking are outstanding. Maybe some of her enthusiasm for life will rub off on all her readers.—An excellent vade mecum, a handbook, for handling the uncertainties of retirement.
While reading her book and formulating my review, I thought, Oh! I just might be able to write something in this journal–type format. So I jumped in right then, not waiting to begin on the more traditional January 1. I thought that to wait was to postpone indefinitely and fail; to start could mean a chance at a successful resolution. Who says a journal has to run from January 1 to December 31 to be of interest?
Miss Opal_ So, everyone, here goes nothing! I just have to ask you, David, about something else that is on my mind. I hope that is ok with you. Tell me, what is your idea of the perfect job? What would you be doing if it were your job? What do you think is the best job ever? Wold this be Plan A for your life?
David_ I would like to collaborate on a multi-media project documenting a group of students pursuing the MFA in Gastronomy offered by Boston University. What a book that would make! It would be along the lines of Snapshots from Hell, released in the early 1990s, about the author’s quest to obtain a Stanford MBA, or that book One L , by Scott Turow, that describes his first year of Harvard Law School. The project could be built around several students and their experiences with course work, internships, and even early employment.
Lynda_ If you could write or commission any kind of book, what would it be? Have you given that any thought now that this first book is finished?
David_ I have several ideas and will briefly discuss each below. They range from fictional biography to historic fiction and end with a short story collection.
* Empress Eugénie of France: She was just as interesting as Empress Elizabeth of Hapsburg or Queen Victoria, two of her contemporaries. But I find no writer today who has done anything with her, either fictionalized or straight biography. If French writers have covered her, I have not located the translations. She lived at a particularly interesting time and reigned over the carnival that was the empire of Napoleon III. It all came tumbling down in 1871, and she later lost her son in a hunting accident in South Africa. She lived until 1920. Surely, if Marie Antoinette rates high enough, Empress Eugénie should.
Eugénie lived during a time of convulsive change. Three empires toppled during her lifetime. The new nations of Germany and Italy were born.
* Inca: Gary Jennings wrote Aztec. (Actually, there were several follow-up novels to his Aztec, but it was Aztec that was outstanding; the others were possibly written at the suggestion of an editor to cash in on Aztec’s success). I always hoped Jennings would live long enough to write about the Inca, to do for that South American people what Aztec did for Mexico.
* A short story collection about my days at a residential school for the blind: I could possibly do this with some guidance. This type of school is rapidly fading from memory. Most blind students today are mainstreamed into public schools. In the 1970s, this was not always the case.
Lynda_ They SAY “TIME FLIES WHEN YOU ARE HAING FUN, i SEE OUR TIME IS JUST ABOUT OVER AND YOU NEED TO LEAVE US. we HAVE ENJOYED YOUR VISIT TODAY AND WE WILL BE WATCHIG TO SEE WHAT NEW PROJECT YOU HAVE COMING OUT IN THE FUTURE. H FOR COMING TO SEE US.
Additional information on David can be found on Joan Myles blog:
David L. Faucheux
Author of Across Two Novembers: A Year in the Life of a Blind Bibliophile
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