Friday, February 28, 2020

Beginning ~ with Lydia dead

“Lydia is dead.  But they don’t know this yet.”

Everything I Never Told You ~ by Celeste Ng, 2014, fiction (Ohio), 8/10
This novel about a Chinese American family living in 1970s small-town Ohio begins with Lydia dead.  She is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee, and her parents are determined that she will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue.  But when Lydia’s body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together is destroyed, tumbling them into chaos.  A moving story of family, secrets, and longing, this is a sensitive family portrait, uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.
This is the February book for our Fourth Wednesday Book Club, which met a couple of days ago.  It's one of the most depressing books I've ever read, from Lydia's death (and wondering how she died) to the father and children constantly feeling the loathing people hurled at them because of the father's ancestry.
"An Oriental, she thought.  She had never seen one in person before" (p. 31).

"Every time you saw yourself from the outside, the way other people saw you, you remembered all over again.  You saw it in the sign at the Peking Express — a cartoon man with a coolie hat, slant eyes, buckteeth, and +chopsticks.  You saw it in the little boys on the playground, stretching their eyes to slits with their fingers — ChineseJapaneselook at these — and in the older boys who muttered ching chong ching chong ching as they passed you on the street ... You saw it when waitresses and policemen and bus drivers spoke slowly to you, in simple words, as if you might not understand" (p. 193).
We all agreed it was depressing to read, but it did give us a lot to discuss in our book group.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts
Book Beginnings on Fridays.
Click this link for book beginnings
shared by other readers.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Wednesday Words from a memoir

Wednesday Words ~ cord/chord
"In the medical literature, the vocal 'cord' is a mere 'fold,' a piece of gristle that strives to reach out and touch its twin, thus producing the possibility of sound effects.  But I feel that there must be a deep relationship with the word 'chord':  the resonant vibration that can stir memory, produce music, evoke love, bring tears, move crowds to pity and mobs to passion.  We may not be, as we used to boast, the only animals capable of speech.  But we are the only ones who can deploy vocal communication for sheer pleasure and recreation, combining it with our two other boasts of reason and humor to produce higher syntheses.  To lose this ability is to be deprived of an entire range of faculty:  It is assuredly to die more than a little" (p. 54 of Mortality by Christopher Hitchens, 2012, memoir, 9/10).
Hitchens was dying of lung cancer and cancer of the esophagus when he wrote this book, so the problem specifically involved his vocal cords.  He was a writer and a speaker, so not being able to speak or put words on paper was a terrible thought.
"I often grandly say that writing is not just my living and my livelihood but my very life, and it's true. Almost like the threatened loss of my voice, which is currently being alleviated by some temporary injections into my vocal folds, I feel my personality and identity dissolving as I contemplate dead hands and the loss of the transmission belts that connect me to writing and thinking" (p. 71).
A variety of cords
The words "cord" and "chord" are homophones; they sound alike, but they're spelled differently.  When I think of a "cord," it is something like an electrical cord or the cord I use to charge my computer or a cord to tie up a package.  So why would vocal "folds" (as Hitchens says above) use the spelling "cord"?  Yes, that's the correct spelling.  More research tells me that any time the word is used in anatomy, it is always spelled "cord" rather than "chord."  Hmm, interesting.  So we have spinal cord, vocal cord, umbilical cord, etc.

Another Wednesday Word ~ inanition
"I would often find fatalism and resignation washing drearily over me as I failed to battle my general inanition.  Only two things rescued me from betraying myself and letting go:  a wife who would not hear of me talking in this boring and useless way, and various friends who also spoke freely.  Oh, and the regular painkiller" (pp. 68-69 of Mortality).
Definition:  in·a·ni·tion /ˌinəˈniSHən/ = exhaustion caused by lack of nourishment, lack of mental or spiritual vigor and enthusiasm.  An example:  "She was thinking that old age bred inanition."  Another example I found:  "Anorexia caused severe weakness in the young girl since the inanition of nutrition in her body could lead to her death."

I don't remember ever running across this word, so I also researched it and found this professor bird's list of words helpful.  I wondered about its opposite and found that Professor Birdy has another helpful list.

Wondrous Words Wednesday is a weekly meme by BermudaOnion where we share new words that we have encountered or spotlight words that we love.  These are the words that intrigued me this week.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Return to Me ~ a movie

Movie on DVD
"I think it was from about the year 2000?  It doesn't feel 20 years old and yet . . . at the same time, it does.  For those who haven't seen it, Return to Me is about a young woman who receives a heart transplant from a car accident victim, then falls in love with the heart donor's widower.  It made me sob a couple times, but mostly happy tears." — reviewed a couple of weeks ago by Nancy the Bookfool
I watch very few movies, but this intrigued me when I read her review and got it from my library.  Yes, this one did come out in the year 2000, and I now know the places Nancy probably sobbed.  I especially noticed the animals, who seemed so tuned in to things:
  • The gorilla who placed his hands on the glass with the woman who now had the heart of the woman who trained him earlier in the movie.
  • The big dog who kept waiting at the door for the woman he loved, the heart donor who had died after an accident.
Yeah, it was a good movie, and I'm glad I got it.  Thanks, Nancy, for the recommendation.  Plot description:
Who knew that when he ordered the special, he'd get the dish of his life?  It's about a widower and a waitress who meet and fall in love.  This romantic comedy will make your spirits soar.  It took a lot of coaxing to get Bob, a recently widowed architect, to go on a blind date at a quirky Irish-Italian eatery.  Once there, he's smitten instantly — not with his date, but with the sharp-witted waitress, Grace.  As their relationship blossoms, everything seems to be going great, until an unblievable truth is revealed — one that could easily break both their hearts for good.
Bob gave her this bicycle, and I loved how the bike itself later played a funny role in the story.

Monday, February 24, 2020

Vehicles named Lily and Emma Sue

Sometimes I save quotes from books because they make me remember something in my own life.  This one is from page 199 of Birds of a Feather, the second Maisie Dobbs novel by Jacqueline Winspear (2004).
"Can I leave Lily with you then?  I'll need her by three this afternoon — to be at Pembury by visiting time."

"Lily?  You give a car like this
the name 'Lily'?"
The car in the book was an expensive, elegant vehicle.  I don't remember the make, but I laughed when I read those lines because — yes — I'm one of those people who name my cars.  The earliest I recall off-hand was Rosie, a red station wagon we had when my children were little.  Another was named Yang (the masculine aspect) to my Yin (the feminine) because "he" gave me trouble driving up my mountain the day I got "him."  But the one whose name came to mind when I read those lines in the book was Emma Sue.

Donna was walking toward Emma Sue in the picture at the top, which I snapped back in 2015.  Donna came up with the "Emma" part of the name, as in green like an "emerald."  I added the "Sue" and gave the car a last name:  "Baru."  Put the whole thing together and what do you get?  Say it with me:  "Emma Sue Baru."

If you click on this Emma Sue link, you'll read an earlier version of naming the car.  Hmm, that story gives Donna credit for BOTH names.  Have I been telling a false story all these years?  Since I posted that story on the day I bought it, I must apologize to Donna, the word person.  I only added a last name.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Salon ~ Little Women in two parts

Books finished

Little Women (1868) and Good Wives (1869) ~ by Louisa May Alcott.  These were later combined into one book as Little Women.  My Kindle version (2019) was illustrated by Frank T. Merrill.  I rate them 9/10.

Up Next
Love Life Walk: Stories and Thoughts, Walking Across America Eight Times with Stee Fugate, the Love Life Guy ~ by Steve Fugate, 2016, memoir
"I can't have my babies back, I can't take away the pain, so I have to move onward and upward."  Steve's first walk was in honor of his son.  He carried the LOVE LIFE sign in his effort to, as he says, "mend the broken heart while still beating."  Six years and several thousand miles later, tragedy struck once again when his daughter died.  This time, he said, he had the answer on the sign above his head:  LOVE LIFE.  It's not always easy to LOVE LIFE, but Steve is proof that if anyone can face the adversity of losing all of one's children, as he has, and still love life then it's possible for anyone.  Walk along with Steve on his 43,000 mile healing adventure.
Laurie handed me this book on Friday, saying she thinks I'd like it.  Laurie works in the Café downstairs and is my newest Facebook friend.  It's a big book, and my first thought was "but I already have too many to read."  I'm trying, this year, to conquer Mount TBR.  Okay, I'll explain.  I've joined the Mount TBR Reading Challenge.  The idea is to read and pass on the "mountains" of book waiting TBR, or "to be read."  (Click the link to learn more.)  That's where I should focus.  But this book looks so interesting.  On Amazon, 91 customers have reviewed the book, and 91 have rated it a 5.  Yes, 100% of them give it the highest rating.  Yes, I admit that I'm hooked after only a few pages.  Thanks, Laurie.

Life outside of books

I went to the grocery store this afternoon with Lisa, a new friend who joined our exercise group on Fridays, and we saw this bird on the fence.  Is it a hawk?  It was big and very beautiful as it flew to my left (see my second photo).

Could it be a golden hawk or something like that?  It let me get this close, and I used my cellphone to capture the moment.  The photos should enlarge, if you click on them.

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

Saturday, February 22, 2020

Dying of starvation

Clawdia has decided she no longer likes her favorite foods.  Former favorite foods, that is.  So rather than eat any of THAT, she'll just starve to death.  That's her above, starving this morning.  She also refused to eat more than a few bites yesterday.  Late in the day she nibbled some of her salmon, and this morning she nibbled a bit of the liver and chicken.  Because those were her favorites, I have lots of them in the cabinet.  But no, she does not like those any more.  Why not?  Because she's a cat.  Because occasionally, I have given her the twice-as-expensive tuna with gourmet gravy and salmon with gourmet gravy.

What's the problem?  Just feed her majesty what she wants.  No, I had only one can left of the tuna with gravy and LOTS of (1) the salmon paté and (2) the liver and chicken paté on the shelf.  I told her she'd just have to starve, if she refused to eat the food we had.  She finally decided to nibble enough of the dried out food on her dish to avoid starvation and finally, after a nearly two-day standoff, she ate most (okay, some) of the last of those two opened cans.

And she got so-so-so-SO excited when she heard me opening another can.  Yes!  It's the last can of the tuna with gourmet gravy.  I put the opened can down near her nose so she could smell it, and what she meowed can be translated as "yes, yes, YES!!!"  Here she is gobbling the tuna.  So now maybe she won't starve after all.  Unless she refuses to eat anything else on the shelf before I shop for groceries again.

By the way, the blue dish has only scattered crumbs left in it as I finish typing up this post.  Yep, she was a very hungry girl.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Beginning ~ when Kate was alseep

"Kate was sleeping when he knocked on her door.  It was early, not yet six, and the sound of banging continued until she was out of bed."

What Red Was ~ by Rosie Price, 2019, fiction
When Kate Quaile meets Max Rippon in the first week of university, so begins a life-changing friendship.  Over the next four years, the two become inseparable.  For him, she breaks her solitude; for her, he leaves his busy circles behind.  But knowing Max means knowing his family:  the wealthy Rippons, all generosity, social ease, and quiet repression.  Theirs is a very different world from Kate’s own upbringing, and yet she finds herself quickly drawn into their gilded lives, and the secrets that lie beneath.

Until one evening, at the Rippons home, just after graduation, her life is shattered apart in a bedroom while a party goes on downstairs.  This is an incisive and mesmerizing novel about power, privilege, and consent — one that fearlessly explores the effects of trauma on the mind and body of a young woman, the tyrannies of memory, the sacrifices involved in staying silent, and the courage in speaking out.  And when Kate does, it raises this urgent question:  Whose story is it now?
I put this book on reserve on February 5th because Nancy the Bookfool reviewed it, and I just got it yesterday.  Who was banging on that door?  Max, as it turned out.  Why?  Because he was locked out of his dorm room.
"Standing outside was a boy wearing only a towel, his skin still wet from the shower."
And that's how they met, on the first page of the book, during their first week in college.

Gilion at Rose City Reader hosts Book Beginnings on Fridays.
Click this link for book beginnings shared by other readers.