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Thursday, November 30, 2006

On the poetry meme

I've been reading the various responses to the poetry memes, since first discovering the meme on Dorothy W.'s Of Books and Bicycles last Friday. When I mentioned it on my post, I said I was thinking about playing, but nearly a week later, all I've done is read other people's - starting with Cam -- her reasons for creating the meme and her answers.

My biggest frustration came yesterday, when after writing 3 lengthy comments on Lotus Reads (we loved some of the same poems--I always have something to say about that), some "scheduled maintenance" wiped it out. Only on the 3rd attempt did I get the explanation and give up.

So this morning I'm still not following through with my own answers. This post is already too long, and I want to share a favorite poem.

Valentine for Ernest Mann
by Naomi Shihab Nye

You can’t order a poem like you order a taco.
Walk up to the counter and say, "I’ll take two"
and expect it to handed back to you on a shiny plate.

Still, I like your spirit.
Anyone who says, "Here’s my address,write me a poem,"
deserves something in reply.
So I’ll tell a secret instead: poems hide.
In the bottoms of our shoes, they are sleeping.
They are the shadows
drifting across our ceilings the moment
before we wake up.What we have to do is
live in a way that lets us find them.

Once I knew a man who gave his wife two skunks for a valentine.
He couldn’t understand why she was crying.
"I thought they had such beautiful eyes."
And he was serious. He was a serious man
who lived in a serious way. Nothing was ugly
just because the world said so. He really
liked those skunks. So, he re-invented them
as valentines and they became beautiful.
At least, to him. And the poems that had been hiding
in the eyes of skunks for centuries
crawled out and curled up at his feet.

Maybe if we re-invent whatever our lives give us
we find poems. Check your garage, the odd sock
in your drawer, the person you almost like, but not quite.
And let me know.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Parnassus on Wheels or Oh, What Fun!

Helen McGill never expected to be an author. Or to have adventures. Or to ...no, I don't want to reveal too much, but Helen never expected that at almost 40 , her life would take a rather amazing turn.

One crisp fall morning in 1907, Helen's domestic life is interrupted when a robin's egg blue wagon, "something like an old-fashioned trolley car," pulled by a fat white horse arrives in her yard. A strange little man hops out and raises the side of the wagon "like a flap" and reveals shelf after shelf of books. The little man hands Helen his card:

ROGER MIFFLIN'S
TRAVELING PARNASSUS

Worth friends, my wain doth hold
Many a book, both new and old;
Books, the truest freinds of man,
Fill this rolling caravan.
Books on cookery and farming,
Novels passionate and charming,
Every kind for every need
So that he who buys may read.
What librarian can surpass us.

And thereby hangs a tale...

A delightful book, published in 1917, Parnassus on Wheels contains the innocence of a lost era, a woman ahead of her time, age-old wisdom and love of learning.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Bloglines failure

I'm having trouble with Bloglines. Blogs that have new posts are not being updated. I've sent them an email and received an "incident number" -- but things are still not working. When I mentioned this on my other blog a couple of days ago, someone suggested Google Reader. I hate to switch, but I'm really frustrated.

Have started Parnassus on Wheels ... and I'm loving it.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

China Bayles...once more

Finished another China Bayles. The part that interested me most on this one was the information on the use of herbs for osteoporosis and joint problems. I'm debating on trying some of the recipes...I've never bought tofu, but there is a recipe for Ruby's Better Bones Soup that calls for it. And a great recipe for Doggie Shampoo.




This funny "foxglove" bookplate by Ian Penney seemed appropriate.

Dorothy W. has an interesting poetry meme over at Of Books & Bicycles.


Friday, November 24, 2006

Textile art, Dyeing, and Mystery


Finished another China Bayles mystery. Booklogged mentioned these the other day, and I had not read one in a while, but remembered that I enjoyed them. This one particularly interested me because it deals not only with the herbs that China Bayles grows and sells in her shop, but also with a textile artist and the art of natural dyes.
I love herbs and grow many in my garden. I have to confess that my love of them is, in part, because of their hardy and carefree nature. They require little care (except in containing their tendencies to spread) and most require little water. Added benefits are many. When my dog noses through the rosemary and the basil in the summer, he stirs up the delightful scents, to say nothing of the improvement on his own doggy aroma.
Each chapter in the China Bayles novels begins with excerpts from other sources that connect with the mystery in some way and increase your herbal knowlege. Albert always includes a page or two of bibliographic resources at the end of her novels, and the ones on natural dyeing and indigo dyeing are especially interesting to me.
The mysteries are light and quick reading. I like the herbal information, and in this novel, the information on natural dyeing. I also like the Texas expressions she includes and wish I'd flagged the pages with my little sticky notes so I could include one or two. Albert is also interested in the environment and this novel includes some of the very real destructive effects involved in strip mining and processing.
Her novels are pretty formulaic, if you read more than one, you quickly notice these tendencies, but I still like them and have begun another one.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Interpretation of Murder (with update)


Tues., Nov. 11/21/06 - I'm reading The Interpretation of Murder by Jed Rubenfeld which was on the new book shelf at the library the other day. The story revolves around a trip to New York that Sigmund Freud, accompanied by Carl Jung and Sandor Ferenczi, made to give a series of lectures at Clark University. In addition to the above characters, Abraham Brill, Ernst Jones, Harry K. Thaw (who murdered Stanford White), and George McClellan (mayor of N.Y. 1909) are other historical figures who have already made appearances. Henry and William James and Einstein have also been mentioned.

As well as these historical personages, the New York of 1909 - architecturally and culturally - is also playing a part in the novel.

The story involves two murders and an attempted murder (so far) and the efforts of the fictional psychoanalyst Dr.Stratham Younger, who is in New York as a representative of Clark University, to unlock the psyche of the young woman who survived. The murders are especially interesting because of the involvement of the Freudians (and the soon to be former member of the group, Carl Jung). Dreams are analyzed among these individuals and these are dreams that are on record in psychoanalytical sources. The literary associations, especially of Hamlet, are also playing a role. History, real case histories, and fiction are interwoven so far.

Note: A little while ago, I stopped reading at a point where Ferenczi has discovered that "Hundreds of pebbles and small stones, together with an armful of broken twigs and torn-up grass, were strewn about the floor of Jung's room." Jung, by the way, is getting a bad rap so far in the novel. The events taking place occur shortly before his break with Freud and show a good deal of jealousy among Freud's followers. Since Jung's behavior has been quite strange, I felt some mild curiosity, but now I'm wondering if it some presaging of his interest in Mandalas.

Since so much actual fact is twisted into the story, I may have to do some further research.

11/22/06

Finished. An excellent mystery. Complex and intriguing, both in the mystery and the history. Rubenfeld includes many red herrings, leaving the reader to question more than one character. I've always had an interest in both Freudian and Jungian literary criticism (and much prefer Jungian criticism with its archetypes and process of individuation - as did Joseph Campbell), but the real lives of both Freud and Jung are fascinating . Rubenfeld both supports and discredits Freud in the novel, but doesn't like Jung at all. There is a nice Author's Note at the end that helps untangle the real characters and events from the fictitious. This was much appreciated because although I had looked a few things up, the Author's Note gave concise answers to questions that would have taken more research.

I'm definitely giving this one a thumb's up: it appealed to some of my specific interests, the narrative was complex and involving, the interplay of actual places and events with the murder mystery was seamless.

My only complaint is that the conclusion was almost too complicated. I can deal with that...

On My Previous Post and Comments

My previous post received some comments that I think deserve further consideration. How many of the books we loved as children stand up to adult reading? Why? Does it matter?

For me, the L.M. Montgomery books do stand up...as long as I don't overdose. There are certain themes in the books that get repeated -with different characters- in each book. When given adequate time between reading, I don't find this a problem, but I'm certainly aware of it.

For really young children-- if I can read a book over and over to a child without thinking it banal...I (as an adult) rate it an excellent children's book. Children, however, often love to have books read to them over and over that an adult will consider boring and trite (driving said adult to distraction at the 3rd reading, much less the 203rd demanded by said child). If the book appeals to many children in the same way, then logically, it must have qualities that place it above the dull category into which an adult might consign it.

For early readers-- being able to read on their own in such a reward in and of itself for children. Having characters that can be counted on to remain the same (I don't think young children want character growth nearly as much as they want dependability), but who continue having new adventures is a plus for beginning readers.

Another note, I remember when my children fell in love with the Sweet Valley High series. I was stunned, horrified! Their reading levels so much higher and there were so many excellent books available, why did they turn to these silly things? Obviously, I was too old to appreciate whatever call these books had. I, who would not have blinked an eye had they been reading Nancy Drew. Which tells me something... I read Exodus, Gone with the Wind, and other adult books in grade school, and I adored Nancy Drew. At the same time.

Poetry is the same way. I still love some of the poems I read in childhood. They are not good poetry, and I'm perfectly capable of distinguishing between the quality of "Little Boy Blue" by Eugene Field and "Holy Sonnet 10" by John Donne. I love them both. I read Donne as a child (in one of my mother's anthologies), but I couldn't appreciate him. Maybe Eugene Field is partially responsible for creating a love of poetry that was capable of growing and maturing. In my book, that makes Field as important as John Donne.

So... does it matter if The Boxcar Children would not stand up to a re-reading from an adult perspective? Not for me. It was a step on the way and will always evoke feelings of comfort and satisfaction and gratitude.

Five on a Treasure Island - From the Stacks Challenge


I read Five on a Treasure Island for one of my From the Stacks Challenge books. Enid Blyton had cropped up on so many lists of Beloved Children's Books that I ordered the first in the Famous Five series and The Faraway Tree to get a taste of Blyton.

Unfortunately, I don't have that special feeling that envelopes a book that you've read and loved in your own childhood. (For me that would include L.M. Montgomery's Ann books, Pippi Longstocking, The Borrowers, The Five Little Peppers, etc.) Fortunately, I discovered these and can pass them on to my grandchildren. The book is, as is often the case from this earlier time period, a potent mixture of innocence and adventure. The characters are thinly drawn, there are didactic messages of the importance of friendship, loyalty, and sharing, and there is remarkable freedom from parental supervision. Add a dash of deserted island, the ruins of a castle, the mystery of hidden gold, some bad guys, and the creative resourcefulness of children and voila: a perfect confection for early readers.

The freedom from parental supervision is a common theme in children's books, and is even more evident in light of current practices. How many parents today would allow their children the freedom at 9, 10, and 11 years old to row out to the island, negotiate the danger of the rocky coast, and not be particularly worried when a bad storm develops? No life jackets. And those are the minimal skills of these children, who think fast and take decisive action to defeat the adults who would steal the gold and who threaten to shoot the beloved dog Tim.

My daughter and I have discussed the changes in the area of freedom in children's lives before--the freedom my parents had as children, the freedom of my own childhood, the more circumscribed life of my children, and the even more closely supervised lives of children today. Easy to see the appeal of children who are allowed the independence of the Famous Five (or the Boxcar Children or Pippi).

Since Five on a Treasure Island is the first in this series, some time is committed to the circumstances in which Julian, Dick, and Ann meet their cousin George (Georgina), develop their friendship, and bond with George's dog Tim. I imagine the rest of the series falls more quickly into the mystery/adventure narrative.
The books are for very young readers or (one of the things I loved beyond telling when my children were young) for the reading of a parent to the child. What a great way to end the day, one chapter at a time.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Where Do I Go From Here...

Have finally finished Alias Grace and have reviewed it here in November Reading. I'm much relieved.

What next? Originally, I planned to read another one for the From the Stacks Challenge, but we shall see what I pull out of my library bag...

Also, my long awaited Amazon order arrived! There are more than enough choices, and I know that something lighter is needed at this point.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Bookmarks and Activities for Kids


I love Jan Brett's children's books and illustrations. Here you can find some lovely bookmarks that you can print (and I would laminate them) for free. My favorite set is Daisy Comes Home. Or would you like her alphabet flashcards? Or bulletin board month? Check out all of her free activities! If I were a primary school teacher, I'd bake her cookies once a month.

National Geographic has a place where kids can create their own bookmarks. Click "Help" for clear instructions. Or maybe your kids would enjoy the Dinosaur Egg Hunt with information about where dinosaur eggs have been discovered - with pictures and links. Ancient Egyptian loved their pets, too, and sometimes gave them elaborate burials. This site goes on and on and on with activities and information and lesson plans for different grade levels. Just one more.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Currently Engaged

Yesterday was a windy, cold, rainy day, but instead of reading, I continued working on my various sewing projects. I did spend about 30 minutes on Alias Grace, but that was the extent of my reading.




I posted the review of Tender at the Bone in November Reading the other day, and intended to quickly finish up with Alias Grace, but still have a ways to go.



Here are some of the books on my Want to Read List (and where I can remember, the blog source):
A-B
Aldrich, Bess Streeter. A Lantern in Her Hand. (booklogged)
Atwood, Magaret. Alias Grace. (Reading Matters) [currently reading]
Aycliff, Jonathan . The Lost.
Baricco, Alessandro. Silk. (Reading Matters)
Berry, Liz. The China Garden. (bklogged)
Birkin, Andrew. J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: The Real Story
Behind Peter Pan.

Blake, Sarah. The Grange House. (My Indiv. Take)
Buzbee, Lewis. The Yellow-Lighted Bookshop. (A Wk in Pr.)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Another one down...

I had almost finished Tender at the Bone the other night, but not quite. My eyes were too blurry to see, so bed beckoned and with little persuasion won. Sunday there was no time, and I fretted a bit; today, however, I finished the last 20 or so pages in short order. I've finished 2 of my Stacks Challenge books and will review Tender at the Bone later. The next one for the Stacks Challenge will be Five on a Treasure Island by Enid Blyton. That one won't take long as it is a children's book, but it will have to wait until I finish Alias Grace, which is going to get my full attention now that I've finished the Reichl book.

The book plate is by
Posy Simmonds. The
site is mentioned in
yesterday's post.

This afternoon about 4:00, I put on The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio and worked on a needle felting project that I needed to finish. Later, it was time for Heroes and Studio 60, and I got so much done on my project while enjoying the movie and television that I am quite proud of myself.

Book Plates and meme

Shelley's blog had a link to a site with free book plates, and I saved several for illustrations on my blog. Isn't this one by David Roberts cute? The book plates on this site are mostly geared toward children and can be printed out and used in your books if you so choose. But I warn you, you are going to be seeing them here for awhile. :)


I've always found book plates fascinating, but have only rarely actually used them (although I've bought them on several occasions). Shelley's November Booked by Three has a meme concerning book plates:

1. Do you use bookplates?
Not really, but I love looking at them.

2. Do you write your name in your books?
Only rarely.

3. Do you attach stickers with your name and / or other info into your books?
No.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Currently Reading

...my newly recovered Tender at the Bone (which was hiding in the scanner) and Atwood's Alias Grace. Both are holding my attention quite well.

I've added two new mystery authors to my list thanks to Danielle. Cynthia Peale and Veronica Stallwood - here's hoping I can find them at the library, but I bet I can't. Danielle is a terrible influence on me. Self-discipline where are you?

Uh oh, I can neither save nor publish this post...Blogger is saying: We're sorry, but we were unable to complete your request.

Friday, November 10, 2006

November Reading -updated 11/28/06

Morley, Christopher. Parnassus on Wheels. Charming. I reviewed it
here.

Albert, Susan Wittig. Dead Man's Bones. Another China Bayles mystery full of herbal lore (this time with an emphasis on herbs for bones and joints and osteoporosis).

Albert, Susan Wittig. Indigo Dying. A China Bayles mystery. I reviewed it in this post.

Rubenfeld, Ruben. The Interpretation of Murder. New York City and psychoanalysts involved in this excellent mystery. I reviewed it in this post.

Hill, Susan. The Woman in Black. More a long short story or a novella. I didn't find it as spine-tingling as others did.

Atwood, Margaret. Alias Grace. Disclaimer: Most people who read this novel praised it highly. However, inspite of Atwood's prose, inspite of the thematic and symbolic use of quilts and quilting, I did not enjoy this book. Not my favorite Atwood.

Based on the actual murders of Thomas Kinnear and his housekeeper, this is a dark story in which all of the characters are either unpleasant, wicked, or unreliable. The book is long and, throughout most of it, the reading is slow...partly because there is little action and partly because the atmosphere becomes so thick with tension and impersonal dread. And yes, it is skillfully done.

In 1843, Grace Marks, a sixteen year old servant girl, is convicted of involvement in the murders of her employer and his housekeeper/mistress. Atwood begins with the difficult life Grace endured in her short sixteen years, but nothing in Atwood's version of Grace's early history suggests the personality changes that occur later (whether innocent or guilty), although there are possible precipitating events that receive attention. Or maybe the links are too weak. Or too many things left unexplained. Jeremiah the Peddler, for example. Dr. Jordan, who comes to interview Grace fifteen years after her imprisonment, moves quickly from an individual with a purpose, to a seething emotional quagmire. Now there is an individual worthy of a psychological novel all his own.

After a while, I didn't care whether Grace helped commit the murders or not. My heart slowed each time I entered the miasmal atmosphere that pervaded the novel, which is why it took so long to read. In spite of the introduction of "psychological" principles and the spiritualist fad, Grace (and her involvement in the murders) remains an enigma, and by the conclusion,my sympathy for anyone in the novel had vanished.

Reichl, Ruth. Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table. Ruth Reichl used food as "a way of making sense of the world." In her home, where she was loved but neglected (her mother was a manic depressive), food was her fortunate way of connecting to people she loved. She begins by protecting people from her mother's cooking, and then, in self-defense, begins learning to cook from a variety of exceptional and talented individuals. Reichl not only survives a potentially damaging childhood, she celebrates the often unexpected dilemmas by using them to her advantage in an unusual and inspiring emotional growth.

One character that I loved was Aunt Birdie, and just as I was bemoaning the fact that Reichl appeared to have not felt it important enough to tell us what happened to her, Birdie makes another entrance when she is about to have her 100th birthday. Reichl's mother is planning a birthday party to celebrate the event, and her father, in desperation, seeks Ruth's help:

"I thought this was supposed to be a small party," I said.
Dad sighed. "It's been growing."
"But who could Mom possibly invite? Aunt Birdie's a hundred. Her friends are all dead."
"Oh, she's made new friends. You know Birdie. And then your mother began thinking up people who might like to be her friend" (246). Original comments from when I began the book are here.


Setterfield, Diane. The Thirteenth Tale. Reviewed here.

Howard, Elizabeth Jane. The Light Years. The novel opens in 1937 and provides insight into the lives of an extended family in those pre-war years. At first, keeping track of the many family members in a three generation family, their servants, etc. is a bit confusing. Parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, cousins, friends, in-laws, servants...all kinds of relationships contained within the parameters of the Cazalet family. Howard creates real people with complicated situations and does it in a way that eventually makes you feel as if you are part of the family. More in this post...

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief. (I'm just cutting and pasting the review I gave earlier) The book's classification as YA is something of a puzzler. Not sure it was the best marketing option, although the blog buzz has certainly moved it into another category: Must Read. The book has been reviewed on so many blogs that there is little left to say, but I was not disappointed as sometimes happens when one has heard too often that a book (or film) is wonderful and expectations are set too high. Although Death as the narrator is sometimes brutally honest, at other times, he is deliberately misleading - so even in small things, your heart beats a bit faster. I think this one will join the ranks of books like The Diary of Anne Frank - a novel about war, love, courage, "words," humanity.

Donohue, Keith. The Stolen Child. I was eager to read this story about changelings. A fairy child (or the child of the devil) substituted for the human child that was spirited away is a common folk or fairy tale. The idea of "observing" the changling left to integrate into the human world and the human child that must adjust to a fairy world intrigued me. Unfortunately, this novel never managed to pull me in and make me care in more than a simply curious way. Nothing about the book quite me relinquish reality or stop me from thinking "this just doesn't work." Henry Day or Aniday, the human family or the fair children...couldn't believe in either one.

The Thirteenth Tale; Reader, I loved it...

I finished The Thirteenth Tale and join those who really enjoyed the book. This novel captured and held me hostage from beginning to end. I loved the allusions to some of my favorite books, and Setterfield connected her narrative to so many of them by similar names, places, plot developments, etc. Many bloggers have quoted excellent excerpts from the novel so I won't bother, but I did love this prescription that Dr. Clifton gave Margaret after her collapse: "Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, The Case Book of Sherlock Holmes. Take ten pages, twice a day, till end of course."

Another recent review of The Thirteenth Tale: A Chain of Letters

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Say What?

Over at Bookfoolery and Babble, the Bookfool has a "new" book on English Country Houses. She mentions, among other things, that the name Chermondsley is pronounced "Chum ly," and I thought it would be interesting to know more about British pronunciation. Leicestershire is "Lester," Magdalene College at Oxford is (I think) "Mawd lin," and to my chagrin, after years of saying St. John (from Jane Eyre), I discovered it was pronounced "SinJin." I couldn't remember anymore, but if others know of words, especially names/place names, that sound drastically different from the way they are spelled, please share.

I have misplaced Tender at the Bone; where in my various stacks of books have I put it? Since I couldn't locate it last night, I started The Thirteen Tales and quickly found myself immersed in an alternate and fascinating world.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Prelude to War: The Light Years; Ecology

I'm in a bit of a low spell, lacking energy and enthusiasm. Yesterday, exhaustion set in and as a precautionary measure, I took that dreadful Theraflu. Took a nap and alternately read, doze, and listened to election returns last night.

Finished The Light Years. I really became involved with this extended family and wish I had Vol 2 in the Cazalet Chronicles, Marking Time right now. The first volume concludes at the brink of WWII, and one of the things I've found most interesting is the way people "heard" the news of the events leading up to the war; we all "hear" information differently according to the way we process the information. The hope that war could be avoided, the attempts to appease Hitler, the attitude that Hitler was a joke...slowly dissolving.

There are SO MANY characters. In the Cazalet family, there are 17 characters who have to be sorted, then there are servants, in-laws, and quite a few others to keep up with. Once the characters are sorted by family, it is much like keeping straight with the people in your own life.

This is a description of Lady Rydal (a very minor character, but I love the description):

Day after day she sat, cast upon her huge chair like a beautiful shipwreck, scorning the frail and petty efforts at salvage that her children attempted with visits of the kind that Villy was now making. She could do nothing, but knew how everything was to be done; her taste in the management of her house, her food, her flowers was both original and good, but she considered that there were no occasions left worthy of her rising to them, and the extravagance and gaity that Villy could remember was now stagnant, mildewed with self-pity.

In this first volume, the characters are introduced and their personalities skillfully elucidated. With so many characters available, the options for developments abound...a kind of pre-war soap opera preparing for events to come.

If you are interested in environmental and ecological studies and possibilities: David Orr and here, and here, and here, and here . I love the idea of planning for better land use, better communities, and more satisfying urban living.


Monday, November 06, 2006

Thought I posted this last night...

I've decided to join the From the Stacks Challenge issued by Overdue Books.

Here are my five:

1. Tender at the Bone - Ruth Reichl (in progress)
2. The Thirteenth Tale - Diane Setterfield
3. Five on a Treasure Island - Enid Blyton
4. Parnassus on Wheels - Christopher Morley
5. The Haunted Bookshop - Christopher Morley

At least I hope to read the last two. They have been on order from Amazon since Sept. 24 and have yet to be shipped.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

On Food and Family Myth

This is a cross post.
Last night, I began reading Ruth Reichl's Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table, thanks for the encouragement, Jane Ann.

Here is an excerpt from the Author's Note:

Storytelling, in my family, was highly prized. While my father walked home from work he rearranged the events of his day to make them more entertaining, and my mother could make a trip to the supermarket sound like an adventure. [from what I've read about the author's mother so far, it probably was an adventure] If this required minor adjustments of fact, nobody much minded: it was certainly preferable to boring your audience.

The good stories, of course, were repeated endlessly until they took on a life of their own...

Isn't that tempting? Near the end of the Author's Note, Reichl writes, "Everything here is true, but it may not be entirely factual." Then she takes off on the first chapter, titled The Queen of Mold. I haven't gotten very far yet, but a few chapters on have fallen in love with Aunt Birdie and Alice.

This book is about the appreciation of food, but also about family and personal myth. Every family has these, but Reichl's family is unusually eccentric and creative, and therefore, perfect fodder for a book, or in her case, several books.

One of those happy synchronicitous developments: Reichl's mother knew Yehudi Menuhin (1916-1999), child prodigy, violinist, composer. After putting down Tender at the Bone, and picking up The Light Years again, the Duchy and Sid are discussing Menuhin and his performances in the 1930's. Love the way that some books about entirely different times, in different countries, about different topics...sometimes just mesh in unexpected ways.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Election Day Perk

Stephen Elliot wants you to get out and vote on Tuesday. He has even enlisted several authors to call and remind you. Authors include Dave Eggers, Jonathan Franzen, Andrew Sean Greer, and Audrey Niffenegger. I wasn't familiar with all of them. Your Favorite Author Wants You to Vote , well anyway, the ones Elliot could enlist for this "wake up call."

I'd choose Dave Eggers. How about you? (you don't really get to choose a specific author, but just out of curiosity...)

Finished The Lost Child last night. Will review later.
The Light Years is certainly getting short shrift (1. brief and inconsiderate or unsympathetic treatment). Not that it isn't worthy of more, but each short section is an episode in the life of one of the characters, and much like a short story, is easy to read and put down. The narrative thread is not much evident, the characters and their thoughts and situations take precedence. I suspect this will begin to change soon.


I wrote short shrift and then wondered about the phrase, one I've used many times, but don't remember ever actually writing out. On looking it up, I discovered that one of the definitions was: 2. a short period of time before execution during which a condemned prisoner could confess (archaic). The first definition is the one now in common usage. Shrift comes from shrive (to hear somebody's confession of sins and give the person absolution.) Thus, short shrift originally meant that curtailed shriving before execution. Love discovering the etymology of words that I've used and taken for granted and finding a logical but completely unthought of meaning.

Friday, November 03, 2006

For Some Really Unfortunate (or hilarious)

URLs... Check out As Time Goes By (scroll down to the bottom of the page).

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Buzz was true...and other musings

Finished The Book Thief yesterday. The book's classification as YA is something of a puzzler. Not sure it was the best marketing option, although the blog buzz has certainly moved it into another category: Must Read. The book has been reviewed on so many blogs that there is little left to say, but I was not disappointed as sometimes happens when one has heard too often that a book (or film) is wonderful and expectations are set too high. Although Death as the narrator is sometimes brutally honest, at other times, he is deliberately misleading - so even in small things, your heart beats a bit faster.

After spending some time recovering from the wrenching effects of The Book Thief, a new book demanded attention. No, I haven't finished The Light Years, but after TBT something a bit lighter and faster seemed in order, so I picked up The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue. Have not heard anything about this novel, but it was on the new book shelf at the library and, always susceptible to mythic themes and interesting covers, I couldn't resist a book about a changling. Reads very quickly, and while not everything hangs together perfectly, there is an engaging quality and a desire to know the fates of both the stolen child and the changeling.

The Inferno has been of interest to me for a number of years. I say The Inferno because I've never read the entire Comedy (Purgatory and Paradise didn't sound as interesting, are rarely mentioned in discussions of Dante, and certainly are less often read). Now, Barbara Reynolds has a new biographical work: Dante: The Poet, the Thinker, the Man. The review of this work is here. I may have to go back and read the entire Comedy after all.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

More Battiness


Since Bert is still on my mind, I'm posting a link to a bat poem and bat posts on my other blog. The picture is of Bat-face Cuphea. The poem on the other post is by Randall Jarrell and here is one by Theodore Roethke.



The Bat

By day the bat is cousin to the mouse.
He likes the attic of an aging house.
His fingers make a hat about his head.
His pulse beat is so slow we think him dead.
He loops in crazy figures half the night
Among the trees that face the corner light.
But when he brushes up against a screen,
We are afraid of what our eyes have seen:
For something is amiss or out of place
When mice with wings can wear a human face.

Theodore Roethke