Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: Autumn Returns



Autumn Returns
A day in mourning falls from the bells
like a trembling cloth of vague life,
it's a color, a dream
of cherries sunk into the earth,
it's a tail of smoke that arrives without rest
to change the color of the water and the kisses.

I don't know if you understand me: When night
        approaches
from the heights, when the solitary poet
at the window hears the steed of autumn running
and the leaves of trampled fear rustling in his arteries,
there is something over the sky, like the tongue
of thick oxen, something in the doubt of the sky and
        the atmosphere.

Things return to their place:
the indispensable lawyer, hands, oil,
the bottles,
all the signs of life: beds, above all,
are full of bloody liquid,
people deposit their confidences in sordid ears,
assassins descend stairs,
but it's not that, it's the old gallop,
the horse of old autumn who trembles and endures.

The horse of old autumn has a red beard
and the foam of fear covers his cheeks
and the air that follows him has the form of an ocean
and the smell of vague buried rot.
Everyday and ashen color descends from the sky
which the doves must spread over the earth:
the rope woven by oblivion and tears,
time, which has slept long years inside the bells,
everything,
the old suits all bitten, the women who see the snow
coming,
the black poppies that no one can contemplate without
        dying,
everything falls to these hands I raise up
in the midst of rain.



by Pablo Neruda
courtesy A Poem A Day

Monday, September 29, 2014

Summer Reading: Happened So Fast!

It's official: the days are growing shorter, the air is crisp and the equinox set our eggs on end. Summer is over and autumn has begun.

For those of us who enjoy summer reading, the turn of the season is bittersweet, but not unwelcome: sometimes it's hard to stay indoors and curl up with a book while the sun shines!

This summer was not too hot (which limited my reading) and was filled with a few adventures, including the very special wedding of a very special couple and a new feline addition to the family (different events, of course — my new son-in-law Kenny is charming, but not in the least bit feline) (I think). However, there always is time to read, even if it's into the middle of the night. (Daylight is not a welcome force the following morning, I tell you what.)

As part of the 2014 Summer Reading Club, I read 33 books:
  1. A Red Herring Without Mustard
  2. Second Glance
  3. Centuries of June
  4. A Room With A Zoo
  5. The Interestings
  6. Bats at the Ballgame
  7. Ouroboros Ouzo
  8. Extent Demon King
  9. Johannesburg Cabal and the Blustery Day
  10. Bats at the Library
  11. I Lost My Bear
  12. The Weed that Strings the Hangman’s Bag
  13. Bats at the Beach
  14. Bandit’s Surprise
  15. What Successful People Do Before Breakfast
  16. Tobacco Road
  17. Bandit
  18. The Book of Life
  19. Shadow of Night
  20. The Fault in Our Stars
  21. A Discovery of Witches
  22. The True Story of Stellina
  23. Top Secret Twenty-One
  24. Toots the Cat
  25. Millions of Cats
  26. The Beauty of the Beast : poems from the animal kingdom
  27. Takedown Twenty: a Stephanie Plum novel
  28. The Eye of Zoltar
  29. The Eyre Affair
  30. The Goldfinch
  31. American Decameron
  32. The Decameron
  33. Year of No Sugar
At least, that's the best list I could compile following a disasterous August List Loss. (Try to say that three times fast while panicking as the year's reading list disappears before your eyes.) (And no, "undo" didn't undo.)

A couple on the list are rather short, but the thicker tomes fill out the stack. Plus, in the spirit of full disclosure, I am not completely finished with Mustard, but I am more than halfway through it, so I will count it on behalf of Main Street.

The "Main Street" of which I write is Main Street Child Development Center, a fabulous non-profit organization that will receive $5 per book, for a total of $165, from this Hedgehog Lover.

I also donated three books to the Fairfax County Public Library:
  • Natchez Burning
  • Boy, Snow, Bird
  • The Lorax
As promised, my fellow clubber who read the most this summer will earn a new book of her/his choosing.  

Please send your reading list by October 4 so we can compare lists and you can get your new book all that much sooner. (Of course you will win. You read a lot, didn't you?)  Remember, the time frame is May 23 (the Friday before Memorial Day) through September 28 (the Sunday following the autumnal equinox).

By the way, Reader Karen suggested something I've been pondering for a while: a winter reading club. Are you in? Let me know!

Friday, September 19, 2014

The Tobacco Road Effect — Or, Can You Read Classics With Fresh Eyes?

As noted previously in this blog, my friend Carole and I have decided to read Weighty Books. After eight months of such reading, I have to wonder if I can read them with as fresh an eye as I would have in my undergraduate days.

I ask this question after finishing Tobacco Road, a relentless story of loss and more loss. Jeeter is beaten down by life and The Man. The last time he tried to farm his land, the rich folk of Augusta stole from him more than his entire profit: it took his desire for success. He would never win, no matter how hard he worked, so it made entire sense that he did not get up off the porch for much.

However, the characters of Tobacco Road were relentless sinners. Holy cow, by God and by Jesus, they were a wicked lot. I don't use those words lightly, but they fit in this case. Even characters who were supposed to be the most spiritually uplifted were fantastically immoral, even by Tobacco Road standards. The ending was as relentless and beaten-down as the rest of the story, and I felt dejected and depressed myself.

However, the more I read, the more it seemed I had read that story before. I had: in many other stories since. However, Tobacco Road was where it all started.

One of the decisions Carole and I made was to read related stories during the six months we focused on a book. For six months we read The Decameron, American Decameron and as much of The Heptameron as we could. (I took a break from the "-Ron Books" and will go back to The Heptameron soon enough.) I am glad, but I also may have to back off on that decision a little: I don't want to lose the magic of the seminal work because it's been hammered to death by other related books.

Along with Tobacco Road, Carole and I will read How Green is Our Valley and The Grapes of Wrath. Will stories be revealed with interesting perspective by three different authors, or will "The Man Gets You Down" theme be driven home with a level of relentlessness only Jeeter could appreciate? I'll keep you apprised.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Summer Reading in its Final Weeks!

How's your summer reading going?

Now, although some people have a very limited idea of what constitutes "summer reading," we here at Hedgehog Lover are very inclusive. When it comes to reading, our ideas of "summer" allow for such reading to continue until the autumnal equinox, or the closest weekend to the equinox.

Therefore, reading for this summer reading club continues through Sunday, September 28.

What is the Summer Reading Club? It's an excuse to read and share with your community. Those who join the club just have to send me their reading list — then, by the end of September, send me a list of books they actually read.

The winner is the one who read the most books — and that reader wins a book from Hedgehog Lover.


This Hedgehog Lover goes a step further: I donate three new books to my local library and contribute $5 per book to a local non-profit organization near and dear to my heart, Main Street Child Development Center. (Please note: these types of contributions are not mandatory for membership, but a little book love goes a long way.)


So, what are you waiting for? Join the club!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Gone Reading


If you'll excust me, I'm going to go bury my nose in a book.

Summer reading is all-consuming — especially if I want to be prepared for the Fall for the Book Festival September 11-18.

For the record, it's not too late to join the Summer Reading Club...

See you in the autumn!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Author Events: Drawing in Readers, or Turning Them Away?

I enjoy reading, buying books and meeting authors. You would think these activities are compatible with the mission of bookstores. However, in recent times, I've found the act of buying a book has cost me author opportunities.

In January, Ransom Riggs released the second Miss Peregrine book, which I consumed promptly. The author was coming to a Barnes & Noble bookstore near me soon after the book was released, so I finished the book early (to avoid Spoilers some people just can't resist). I brought my stack of Riggs books with me in case he was signing.

When I arrived, a B&N employee informed me that only books purchased that day at B&N would be signed. No exceptions. He was  polite, but firm. After I finished listening to Riggs speak, I left the bookstore with a heavy heart. I didn't want to be duplicitous and buy a book I would later return (which someone suggested). I had read my copy, purchased from a different bookseller, and I was being punished.

Booksellers see customer activity differently than the customer does, and I understand the different perspective: why host (and possibly fund) an event when customers do not need to invest in their company to participate? 

Here is why: veni, vidi, emi. 

If I am in your store, I will buy from you, especially if you're supporting authors I read and enjoy. If I don't buy today, I will be back tomorrow, or the next day I am buying a book (which really is tomorrow, for me).
Yes, the siren song of cheap online books is tempting, and I have more than once dashed myself on those rocks. However, I value the services of bookstores and booksellers. If I support the stores that feature materials I like, they will continue to do so — as will I.
I invest in you, Bookseller, so you will do the same for me.

Only that no longer seems to be the case. The "Great Recession" has changed many merchant practices to stock very little and staff lightly. I have begun confirming stock and reserving books before I enter some bookstores. I mean, why bother putting on pants and leaving the house if I will leave a bookstore empty handed?

So, in a world where books aren't stocked unless there is a Good Reason (movie tie-in or author appearance, for example), readers are stuck between a book and a hard place: buy the book now and lose signing opportunities, or buy the book at an author appearance and lose the opportunity to discuss that book with that author.


I now read a store's fine print regarding author appearances. Where once there were no Rules, now there are many.

I will continue to buy my books when and how I please. I will continue to support local, independent and chain bookstores. I will continue to support authors. If, however, a bookstore looks to separate this reader from an author, this reader will reconsider her relationship with said bookstore.

Bookseller, relax: I will give you money. Just don't command me to do so. Trust my bookish wallet, as well as my bookish heart.