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Last September, I took a month off from the internet. During my vacation, I told people that they could correspond with me by paper letter. Some people did. Some people still are. Every letter delights me.If I do this, what will I write? Who will I send it to? I put together this much of a post, then stopped. For four days, I forgot about the challenge altogether. Then today on Facebook, my friend Madge, who found this through another blogger, said she was going to do it. Having never met face to face, though we've been book buddies since 1996, Madge and I exchanged addresses and I'm committed.
When I write back, I find that I slow down and write differently than I do with an email. Email is all about the now. Letters are different, because whatever I write needs to be something that will be relevant a week later to the person to whom I am writing. In some ways it forces me to think about time more because postal mail is slower. “By the time you get this…” It is relaxing. It is intimate. It is both lasting and ephemeral.
How so? I find that I will often read the letters that I receive twice. Once when I get them and again as I write back. So, that makes it more lasting. It is more ephemeral because I don’t have copies of the letters that I write and I am the only one who has copies of the letters that my correspondents write. So, more ephemeral.
When was the last time you got a letter in the mail? December sees a lot of mail, and you remember that sense of delight when the first card arrives. You can have that more often.
I have a simple challenge for you.
1. In the month of February, mail at least one item through the post every day it runs. Write a postcard, a letter, send a picture, or a cutting from a newspaper, or a fabric swatch.
2, Write back to everyone who writes to you. This can count as one of your mailed items.
All you are committing to is to mail 24 items. Why 24? There are four Sundays and one US holiday. In fact, you might send more than 24 items. You might develop a correspondence that extends beyond the month. You might enjoy going to the mail box again.
Feeling intimidated? It’s fewer words than NaNoWriMo, and I know how many of you do that. Join me in The Month of Letters Challenge.
Mary Robinette Kowal
2007 ... My first post was about Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake.Is this progress? I think so. Now let's look ahead at what's best, according to you, the readers of this blog. Which (if any) of these interest you? By clicking on the links, you can look over the various features I've tried, listed in alphabetical order.
2008 ... I missed my "end of January" blogiversary by a day.
2009 ... I completely missed the day because I was sick enough to require open-heart surgery.
2010 ... I nailed the day with a blogiversary post.
2011 ... I went to church and remembered to post about my blogiversary.
2012 ... I now know how to schedule this to post at "1:30 AM" to match the 1-30 date.
To five-year-old-Jack, Room is the world. It's where he was born, it's where he and his Ma eat and sleep and play and learn. At night, his Ma shuts him safely in the wardrobe, where he is meant to be asleep when Old Nick visits. Room is home to Jack, but to Ma it's the prison where she has been held for seven years. Through her fierce love for her son, she has created a life for him in this eleven-by-eleven-foot space. But with Jack's curiosity building alongside her own desperation, she knows that Room cannot contain either much longer.The other book is The Last Week by Marcus J. Borg and John Dominic Crossan (2006), which is the March choice for her book club. Since I'm considering joining that group, I should probably read the book, especially since I think these writers are excellent, whether writing alone or together.
Borg and Crossan discovered that many Christians are unclear on the details of events during the week leading up to Jesus's crucifixion. Using the gospel of Mark as their guide, Borg and Crossan present a day-by-day account of Jesus's final week of life. They begin their story on Palm Sunday with two triumphal entries into Jerusalem. The first entry, that of Roman governor Pontius Pilate leading Roman soldiers into the city, symbolized military strength. The second heralded a new kind of moral hero who was praised by the people as he rode in on a humble donkey. Jesus is this new moral hero, a more dangerous Jesus than the one enshrined in the church's traditional teachings. The Last Week depicts Jesus giving up his life to protest power without justice and to condemn the rich who lack concern for the poor.Have you read either of these books? What do you think? Should I read one of these or one of the seven I still have checked out from the library?
"Why can a man never starve in the Great Desert? Because he can eat the sand which is there. But who brought the sand which is there? Noah sent Ham, and his descendants mustered and bred."Get it? Sand-which-is? Musterd? Bred? Oh, and maybe I should mention that Noah's sons are named Shem, Ham, and Japheth (see Genesis 6:10).
|Jamey at the Pocket Wilderness near Montlake yesterday|
|Another view with Jamey taken yesterday|
|Flooding in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, 2005|
On moonless nights the men and boys of Jableh, a dusty fishing town on the coast of Syria, would gather their lanterns and set out in their quietest boats. Five or six small craft, two or three fishermen in each. A mile out, they would arrange the boats in a circle on the black sea, drop their nets, and, holding their lanterns over the water, they would approximate the moon.This "book beginning" is going to segue right into a book review because I could not stop reading. I started late, but read all night. I needed sleep, but I needed to know what came next even more. So I kept turning the pages, horrified at what could — and did — happen when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005.
The fish, sardines, would begin gathering soon after, a slow mass of silver rising from below. The fish were attracted to plankton, and the plankton were attracted to the light. They would begin to circle, a chain linked loosely, and over the next hour their numbers would grow. The black gaps between silver links would close until the fishermen could see, below, a solid mass of silver spinning.
|Ernest J. Gaines|
Garbage collector Troy Maxson clashes with his son over an athletic scholarship. Set in the 1950s, it is the sixth in Wilson's ten-part Pittsburgh Cycle. Like all of the Pittsburgh plays, Fences explores the evolving African-American experience and examines race relations, among other themes. The play won the 1987 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
Ayanna Bahati lives in a small African village when she is brutally kidnapped, along with her brother, and forced onto a slave ship to America. As Ayanna, renamed Anna, rises from the cotton fields to the master’s house, she finds the familial love she’s been yearning for in elderly Mary and Mary’s son Daniel—but she is also faced with more threats to her survival. Risking everything to escape the plantation, Anna manages to make it north and to freedom, eventually settling in the free black community of Hudson, Ohio, and educating herself to become a teacher.
Set in a small Cajun community in the late 1940s, A Lesson Before Dying is a novel of one man condemned to die for a crime he did not commit and a young man who visits him in his cell. In the end, the two men forge a bond as they both come to understand the simple heroism of resisting — and defying — the expected. Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction.
Twelve-year-old Lanesha lives in a tight-knit community in New Orleans' Ninth Ward. She doesn't have a fancy house like her uptown family or lots of friends like the other kids on her street. But what she does have is Mama Ya-Ya, her fiercely loving caretaker, wise in the ways of the world and able to predict the future. So when Mama Ya-Ya's visions show a powerful hurricane — Katrina — fast approaching, it's up to Lanesha to call upon the hope and strength Mama Ya-Ya has given her to help them both survive the storm.
High school senior David Albacore is dealing with major upheaval after his father murders his mom. In the terrible aftermath, he changes his name and moves to a tough new inner-city Chicago high school with his younger sister Barney, when they and their now silent younger sister, Linda, move in with their aunt. David blames himself for not saving their mom that night; after being injured in a basketball game in which he was the star, David was given strong painkillers, which caused him to sleep through the shooting. Barney, who found their mom's body, is fragile after a hospital stay and is barely able to cope. With their mother gone and their father in jail, David tries to take care of his sisters as they grieve and adjust to a different kind of life. When he's forced to join the basketball team or be expelled after getting in too many fights, it cuts into his after-school construction job that he takes to help his aunt support his family.
A darkly comic fable of brotherly love and family identity is Suzan-Lori Parks latest riff on the way we are defined by history. The play tells the story of Lincoln and Booth, two brothers whose names were given to them as a joke, foretelling a lifetime of sibling rivalry and resentment. Haunted by the past, the brothers are forced to confront the shattering reality of their future. Winner of the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.Which of these sounds most interesting to you?
"No one would believe me but at times I would choose wartime in Saigon over peacetime in Alabama." For all the ten years of her life, Hà has only known Saigon: the thrills of its markets, the joy of its traditions, the warmth of her friends close by, and the beauty of her very own papaya tree. But now the Vietnam War has reached her home. Hà and her family are forced to flee as Saigon falls, and they board a ship headed toward hope. In America, Hà discovers the foreign world of Alabama: the coldness of its strangers, the dullness of its food, the strange shape of its landscape, and the strength of her very own family. This is the moving story of one girl's year of change, dreams, grief, and healing as she journeys from one country to another, one life to the next. Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Young People's Literature.
Todd Hewitt is the only boy in a town of men. Ever since the settlers were infected with the Noise germ, Todd can hear everything the men think, and they hear everything he thinks. Todd is just a month away from becoming a man, but in the midst of the cacophony, he knows that the town is hiding something from him — something so awful Todd is forced to flee with only his dog, whose simple, loyal voice he hears too. With hostile men from the town in pursuit, the two stumble upon a strange and eerily silent creature: a girl. Who is she? Why wasn't she killed by the germ like all the females on New World? Propelled by Todd's gritty narration, readers are in for a white-knuckle journey in which a boy on the cusp of manhood must unlearn everything he knows in order to figure out who he truly is.Library Loot is a weekly meme co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. Marg has the Mister Linky this week, if you'd like to share the loot you brought home. You may submit your link any time during the week.
Will you please take care of my dog? She died yesterday and is with you in heaven. I miss her very much. I am happy that you let me have her as my dog even though she got sick. I hope you will play with her. She likes to swim and play with balls. I am sending a picture of her so when you see her you will know that she is my dog. I really miss her.
Abbey arrived safely in heaven. Having the picture was a big help, and I recognized her right away. Abbey isn't sick anymore. Her spirit is here with me just like it stays in your heart. Abbey loved being your dog. Since we don't need our bodies in heaven, I don't have any pockets to keep your picture in so I am sending it back to you in this little book for you to keep and have something to remember Abbey by. Thank you for the beautiful letter, and thank your mother for helping you write it and sending it to me. What a wonderful mother you have. I picked her especially for you. I send my blessings every day, and remember that I love you very much. By the way, I'm easy to find. I am wherever there is love.
ASIDE — A day or so before class, I paint a flipchart page blue, as in the background above, to represent the dark, watery chaos.A wind from God, the Spirit of God, swept over the face of the waters that early Hebrews believed were present at creation. God's first command was "let there be light" and there was light. And even before naming the light "Day" and the darkness "Night," God could see that the light was GOOD. That was the very first day, counting from the first evening to the next.
ASIDE — The dome is that white paper taped onto the blue (above). Imagine a glass bowl, inverted, and carefully placed in your tub. There would be air inside it, and the bowl would keep out the water above and the water below.God said it and it was so, and God named this dome "Sky." That was the second day, counting from one evening until dusk the next day.
ASIDE — You could imagine those mountains on the sides as holding up that dome. And the land extends down into the lower water like pillars to help hold up the sky. Maybe there's an island of dry land in the middle, as I've shown.On the same day, God told Earth to produce vegetation, with seed-bearing plants and fruit trees of every kind. And it happened just that way. And once again God pronounced these things GOOD. That's how it was on the third day, counting from one evening to the next.
ASIDE — Notice I drew some green vegetation and trees on the brown hills.DAY 4 — God speaks again, and this time we have lights in the Sky to separate Day and Night and to shed light upon the Earth. God said it and the Sun and the Moon appeared, with stars thrown in to fill the night Sky. Light was separated from darkness, and God saw it was GOOD. And lighting up the Sky was the fourth day's work, counting evening and morning.
ASIDE — I put Day on one side and Night on the other side of my picture. Help me out here by using your imagination.DAY 5 — Then God was ready to command the waters to bring forth schools of fish and other creatures to live in the waters and birds to fly across the Sky above the Earth. Along with abundant numbers of every living and moving thing, God also created winged insects. And once again God saw that these creatures were GOOD. That's when God blessed them, saying, "Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the Earth and the Seas." That's what God did on the fifth day, evening and morning.
ASIDE — Now it gets fun. If you double-click on my photo, you can see my birds flying in the Sky and swarms of fish in the waters. I threw in a purple sea monster for fun, and made the monster monstrous, with three heads. Why not?DAY 6 — Next, God told Earth to produce land creatures, and this included both wild animals and what we'd call domesticated livestock, as well as the creeping things that move along the ground. And once again God saw that these created things were GOOD. And on the day the animals were created, God decided to make humans in the image and likeness of God. These humans would have responsibility for the fish and the birds, the wild and tame animals, and the creeping things. So God did it, creating humans in male and female forms. After blessing them, God told the humans to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the Earth." And those first humans were given responsibility for the care of all living things. Their food would be from the plants and trees, just as that was to be food for the birds and beasts. And it was so. God saw every created thing, and really, it was VERY GOOD. And that was the sixth day of creation.
ASIDE — I drew stick figures, asking the students name four-legged animals. Is that a dog, a giraffe, or a horse on the hill to the right? You decide. Then I add a couple to two-legged animals and let them decide which is male and which female. Hmm, is there a snake up in that apple tree?DAY 7 —And there you have it. God's good creation. On the seventh day, God rested.
He wasn't going to like it. He hated the ritual of the formal family picture, but the time was right. In four short days, his only child was leaving the nest, breaking out of her chrysalis into an exciting new world. If ever there was an occasion to mark, this was it.I've been reading heavy, deep stuff and am ready for something light, so I bought this novel by Barbara Delinsky, knowing it's about women setting off in a new direction. I've read her books before and know there will probably be a happy ending. Why is their child leaving? College, according to the synopsis and the next few lines of the book. No surprise there, but I'm so ready to read this. From the back cover:
With their daughters off to college, the time has come for forever best friends Emily, Kay, and Celeste to redefine themselves as women. Once half of a perfect marriage — still suffering from a terrible loss — Emily hardly knows her workaholic husband, Doug, anymore, and is drawn instead to what is offered by a new neighbor. A dedicated teacher who loves her job, Kay is confused and troubled by husband John's unfamiliar demands. And Celeste, long-divorced and ecstatic with freedom, sees her electric new life dimmed when her child is endangered.If you want to share the first lines of a book you are reading, click on the link and visit Katy at A Few More Pages. (Today's list.)