Friday, June 21, 2024

Beginning ~ with making a joke


The first day I did not think it was funny.  I didn't think it was funny the third day either, but I managed to make a little joke about it.

Heartburn ~ by Nora Ephron, 1983, fiction, 179 pages (252 pages in large print edition)

This is Nora Ephron's first novel.  The Chicago Tribune said it "memorably mixed food, heartbreak, and revenge into a comic masterpiece."  

Is it possible to write a sidesplitting novel about the breakup of the perfect marriage?  If the writer is Nora Ephron, the answer is a resounding yes.  In this inspired confection of adultery, revenge, group therapy, and pot roast, the creator of Sleepless in Seattle and When Harry Met Sally, reminds us that comedy depends on anguish as surely as a proper gravy depends on flour and butter.

Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman.  The fact that the other woman has "a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs" is no consolation.  Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living.  And in between trying to win Mark back and loudly wishing him dead, Ephron's irrepressible heroine offers some of her favorite recipes.

Thursday, June 20, 2024

The summer solstice is here!

It's time to celebrate the earliest June solstice since 1796.  That's 228 years.  I set this information to post at exactly 3:50 p.m. my time, so I've gotta hurry and finish typing this information.  The summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere is when we have the longest day of the year and the shortest night.

The summer solstice occurs when one of earth's poles has its maximum tilt toward the sun.  It happens twice yearly, once in each hemisphere (Northern and Southern).  For that hemisphere, the summer solstice is the day with the longest period of daylight and shortest night of the year, when the sun is at its highest position in the sky.  At either pole there is continuous daylight at the time of its summer solstice.  The opposite event is the winter solstice.  The summer solstice occurs during the hemisphere's summer.  In the Northern Hemisphere, this means the solstice is in June.  Specifically that means it happens on June 20, 21, or 22.  To learn more, look at Wikipedia, HERE.

By the way, this is the second post on this blog today showing Stonehenge.  Look at my previous post by clicking HERE.

Thursday Thoughts

Have you ever tried to be a detective?  I was intrigued by what Colleen was reading, but she had not shared the exact title and author on her blog post in her Thursday post on June 11, HERE.  She is not a book blogger, but she wrote about this one on her blog.  So by searching through books about Stonehenge looking for the cover of the book Colleen was holding, I figured out the author and the title, so I could request The Enigma of Stonehenge by John Fowles from my library.  The subject interests me, too.  Thank you, Colleen!


The Enigma of Stonehenge ~ by John Fowles, photographs by Barry Brukoff, 1974, history, 126 pages

John Robert Fowles was born in Leigh-on-Sea, a small town in Essex.  He recalled the English suburban culture of the 1930s as oppressively conformist and his family life as intensely conventional.  Of his childhood, he said, "I have tried to escape ever since."  He attended Bedford School, a large boarding school designed to prepare boys for university, from ages 13 to 18.  After briefly attending the University of Edinburgh, he began compulsory military service in 1945 with training at Dartmoor, where he spent the next two years.  World War II ended shortly after his training began, and by 1947 he had decided that the military life was not for him.

Fowles then spent four years at Oxford, where he discovered the writings of the French existentialists.  In particular, he admired Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre, whose writings corresponded with his own ideas about conformity and the will of the individual.  He received a degree in French in 1950 and began to consider a career as a writer.  Several teaching jobs followed, including two years teaching English at a college on the Greek island of Spetsai.

The time spent in Greece was very important to him.  During his tenure on the island he began to write poetry and to overcome a long-time repression about writing.  Between 1952 and 1960 he wrote several novels, but offered none to a publisher, considering them all incomplete in some way and too lengthy.

In late 1960 Fowles completed the first draft of The Collector in just four weeks.  He continued to revise it until the summer of 1962, when he submitted it to a publisher; it appeared in the spring of 1963 and was an immediate best-seller.  The critical acclaim and success of the book allowed Fowles to devote all of his time to writing.

The most commercially successful of Fowles' novels, The French Lieutenant's Woman, appeared in 1969.  In the 1970s, he worked on a variety of literary projects, and in 1973 he published a collection of poetry.  There's more, but I won't bore you.  John Fowles died on November 5, 2005 after a long illness.


Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Let's celebrate!

According to Wikipedia, Juneteenth is officially known as Juneteenth National Independence Day.  It is a federal holiday in the United States and is celebrated annually on June 19th to commemorate the ending of slavery in the United States. Today is June 19, so it's the day to celebrate in 2024.

Added later:  A big crowd showed up for the Juneteenth documentary we watched this afternoon in our Community Room.  More than they expected, actually!  Afterwards, we ate red velvet cupcakes and strawberries.

Word nerd

I came across a suggestion:  "Tell us you're a word nerd without telling us you're a word nerd."  Here's one answer someone gave that sounds about right:
"Facetious is my favorite word because it contains all the vowels and in order."

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Two library books for TWOsday

Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick ~ by Zora Neale Hurston, edited by Genevieve West, foreword by Tayari Jones, 2020, stories, xliii + 253 pages

In 1925, Barnard student Zora Neale Hurston — the sole black student at the college — was living in New York, “desperately striving for a toe-hold on the world.”  During this period, she began writing short works that captured the zeitgeist of African American life and transformed her into one of the central figures of the Harlem Renaissance.  Nearly a century later, this singular talent is recognized as one of the most influential and revered American artists of the modern period.

Murder in the Dark ~ by Margaret Atwood, 1983, fiction, 110 pages

These short fictions and prose poems are beautifully bizarre:  bread can no longer be thought of as wholesome comforting loaves; the pretensions of the male chef are subjected to a light roasting; a poisonous brew is concocted by cynical five-year-olds; and knowing when to stop is of deadly importance in a game of Murder in the Dark.

Monday, June 17, 2024

Monday Mindfulness ~ paying attention

"What is the sound of one hand texting?"  That's how the NYTimes article starts, the one about mindfulness getting its share of attention.  The author, David Hochman, defines mindfulness as "a loose term that covers an array of attention-training practices."

Okay, that got my attention, and I wondered, "Am I interested in mindfulness because there's a lot of attention being focused on it?  Or am I noticing articles and blog posts about mindfulness because I'm already paying attention to it?"

Do you know the zen koan "What is the sound of one hand clapping?"  That first sentence, which changes the last word to "texting" is a play on the classic koan.

Where is your attention these days?  On books?  On texting?  On the world around you.  What's on your mind?

Monday Mindfulness ~ This woman is meditating.