Friday, July 18, 2014

Beginning ~ with beauty

Middlemarch: A Study of Provincial Life ~ by George Eliot, 1872, fiction (England)
"Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dress."
The version of this novel that I have in hand is 838 pages long, and it has another 15 pages of footnotes.  It's a heavy tome, in other words!  Why, oh why, would I embark on such a thick book?  Because the library in University City, my suburb of St. Louis, is discussing it this summer.  They started before I got here — or at least before I got settled in and learned about their book club.

George Eliot is the pen name of Mary Ann Evans, who published the sections of this novel in 86 short chapters and a Finale over a two-year period.  I have no idea why these were collected into eight "books" within this heavy volume.
Book I ~ Chapters 1-12
Book II ~ Chapters 13-22
Book III ~ Chapters 23-33
Book IV ~ Chapters 34-42
Book V ~ Chapters 43-53
Book VI ~ Chapters 54-62
Book VII ~ Chapters 63-71
Book VIII ~ Chapters 72-86
The library divided this summer's discussion into three parts.  They've already looked at Books 1-2-3, which I missed.  Books 4-5-6 are next week, and Books 7-8 are in August.  I found a character list online, which shows about three dozen people.  I wonder if I'll be able to keep them all straight in my mind.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Mindfulness for today

I highly recommend to you a book named "one of the ten best spiritual books of the twentieth century," according to the blurb on the back cover.

Black Elk Speaks: Being the Life Story of a Holy Man of the Oglala Sioux ~ by Nicholas Black Elk, as told through John G. Neihardt (Flaming Rainbow), 1932
Widely hailed as a spiritual classic, this inspirational and unfailingly powerful story reveals the life and visions of the Lakota healer Nicholas Black Elk (1863–1950) and the tragic history of his Sioux people during the epic closing decades of the Old West.  In 1930, the aging Black Elk met a kindred spirit, the famed poet, writer, and critic John G. Neihardt (1881–1973) on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  The Lakota elder chose Neihardt to share his visions and life with the world.

Black Elk’s remarkable great vision came to him during a time of decimation and loss, when outsiders were stealing the Lakotas’ land, slaughtering buffalo, and threatening their age-old way of life.   As Black Elk remembers all too well, the Lakotas, led by such legendary men as Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, fought unceasingly for their freedom, winning a world-renowned victory at the Little Bighorn and suffering unspeakable losses at Wounded Knee.

Black Elk Speaks however is more than the epic history of a valiant Native nation.  It is beloved as a spiritual classic because of John Neihardt’s sensitivity to Black Elk’s resounding vision of the wholeness of earth, her creatures, and all of humanity.  Black Elk Speaks is a once-in-a-lifetime read:  the moving story of a young Lakota boy before the reservation years, the unforgettable history of an American Indian nation, and an enduring spiritual message for us all.
This book has been published in many editions, with a variety of experts adding forewords and comments.  Some question how well John G. Neihardt understood the Lakota context.  I think it says something, though, that Black Elk adopted Neihardt and his two daughters as relatives, giving each of them Lakota names.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Sunday Salon ~ food, fun, music, and books


Marcy Williams
Deer Creek Café.  That's where I went on my first excursion on the Crown Center's bus last week.  Marcy Williams and her husband Rick own the Deer Creek Café and made sure our group of fifteen was satisfied with the food and the service.  This week, I'm signed up to hear local author Pat Lorraine Simons discuss her 2013 novel, Brothers on the Run.  It's based on a true story.  I borrowed the book from the library and read it in preparation for this upcoming trip to the Brodsky Library.  Here's a look at our schedule of events for July.  I chose these activities this month.


The book I'm reading is Unless, a 2002 novel by Carol Shields.  Here's what the protagonist of this first-person novel thinks of the word "unless" (p. 224):
Novels help us turn down the volume of our own interior "discourse," but unless they can provide an alternative, hopeful course, they're just so much narrative crumble.  Unless, unless.

Unless is the worry word of the English language.  It flies like a moth around the ear, you hardly hear it, and yet everything depends on its breathy presence.  Unless — that's the little subjunctive mineral you carry along in your pocket crease.  It's always there, or else not there.  (If you add a capital s to unless, you get Sunless...)
I bought this book for a quarter at the University City Library.  I got my second library card there, after the St. Louis County Library card I got when I first moved here.  St. Louis County has twenty branch libraries, and I've been to two of them.  Like in Chattanooga, though, I mostly go to the closest branch.  In Chattanooga, I lived near the Northgate branch in Hixson.  In St. Louis, I live a couple of miles from the Mid-County branch.  Since I technically live in University City (people here say "U-City"), I'm not too far from the U-City library, either.


Before we eat on Friday evenings, the Shabbat (Sabbath) candles are lit while two people recite the prayers for bread and for wine.  I have memorized the prayer for bread, and my last name is Jacobs.  So it isn't surprising that, this past Friday evening, Michael asked me if I'm Jewish.  I would have loved to be able to take part by reciting the prayer, but he chose a Jewish woman from my table instead.


On my way back to my apartment after dinner that evening, Robert — who mans the desk some evenings — told me he wants to learn to play the piano.  He likes for me to play the piano in the lounge near his desk, always asking me if I'm planning to practice that evening.  He opens the doors to the lounge so he can hear what I'm playing.  We have had musicians come in to entertain us, but I've never seen any residents playing the piano.  I told Robert I'd be happy to teach him some of the basics, like how to find "middle C" on the piano.  I have found the box in which I packed my music books, so I'll have more to play now.

Bloggers gather in the Sunday Salon — at separate computers in different time zones — to talk about our lives and our reading.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Two book beginnings ~ one book

Unless ~ by Carol Shields, 2002, fiction (Canada)
It happens that I an going through a period of great unhappiness and loss just now.
This is a novel about an author.  Here's the synopsis of the book:
Reta Winters, 44-year-old successful author of lightsummertime fiction, has always considered herself happy, even blessed. That is, until her oldest daughter Norah mysteriously drops out of college to become a panhandler on a Toronto street corner — silent, with a sign around her neck bearing the word "Goodness."
Because she's a writer, I can even share a second "book beginning" this week, the one dreamed up by the main character in the book.  Here's a quote from early in the book (p. 15):
I'm going to write a second novel, a sequel to My Thyme Is Up.  Today is the day I intend to begin.  The first sentence is already tapped into my computer:  "Alicia was not as happy as she deserved to be."
So which "first sentence" intrigues you most, the one by Carol Shields?  Or the one by her book's protagonist?

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.  Click here for today's Mister Linky.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Alphabet Soup ~ an update

I'm still filling my bowl of alphabet soup for this 2014 Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge.  The idea is to read 26 books this year, one book with a title starting with each letter of the alphabet.  Each letter counts as one spoonful of soup.  So far I've read __18__ books in 2014 that count toward that goal of 26 books.

A = The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image ~ by Leonard Shlain, 1998, language and culture, 10/10
B = Brothers on the Run: Based on a True Story ~ by Pat Lorraine Simons, 2013, historical fiction (Germany), 7/10
D = The Dovekeepers ~ by Alice Hoffman, 2011, fiction (Israel), 9/10
E = The Enoch Factor: The Sacred Art of Knowing God ~ by Steve McSwain, 2010, religion, 9/10
F = Five Famous Mice Meet Winston of Churchill ~ by Jean Davies Okimoto, illustrated by Jeremiah Trammell, 2014, children's, 10/10
G = The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes ~ by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein, illustrated by Mark Pett. 2011, children's, 10/10
H = The Housemaid's Daughter ~ by Barbara Mutch, 2012, fiction (South Africa), 10/10
I = The Invention of Wings ~ by Sue Monk Kidd, 2014, fiction (South Carolina), 10/10
J = Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Story ~ by Richard Bach, photos by Russell Munson, 1970, fiction, 10/10
K = Knocking on Heaven's Door: The Path to a Better Way of Death ~ by Katy Butler, 2013, memoir, 9/10
L = Lost Lake ~ by Sarah Addison Allen, 2014, fiction (Georgia), 9/10
N = Not All Princesses Dress in Pink ~ by Jane Yolen and Heidi E. Y. Stemple, illustrated by Anne-Sophie Lanquetin, 2010, children's, 7/10
O = Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis ~ by Jimmy Carter, 2005, political science, 9/10
P = Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity ~ by James D. Tabor, 2012, history of religion, 9/10
S = Sisterland ~ by Curtis Sittenfeld, 2013, fiction (Missouri), 9.5/10
T = Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life ~ by Karen Armstrong, 2010, religion, 9/10
V = The Very Hungry Caterpillar ~ by Eric Carle, 1969, children's, 10/10
W = Whistling in the Dark: A Doubter's Dictionary ~ by Frederick Buechner, 1993, religion, 8/10

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Teaser Tuesday ~ flying fast and flying high

Jonathan Livingston Seagull: A Story ~ by Richard Bach, photos by Russell Munson, 1970, fiction, 10/10
This is a story for people who follow their hearts and make their own rules, people who get special pleasure out of doing something well, even if only for themselves, people who know there's more to this living than meets the eye.  They’ll be right there with Jonathan, flying higher and faster than they ever dreamed.
I first read this book more than forty years ago, in the early 1970s.  Yesterday, I saw it on the library's sale shelf and paid a whole quarter for it.  I'd forgotten how few words make up this novella, with its plethora of black and white photos taking up page after page.  I flew through the book (yes, pun intended) and want to share this single quote with you:
"Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you'll see the way to fly" (p.125).
Nah, I think I'll share some more quotes I found online as images.  I see I'm far from the only one impressed with this book.

"Overcome space, and all we have left is Here.
Overcome time, and all we have left is Now" (p. 87).

Now I think it's time to give away this copy to someone who needs to read it.  Or maybe someone who needs to re-read it.

Monday, July 7, 2014

De colores ~ the colors

De Colores is the theme song for the Emmaus Walk.  My Emmaus weekend was in the spring of 1990 and was the most spiritual weekend I've ever known.  Here's a bit about the Walk to Emmaus concept from the web site:
"The walk to Emmaus is an experience of Christian spiritual renewal and formation that begins with a three-day short course in Christianity.  It is an opportunity to meet Jesus Christ in a new way as God’s grace and love is revealed to you through other believers."
The idea for this spiritual retreat comes from the story in Luke where two disciples were walking to Emmaus:
"While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and walked with them." — Luke 24:15
If you want to experience such a weekend, I may be able to either sponsor you myself (if we are close enough) or find someone who would sponsor you in my place.   Let me know.