Morning Thanks

Garrison Keillor once said we'd all be better off if we all started the day by giving thanks for just one thing. I'll try.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Morning Thanks--The Secret Place*


It came in the mail not long ago, direct from an Amazon-linked, used bookstore somewhere, a forty-year-old paperback titled A Secret Place, the novel which single-handedly changed the course of my life.

That may be overstatement, but not by much.

Years ago, I picked that novel up in a bookstore, almost on a whim, when I’d just started college. I’d heard of the writer, a man named Frederick Manfred, a tall novelist born and reared in the area, this area actually, a writer who'd become, I'd heard, deeply hated by the real locals, a Dutch Calvinist writer who wasn't highly regarded by Dutch Calvinists. Imagine that. I knew I had to read him.

For reasons I only partially understand, when I read it I loved it, studied it closely, wrote a paper about it for my Freshman English class, and then determined—on the basis of my reading and study of A Secret Place—that someday I wanted to write books myself.

The Secret Place--also published as The Man Who Looked Like the Prince of Wales--is a real Siouxland book, featuring real Siouxland characters, Dutch names, Dutch Reformed conflicts, and, for the time at least (late 60's), some considerable and fleshy steaminess, all of which I found mesmerizing. In it, I found my people--I guess I'd have to say it that way, now, in retrospect. In it, strangely enough, I found me.

It cost me $2—I mean, last week when I ordered it. Cost me $.75 forty years ago.

I read it again recently. Honestly, the novel simply wasn’t all that good, a fact which made me chuckle a bit at my own 19-year-old, impressionable self.

Here's what I think: how lucky I am—and thankful too—that God almighty doesn’t let me make all the significant decisions of my life.

It's on the shelf now, with the rest of Fred Manfred's books, a man who became, later on, my friend.

Only cost me two bucks. Someone else's trash, I suppose. Not mine. Not at all.
________________________ 
*First published April 9, 2008.

1 comment:

The VanTols said...

My father who also grew up in Doon introduced me to Fiekie Fiekema at a young age, and I even went to hear him give a talk at Calvin when I was a student there. I think that reading Fiekema's short stories as a youngster gave me a feeling for my fathers roots esp. his faith and his love of rhubarb. The story that is most strongly associated with F. Manfred in my mind is a short one about greasing the windmill, I'll have to look it up in my dad's library next time I haul the kids there for a visit.
D. VanTol