If any book counts as reading candy, Laura Hillenbrand's, Seabiscuit, is the winner for me. I remember walking past the book display and knowing in an instant I needed it. No pages flipped, no back cover perusal. This was my book. Fortunately, the rest of the reading world agreed, and the words on the page were made into a stunning screen version.
From the first page I was smitten.
In 1938, near the end of a decade of monumental turmoil, the year's number-one newsmaker was not Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Hitler, or Mussolini. It wasn't Pope Pious XI, nor was it Lou Gehrig, Howard Hughes, or Clark Gable. The subject of the most newspaper column inches in 1938 wasn't even a person. It was an undersized, crooked-legged racehorse named Seabiscuit.
Every time I read the paragraph I wonder if she measured and counted all those columns. Yet, by the time I reach the next paragraph I forget about the measuring and counting because I am swept away by prose that engulf my soul and hurl me back to a time I never knew. Her perfect descriptions melt inside me like warm creme brulee or chocolate cheesecake. I read slowly and savor every morsel.
Charles Howard had the feel of a gigantic onrushing machine: You had to either climb on or leap out of the way. He would sweep into a room, working a cigarette in his fingers, and people would trail him like pilot fish. They couldn't help themselves.
As a reader I am in the same boat. I can't help myself. I want page after page of the glorious words to drench me. I own both the hardback and paper copy. I read from both, but I underline, notate, and pencil in the paper back copy only. My dream is to one day write a piece that is as delicious as Ms. Hillenbrand's.
Date with Destiny
I wasn't seeking a horse book as I combed the bookstore aisles. I was looking for my kids who had scattered to the four winds down different areas of the store. Turning the corner toward the register a black and white book sat staring at me. All I could think of was Grandpa. Perhaps it was the style of the men's clothes? Perhaps it was the horse and rider? I didn't know and I didn't care. All I knew was that I needed it. We were headed on a family vacation, and I chose it for my companion.
Page after page I surged, raged, cheered, and hungered through Seabiscuit's story, as if I were a stable hand. Living it full in real time. Then one night it hit me. My grandpa had two or three plastic horses that sat next to the gas fireplace in their home in Burbank. My brother and I always played with them. As we did Grandpa would tell us stories of horses he'd seen or heard about. My recollection is one black stallion rearing up, one sorrel on all fours, and one cantering isabelline. Somewhere along the way he must have told us about Seabiscuit, War Admiral, and the lot. With each turn of phrase and page, Grandpa and I were now reunited in the retelling of a horse story. I don't know that Grandpa ever saw Biscuit, but maybe he did. The era is right. He loved getting all dressed up and taking his only daughter, my mom, to the races. The romance of it worked for me. It would be Grandpa and my book. Binding our souls between heaven and earth.
Seabiscuit is more than a horse story. It's a people story. To paraphrase Ms. Hillenbrand,
The scattered lives of Red Pollard, Tom Smith, Charles Howard, (and Laura Hillenbrand) had come to an intersection. Their crowded hour(s) had begun.
In 1938, it was Pollard, Smith, and Howard, who ran the first stretch of Seabiscuit's race. Fifty-Eight years later, in the fall of 1996, Hillenbrand would join the team and take Biscuit's story down the homestretch, eventually becoming the closer of the story. Each member had deep personal losses. Without each other they would remain anonymous. With each other they transmuted their losses, defied odds, and came out frontrunners.
So, if you are looking for the perfect blend of inspiration and delectableness look no further than Laura Hillenbrand's, Seabiscuit.