ust crawling off to bed. I was beginning to nod an hour or two ago, happily curled on the couch, re-reading Diane Duane's Honor Blade
so as to be able to read and fully enjoy the long-awaited completion to her story in the newly-released The Empty Chair
. I saw earlier today that I had earlier written
that I had been waiting 13 years to hear this story. That was six years ago! So... completion comes, and in the hands of an utter master like Duane, that's all pleasure.
But as I was giving up and getting ready to turn in, I started idly leafing through a few pages of the treasure that arrived in the mail today from Amazon. In September, after the Novak Family Reunion, and standing on the banks of the Rock River with my Dad in Sterling, Illinois, talking about local history, I had gone searching on Amazon's network of used bookstores for the definitive piece of local history of my hometown, The Story of Oregon, Illinois: Sesquicentennial 1836-1986
by Charles Mongan, Sr. There were, indeed, two copies to be had, but as the cheapest was listed at $350, I had to pass on that treasure.
But to my surprise, there was also listed a new volume, Oregon, Illinois
by Keith Call, part of a series of American local histories, entitled Images of America
by Arcadia Publishing
. That's the volume to which I just treated myself, and it's a charmer. Handsomely bound, particularly for a paperback, it is not a comprehensive history in the way that the Mongan volume attempted to be. (I was a devout reader of that in high school, already on my way toward studying history and having been turned on to the "excitement in details" of local history by my 5th-grade science teacher, Mr. Bouska.) Still, this new volume – just published in 2005 – conveys quite a bit of the charms of the local history, with particular attention to the "big stories" or attractions, which continued to colour my life at the end of the 20th century. For instance, how many Tolkien or medieval enthusiasts in small-town, mid-America can actually say that they grew up in a village overlooked by a castle? Or how many of those same small town, mid-American teens with an interest in the arts can have the convenience of growing up in a town littered with the efforts of a distinct American school of art, with treasures strewn about so that the eye, sadly enough, grows somewhat blind to the regular wonders it sees? Surely, that's more true for a New Yorker or a Florentine, and not so for a kid from Smallville, U.S.A., right? But I had all these advantages and more in Oregon, Illinois, and this book yanked me awake for another few hours in reminding me of that fact....