BerksBarrister_Fall2021 - 31

w w w . B E R K SB A R .o r g
By Donald F. Smith, Jr., Esquire
t was a Friday night in the early
1960s, the grand opening of the public
library in my hometown of Belleville,
I walked with my Mother and younger
sister the several blocks from our home
to the town's new literary collection. The
inaugural evening celebration included
refreshments featuring donuts, a very
infrequent, special treat for me.
Later, leaving with my first borrowed
books, I was hooked on reading. Was it the
Mother encouraged her kids to read.
In a few years, I graduated from the Hardy
Boys and Bobbsey Twins to more " grownup
books. " Like the Vietnam-era classic
The Green Berets by Robin Moore, Instant
Replay, Jerry Kramer's diary of the 1967
Green Bay Packer season, and Jim Bouton's
shocking Ball Four, considered a violation
of baseball's clubhouse, all of which added
colorful language to my vocabulary, not
really tolerated by Mother but memorable
to me.
Lawyers are required to do a lot of
reading-frequently of an intricate nature,
requiring time to digest and reflect upon.
And does a lawyer ever leave work behind
when she or he leaves the office? But a
break is necessary in order to maintain one's
mental health.
To help, the Berks County Bar
Association established the Wellness
Committee, now chaired by Dan Nevins.
Past issues of The Berks Barrister have
highlighted some of the ideas promoted by
the Committee-running, hiking, camping,
gardening, hammock time in the great
outdoors, kayaking, bicycling, and exercising
with your pets in the park.
The Committee's latest project is a
Book Club. After all, leisure reading is a
form of relaxation, taking us away from our
usual routine. Meeting for the first time
in March, we discussed Just Mercy, Bryan
Stevenson's story of " beating the drum of
justice " in the deep South. Chair Nevins
reviewed the book for the Barrister's Spring
2018 issue and correctly described it as
" incredibly motivational. "
Next for the Club was a novel,
" We read it because we like it. And we
like it because fiction, as an image of life,
stimulates and gratifies our interest in life. "
Some fiction is great at presenting fun
images of life. Years ago I discovered Janet
Evanovich's Stephanie Plum, a fictional
fugitive apprehension agent in Trenton,
New Jersey. As a bounty hunter, Stephanie
stumbles more than she apprehends. The
antics of her sidekick, former prostitute
Lula, and her Grandma Mazur, have had
me convulsing in laugh-producing tears.
Quite a departure from the straits of the
legal profession, I have read all 27 novels in
the series.
While looking to add further
stimulation and interest in life, I came
across the genre of Amish cozy mysteries.
Although quite light, they represent a
gratifying escape into the world of the
Amish. Laura Bradford writes of murders
occurring in Lancaster County's fictional
town of Heavenly. Her series of seven
Pennsylvania Powwow, by a local author,
Marian Frances Wolbers; it was reviewed
by Scott Hoh in the last Barrister. The
book held my interest, with a descriptive
style of writing, but the storyline was a
stretch. Then, again, it's fiction.
Why read fiction? Writing in the
October 20, 1962 issue of the Saturday
Evening Post and reprinted in its MayJune
2021 issue, Robert Penn Warren,
poet, novelist, and literary critic, answered:
novels to date include such creative titles as
Hearse and Buggy; Assaulted Pretzel; and Just
Plain Murder. Learning a different culture
is a nice break from practicing law.
Inspired by the recent PBS series on
Ernest Hemingway, I decided to read
famous fiction, namely, his The Old Man
and the Sea. Wow, not a light, cozy mystery!
The elderly Cuban fisherman, Santiago,
after 84 straight days without a catch, hooks
an incredibly large marlin, but not without
a fight. Of the 127-page book, 54 pages
are needed to chronicle the fight beginning
with its initial taking of the bait to the
fatal harpooning, a period of more than 48
straight hours at sea. The marlin measured
eighteen feet in length, longer than the Old
Man's skiff and too big to hoist into it. He
could only lash it from bow to stern, " like
lashing a much bigger skiff alongside. "
Estimating it to weigh over fifteen
hundred pounds, at thirty cents a pound,
it " is my fortune, he thought. " Santiago
set sail for the long return trip to his home
harbor. An hour later, the first shark
attacked. One after another came until all
that remained of the great marlin was its
skeleton. Fortune lost.
In the midst of it all, the Old Man
proclaimed, " But a man is not made for
defeat. A man can be destroyed but not
defeated. " To me, it is Hemingway's version
of Illegitimi non Carborundum- " Don't let
the bastards grind you down. " An offering
of wellness wisdom.
The Book Club plays an important role
in the wellness mission of our Community
of Lawyers. More should join. The books,
chosen by Club members, are interesting.
Pastime reading is relaxing, and discussing
it with others is invigorating, enlightening
and a fun diversion.
My diet no longer allows for donuts,
but I continue to draw nourishment from
leisure reading. Thank you, Mother.
Mr. Smith is Executive
Director Emeritus of
the Berks County Bar
Fall 2021 | 31


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