Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Judge tenderly of me

Judge Tenderly of Me: The Poems of Emily Dickinson ~ afterword by Winfield Townley Scott, illustrations by Bill Greer, 1968, poems, 8/10

I've come across some long-lost things while unpacking boxes at my newest address.  This book is one of them.  Having loved some of Emily Dickinson's poems that I had to memorize as a child, I bought this book shortly after it was published.  The dust jacket was marking one of my favorites:
I'm Nobody!  Who are you?
Are you — Nobody — Too?
Then there's a pair of us?
Don't tell! they'd advertise — you know!

How dreary — to be — Somebody!
How public — like a Frog —
To tell one's name — the livelong June —
To an admiring Bog!
Oh, dear!  My memory must be going.  I've been mis-quoting it for years, saying "the livelong day" — but where did "June" come from?  I'd forgottten, if I'd ever noticed, how much Emily Dickinson used the — um — dash.  When I looked up my NEW favorite from this book, someone had replaced all the dashes with appropriate punctuation, according to English teachers.  Here's what's in this book:
I've seen a Dying Eye
Run round and round a Room —
Then Cloudier become —
And then — obscure with Fog — 
And then — be soldered down
Without disclosing what it be
'Twere blessed to have seen — 
I've thought of things like the last words a dying person speaks or, maybe, the last thing a person ever saw.  But Emily Dickinson wondered what it was that "dying eye" was looking for.  I wonder what I would want to see before I died.  Probably the faces of those I love.

Emily Dickinson lived December 10, 1830 to May 15, 1886.  This photo was taken around 1850.  How do I rate her work at this stage of my life?  Very good, or 8/10.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Library Loot ~ August 24-30

Cloud Atlas ~ by David Mitchell, 2004, fiction (South Pacific, 1850)

This is the only book I have from the library this week. This plot summary from Wikipedia is what convinced me to get the book.  I'm very curious about how the author may have done this:
The novel consists of six nested stories that take the reader from the remote South Pacific in the nineteenth century to a distant, post-apocalyptic future. Each tale is revealed to be a story that is read (or watched) by the main character in the next. All stories but the last one get interrupted at some moment, and after the sixth story concludes at the center of the book, the novel "goes back" in time, "closing" each story as the book progresses in terms of pages but regresses in terms of the historical period in which the action takes place. Eventually, readers end where they started, with Adam Ewing in the Pacific Ocean, circa 1850.
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 a list of the loot you brought home.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Sunday Serenity

If this video quits working, click the title (which is a link) to see and hear Bach's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring." It's amazing.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Scribble, scribble, scribble

Mad Woman in the Forest, who happens to be the renowned author Laurie Halse Anderson, has been posting prompts for writers every day this month.  Today's prompt speaks to me, somehow.  What would YOU — or your character, if you were writing a story — throw in the backpack?

I think the most striking statistic about Hurricane Irene so far is CNN’s statement that the storm will affect 1 in 6 Americans. (I’m still trying to wrap my head around this.) We are far away from the danger; might get some wind and a little rain. We’re used to losing power frequently, so that’s not a problem. I sure hope those of you who are in Irene’s path stay safe, snug, and dry.

In case your power is about to go out, let’s get busy right away with tonight’s Irene-inspired prompt.

Ready… Make sure that you pack a notebook (the kind made out of paper) and sharpened pencils in your go bag. Natural disasters provide all kinds of inspiration and you need your tools! (It’s easier to write in the rain with pencils than pens.)

Set… “To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power.” Maya Angelou

Today’s prompt: Your character has five minutes to throw his most important possessions into a backpack, because the hurricane has changed course and he and his family must flee. What goes in the bag? Why? And what is hidden in that small wooden box that he pulls down from the top shelf of his closet when no one is looking? Be as detailed as possible. This is a chance to show character by the decisions he makes.

Scribble… Scribble… Scribble…
I'll try to come up with something and connect to it with this link.  You are welcome to share a link in your comment, rather than trying to make a list here.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Beginning ~ with a bathroom scale

Cooking for Harry: A Low-Carbohydrate Novel ~ by Kay-Marie James, 2004, fiction, 9/10
"The bathroom scale was only one of many household appliances that hadn't survived our children.  When you've got four -- Amber and the twins came ten months apart, six years ahead of Jason -- there are bound to be casualties, and when the value of one of those casualties falls anywhere below three digits, you consider yourslf a soldier of good fortune."
I had this book on my shelves for seven years (in three apartments) before I picked it up last night -- and read straight through it!  Yes, I couldn't put it down, lightweight though it is, in a sense.  It was fun to read.  It kept me interested.  It kept me turning the pages.  Who wouldn't want a husband who was a fabulous cook?  Here's a summary of the book:
Harry became a fabulous cook, starting with the secret bowls of buttery popcorn that he and his wife, Francie, would share after the children were tucked into bed. The aroma of melting butter, the hot kernels on their tongues, the salt crystals sticking to their lips -- it was their own private romantic feast, imbuing their marriage with a new kind of passion. Soon, Harry began to dazzle Francie with luscious bisques and brioches, delectable souffl├ęs, rich risottos, and classic versions of coq au vin that left her breathless.

Their family life came to revolve around the dinner table, where each night Harry's cooking brought Francie and their four children together for an awe-inspiring and mouthwatering meal. But inevitably the years slip by, and when all but one child has left the house, Harry wins a digital scale in his company's Holiday Raffle and their happy bubble bursts in a single instant. Harry's cooking has finally caught up with him. His doctor confirms that he desperately needs to lose weight.

Terrified of losing him, Francie puts Harry on a strict diet, leaving him eternally frustrated at the table and in the kitchen. When they both realize that he has to take a break from his culinary passions if this diet is to work, Francie begins to cook. Eventually a younger-looking, leaner, and more driven Harry emerges -- one so newly committed to his job and his low-carb support group that not only is he no longer in the kitchen, he's hardly ever at home. Feeling confused by the dynamics of their new relationship, Francie must contend with her need to keep Harry on his diet, and also with the women who have suddenly begun to eye her truly attractivehusband. The question now becomes: Will love be enough to keep this marriage together, or will the Atkins Diet ultimately tear Harry and Francie apart?
By the way, "Kay-Marie" is really two people, an unnamed writer who doesn't want us to know her name, and her dearest friend.  That combination worked.  As I said, I read straight through the book, savoring every bit of it, surprised by it in several places, satisfied by the ending -- which wasn't at all where I thought it would go.  An excellent book, rating a 9 out of 10 from me.

This meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages. Share the first sentence or two of the book you are reading. Then, share your impressions of that beginning. Click this link to see what others say about the books they are reading this week.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Yearning for the good life

are three ingredients in the good life:  learning, earning, and yearning."
-- Christopher Morley

We all yearn for something.  I yearn for a place where life is greener and less frenetic; quieter with no throbbing cars going by, littering the air with heavy metal music; cleaner, with plastic bottles recycled rather than thrown from car windows.  My place would be surrounded by farms and woodlands.  Perhaps the dwellings would circle a vehicle-free center, where children could play safely and people could walk without dodging cars.  It would be a people-friendly place, rather than one where the combustion engine ruled supreme.  Yes, there are already places like this, but not in my area.

Nevertheless, I have always had trees around me, like in the photo above.  Being able to look out on green trees and growing things is good for me.  I think most of us are yearning for something full of wonder and awe and joy.  Maybe that something is nature.

Richard Louv, in his book Last Child in the Woods (p. 285), wrote:
"When my son Matthew was four, he asked me, 'Are God and Mother Nature married, or just good friends?'  Good question."
Mother Nature is welcome at my house any day.

(Reposted from February 7, 2007 on a blog that no longer exists.  My apartment was the sun-lit one in the middle above.)

Friday, August 19, 2011

Beginning ~ in the school cafeteria

Save Me ~ by Lisa Scottoline, 2011, fiction (Pennsylvania), 9/10
Rose McKenna stood against the wall in the noisy cafeteria, having volunteered as lunch mom, which is like a security guard with eyeliner.
We know something's going to happen in the cafeteria -- and it does!  Wow, does it ever!  Here's a snippet from page 5:
Suddenly, something exploded in the kitchen.  A searing white light flashed in the kitchen doorway.  Rose turned toward the ear-splitting boom!  The kitchen wall flew apart, spraying shards of tile, wood, and wallboard everywhere.

A shockwave knocked Rose off her feet.  A fireball billowed into the cafeteria.

And everything went black and silent.
I've already finished the book and want to share another couple of quotes:
From page 328:  Her heart started to hammer from exertion and fear.  She was a mom, not an action hero.  Then she realized something:  Every mom is an action hero.

From page 232:  They'd had some of their best talks in cars, and she knew other moms felt the same way.  All across the country, kids were captive when that door locked, and cars became family therapy on wheels.
A book club could have a great discussion of this excellent book, which has surprising twists throughout.  I've given it a rating of 9 out of 10.

This meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages. Share the first sentence or two of the book you are reading. Then, share your impressions of that beginning. Click this link to see what others say about the books they are reading this week.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Library Loot ~ August 17-23

Save Me ~ by Lisa Scottoline, 2011, fiction (Pennsylvania)
Rose McKenna volunteers as a lunch mom in her daughter Melly’s school in order to keep an eye on Amanda, a mean girl who’s been bullying her daughter. Her fears come true when the bullying begins, sending Melly to the bathroom in tears. Just as Rose is about to follow after her daughter, a massive explosion goes off in the kitchen, sending the room into chaos. Rose finds herself faced with the horrifying decision of whether or not to run to the bathroom to rescue her daughter or usher Amanda to safety. She believes she has accomplished both, only to discover that Amanda, for an unknown reason, ran back into the school once out of Rose's sight. In an instant, Rose goes from hero to villain as the small community blames Amanda’s injuries on her. In the days that follow, Rose's life starts to fall to pieces, Amanda’s mother decides to sue, Rose's marriage is put to the test, and worse, when her daughter returns to school, the bullying only intensifies. Rose must take matters into her own hands and get down to the truth of what really happened that fateful day in order to save herself, her marriage and her family.
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.  Claire has the Mister Linky this week, if you'd like to share a list of the loot you brought home.  You may submit your list any time during the week.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Library Loot ~ August 10-16

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America ~ by Firoozeh Dumas, 2003, memoir (California), 9/10
In 1972, when she was seven, Firoozeh Dumas and her family moved from Iran to Southern California, arriving with no firsthand knowledge of this country beyond her father’s glowing memories of his graduate school years here. More family soon followed, and the clan has been here ever since.

Funny in Farsi chronicles the American journey of Dumas’s wonderfully engaging family: her engineer father, a sweetly quixotic dreamer who first sought riches on Bowling for Dollars and in Las Vegas, and later lost his job during the Iranian revolution; her elegant mother, who never fully mastered English (nor cared to); her uncle, who combated the effects of American fast food with an army of miraculous American weight-loss gadgets; and Firoozeh herself, who as a girl changed her name to Julie, and who encountered a second wave of culture shock when she met and married a Frenchman, becoming part of a one-couple melting pot.

In a series of deftly drawn scenes, we watch the family grapple with American English (hot dogs and hush puppies? — a complete mystery), American traditions (Thanksgiving turkey? — an even greater mystery, since it tastes like nothing), and American culture (Firoozeh’s parents laugh uproariously at Bob Hope on television, although they don’t get the jokes even when she translates them into Farsi).

Above all, this is an unforgettable story of identity, discovery, and the power of family love. It is a book that will leave us all laughing — without an accent.
I finished reading this memoir the day I picked it up.  It's fun and reads quickly.  I rate it 9 of 10, an excellent book that frequently made me smile.

Before I Fall ~ by Lauran Oliver, 2010, YA fiction, 8/10
What if you had only one day to live?  What would you do?  Who would you kiss?  And how far would you go to save your own life?  Samantha Kingston has it all:  the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High — from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot.  Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.  Instead, it turns out to be her last.  Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death — and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.
I got this one from the library last week, but I didn't post a thing all week, including Library Loot.  I've finished it already and rate it 8 of 10, a very good book.

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 a list of the loot you brought home.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Moving on

My best friend and new (again) roommate fainted at work last Friday, ended up in the emergency room, and had a pacemaker implanted that same day to regulate her heart.  Here's Donna (just after we signed the lease in July) happy to have more counter space in our new kitchen.  Since being in the hospital, she's lost another ten pounds (a total of 48 pounds).  When she went back to work a couple of days ago, she lasted less than an hour before throwing up repeatedly and having to come home, possibly a reaction to one of the new medicines, which include generic Coumadin to thin her blood.

Here are the first boxes I hauled into my new bedroom -- well, it's mine and Kiki's, and she's already voiced her annoyance that there's no cat food in sight.  Living with Donna's 16-year-old female cat, Sammy, is working out well, since each cat has her own food in her own room with her own litter box in her own bathroom.  They have learned they can peer into the room belonging to the other cat, but are not allowed to enter.  The two cats spend a surprising amount of time staring at each other, whether in the same room or from the door into the other's room.  I think they are actually happy to see each other, though Kiki probably won't admit it.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Beginning ~ with humor

Funny in Farsi: A Memoir of Growing Up Iranian in America ~ by Firoozeh Dumas, 2003, memoir (California), 9/10
"When I was seven, my parents, my fourteen-year-old brother, Farshid, and I moved from Abadan, Iran, to Whittier, California.  Farid, the older of my two brothers, had been sent to Philadelphia the year before to attend high school.  Like most Iranian youths, he had always dreamed of attending college abroad and, despite my mother's tears, had left us to live with my uncle and his American wife.  I, too, had been sad at Farid's departure, but my sorrow soon faded — not coincidentally, with the receipt of a package from him.  Suddenly, having my brother on a different continent seemed like a small price to pay for owning a Barbie complete with a carrying case and four outfits, including the rain gear and mini umbrella."
I love her sense of humor.  Having a Barbie is, of course, much more important to a six-year-old than having a big brother at home.  I consider this an excellent book beginning.

If you want to play along, this meme is hosted by Katy at A Few More Pages. Share the first sentence or two of the book you are reading. (Sometimes it takes several sentences to get the full thought.) Then, share your impressions of that beginning.  Click this link to see what others say about the books they are reading this week.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Woman Warrior ~ by Maxine Hong Kingston

The Woman Warrior: Memoirs of a Girlhood Among Ghosts ~ by Maxine Hong Kingston, 1975, 1976
The back cover of this paperback says "Fiction/Literature" and has this quote from The New York Times:   "As an account of growing up female and Chinese-American in California, in a laundry of course, it is anti-nostalgic; it burns the fat right out of the mind.  As a dream — of the 'female avenger' — it is dizzying, elemental, a poem turned into a sword."
Maxine Hong Kingston
This is the book we're reading this month in the Feminist Classics challenge.  The book is introduced here.  Some readers will also be "working our way through the rest of The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir," but Kingston's book, which is already on my bookshelf, is the one I plan to read.

The Woman Warrior blends memoir with Chinese folktale to portray the experience of Chinese-Americans in the wake of the Chinese revolution.  I was surprised to read on A Year of Feminist Classics that The Woman Warrior is the most frequently taught text in modern university education.

I've read other books by Maxine Hong Kingston, and really like her writing.  But I haven't gotten to this one yet.  Have you read it?  What did you think?