Monday, April 24, 2006

I Read a Book Once

As discussion day for The Virginian (April 30th!) draws near, I've been perusing some of the "extras" in the back of the book. One of them is a section of books that have been inspired by The Virginian. These include The Untamed by Max Brand, a.k.a. Frederick Faust, The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, and Hondo by Louis L'Amour.   Of course, also on the list is Riders of the Purple Sage by Zane Grey. I have never read it but it always makes me think of my father in-law. Long ago when my husband and I were first dating we went to a "meet the parents" dinner at his parents' house. I was still in college at the time and my husband's dad asked me what I was studying. "English literature," I replied. "Really?" he said. And then with much enthusiasm, "I read a book once!" Only once? I was horrified. "Yeah," he went on, "Riders of the Purple Sage. Great book. Have you read it?" I shook my head no. "Too bad. You should read it sometime." Then my (not yet) husband rescued me. The remainder of the night went by just fine. We saw his parents again a few weeks later. The topic of books came up and again, my father in-law declared, "I read a book once!" I wasn't alone this time. My husband said to him, "I didn't know you could read Dad!" "Sure," he said. "Riders of the Purple Sage. Great book!" Then he looked at me and asked if I had read it. I told him no, trying not to let out I thought he was going senile because we'd already had this conversation.   But my father in-law, it turned out, is a devious man. Another week or two later we were at family gathering and someone asked me how school was going. My father in-law piped up "I read a book once!" I wonder how he kept from laughing when my mouth dropped open. But instead of saying Riders of the Purple Sage, he named some other book. And every time after that he'd name a different book, occasionally going back to Riders of the Purple Sage.   Once, when he did his I-read-a-book-once routine and named Jurassic Park or some other similar book, I acted surprised and said that I thought the only book he'd ever read was Riders of the Purple Sage. Without missing a beat he said, "Never heard of it."