Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: When the Year Grows Old



When the Year Grows Old

 

I cannot but remember
  When the year grows old—
October—November—
  How she disliked the cold!
 
She used to watch the swallows
  Go down across the sky,
And turn from the window
  With a little sharp sigh.
 
And often when the brown leaves
  Were brittle on the ground,
And the wind in the chimney
  Made a melancholy sound,
 
She had a look about her
  That I wish I could forget—
The look of a scared thing
  Sitting in a net!
 
Oh, beautiful at nightfall
  The soft spitting snow!
And beautiful the bare boughs
  Rubbing to and fro!
 
But the roaring of the fire,
  And the warmth of fur,
And the boiling of the kettle
  Were beautiful to her!
 
I cannot but remember
  When the year grows old—
October—November—
  How she disliked the cold!

- by Edna St. Vincent Millay
courtesy poets.org

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Winter's Read: Polar Book Club and Mark Helprin's Tale

Winter is the perfect time to bundle up, grab a cuppa and climb into a good book. Who's with me?

Let's form the Polar Book Club!

The 2015 Polar Book Club selection is Winter's Tale by Mark Helprin.

Here is a description from Helprin's website:

Set in New York at the beginning and the end of the twentieth century, Winter´s Tale unfolds with such great narrative force and beauty that a reader can feel that its world is more real than his own. Standing alone on the page before the book begins are the words, I have been to another world, and come back. Listen to me. In that world, both winter and the city of New York (old and new) have the strength and character of protagonists, and the protagonists themselves move as if in a vivid dream. Though immensely complicated, the story is centered upon Peter Lake, a turn-of-the-century Irish burglar, and Beverly Penn, a young heiress whom he encounters in robbing her house, and who eventually will die young and in his arms. His love for her, and a gift of grace, will allow him after the most extraordinary and painful explorations and discoveries to stop time and bring back the dead. To follow him, his predecessors, his inheritors, and his companions is to experience one of the great stories of American literature.

 The book is available in bookstores and libraries.

After we finish the book — let's aim for March 5, 2015 —  club members can join an e-mail conversation about the book.

This isn't a lit class, so how (and with whom) you participate is up to you. However, think about why you liked (or didn't like) the book, and consider telling other readers about it to spur discussion. No one is right or wrong. It's all about the book and reading.

E-mail me to join the Polar Book Club — and the ensuing conversation.


Sunday, November 30, 2014

Poetry for the Holidays: When Giving Is All We Have




When Giving Is All We Have


Alberto Ríos, 1952
                                              One river gives
                                              Its journey to the next.


We give because someone gave to us.
We give because nobody gave to us.

We give because giving has changed us.
We give because giving could have changed us.

We have been better for it,
We have been wounded by it—

Giving has many faces: It is loud and quiet,
Big, though small, diamond in wood-nails.

Its story is old, the plot worn and the pages too,
But we read this book, anyway, over and again:

Giving is, first and every time, hand to hand,
Mine to yours, yours to mine.

You gave me blue and I gave you yellow.
Together we are simple green. You gave me

What you did not have, and I gave you
What I had to give—together, we made

Something greater from the difference.
— by Alberto Ríos
Courtesy poets.org

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Built-In Distraction: 'Hang Up and Drive' Gets More Difficult

It's easy to "hang up and drive" when you don't have the tools to tempt you — but when you do, it's easy to justify using them.

Let's take a look at how ubiquitous phones have become to driving. You may no longer use them to talk, but they still tells you where to go, and how. Pandora, iTunes, Amazon Music? Check. GPS and maps? Check.

Not only are phones tempting to use when we're on the road, but the technology and convenience they provide drivers as technology creeps further into vehicles makes putting them away that much harder.

When my husband purchased a new car this year, the first amenity the salesperson showed us was how to pair the smartphone with the car. It it was the cornerstone of the interactive stereo technology, and even the phone's GPS program was available via Bluetooth. Guess where that put my smartphone? Not in my purse.

When I drove the new car, I paired the phone before putting the car into traffic. Inevitably, however, I heard a song I wanted to skip. Back when changing the radio station or skipping a CD track was a single button on the dashboard, I could keep my eyes on the road and still filter my music easily and relatively safely. Now, however, that same act may involve multiple touches of the smartphone, which itself can be anywhere: on your lap, in the cup-holder, accidentally on the floor...

Auto makers may try to improve safety by installing phone and stereo function buttons on steering wheels, but drivers must have newer cars with that technology — and many of my family members, myself included, do not have new-enough cars for that.

In my 10-year-old car, I have an after-market device: an arm that holds the phone in place below the dashboard. It has no interface, no convenient buttons. If I want to listen to music, or change the music playing, I have to access the program on the phone. That requires me to take my eyes off the road.

I can rationalize that it's a quick fix, or it won't be dangerous to accomplish. Maybe I don't see other vehicles on the road so I think no one else will be affected. Perhaps I'm stopped at a red light, so that means I'm not moving so that makes it safe. Juicy justifications, all: multiple taps and swipes of the phone are anything but quick, I'm never completely alone on the road, and I must remain alert for drivers at stoplights.

Smartphones may offer hands-free GPS service, but that may not even be a reasonable option, considering that multi-tasking while operating a multi-ton vehicle is ill-advised under the best of circumstances, even with a skilled driver.

More importantly, when a text or call comes in and the phone is perched next to my hand, it's difficult to resist the impulse to read the screen or answer the phone (which, again, involves multiple keystrokes or swipes).

I am not alone. When I'm behind the wheel, I see many drivers, including professionals, operating their smartphones. If I see a car swerve into another lane, inexplicably slow down or stay stopped at a light after it turns green, I see the driver's head jerk up from her or his hand or lap in surprise.

How do we make our roads as safe as possible while using modern technology — or is that even possible?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Summer Reading: It May Last into Winter!

So, did you read a lot this summer? I know of a few readers who did, and it will earn them a book of their own!

One of the most enjoyable parts of the summer reading club is coming up with new books to read. I invited my buds to join the club for summer reading, and two readers took me up on it.

Both Karen and Stacy  tantalized me with their amazing reading lists. I think I found a few more tomes to add to my (growing) "to be read" list and was pleased to see an unexpected name among the authors. (Oh, there were more than a few favorites in there, too. I know how to pick them — friends and books.)

Karen read the following, for a total of 20 tomes:
  1. The Bone Chamber, Robin Burcell
  2. Misery, Stephen King
  3. Coming Home, Mariah Stewart
  4. Desperation, Stephen King
  5. Feels Like Family, Sherryl Woods
  6. The Sign of the Beaver, Elizabeth George Spear
  7. Escape from Andersonville, Gene Hackman and Daniel Lenihan
  8. The MacGregors-Alan Grant, Nora Roberts
  9. The Walking Dead:Rise of the Governor, Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga
  10. The Hazards of Hunting a Duke, Julia London
  11. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Maya Angelou
  12. The Help, Kathryn Stockett 
  13. Stoker's Manuscript, Royce Prouty
  14. Sixth Sense, Ramona Stewart
  15. The Eye of the Tiger, Wilbur Smith
  16. True Believer, Nicholas Sparks
  17. The Trap, Tabitha King
  18. Soldier Dogs, Maria Goodavage
  19. Global Warning: Are we on the Brink of World War III? Tim Lahay and Ed Hindson
  20. Supervolcano:Eruption, Harry Turtledove

Stacy is "claiming a total of 40," which include:
  • Frozen, The Kraken King part 1, novellas by Meljean Brook
  • Magic Breaks by Illona Andrews
  • Warlord, Warprize, Warcry by Elizabeth Vaughan
  • From the Dark Hunter series by Sherrlyn Kenyon: Fantasy Lover, Night Pleasures, Night Embrace, Dance with the Devil, Kiss of the Night, Night Play, Seize the Night, Sins of the Night, Unleash the Night, Devil May Cry, Upon the Midnight Clear, Acheron, One Silent Night, Bad Moon Rising, Time Untime and Styxx.
  • Once Burned by Jeanine Frost
  • Demon Bound by Meljean Brook
  • The King, Lover at Last, Lover Avhenged and Lover Reborn by JR Ward
  • The Winter King by CL Wilson
  • Body Guard by Jenifer Ashley
  • Archangel's Legion by Nalini Singh
  • Bound by the Vampire Queen by Joey W Hill
  • The Little Prince
  • Le Petit Prince
  • A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • His Majesty's Dragon, Throne of Jade, Black Powder War by Naomi Novik
  • Macrieve by Kresley Cole
  • Thankful in Death, Concealed in Death and Festive in Death by JD Robb
  • Hiawatha by Longfellow 
Stacy also donated 40 used books to the public library in honor of her summer read.

Both readers will receive a copy of the book of their choice.

Speaking of books, who's in for a winter reading club? Let's choose a book to read it during the chilly winter months. (Just one because I know you're busy, and you'll have a few months to fit it in!)

Do you have any particular titles in mind? Do tell!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: November



November

This is the treacherous month when autumn days
With summer’s voice come bearing summer’s gifts.
Beguiled, the pale down-trodden aster lifts
Her head and blooms again. The soft, warm haze
Makes moist once more the sere and dusty ways,
And, creeping through where dead leaves lie in drifts,
The violet returns. Snow noiseless sifts
Ere night, an icy shroud, which morning’s rays
Will idly shine upon and slowly melt,
Too late to bid the violet live again.
The treachery, at last, too late, is plain;
Bare are the places where the sweet flowers dwelt.
What joy sufficient hath November felt?
What profit from the violet’s day of pain?

- Helen Hunt Jackson
courtesy poets.org

Sunday, November 2, 2014

All Hallow's Poem: Requiescat

On All Hallow's Read, I gave this poem to every trick-or-treater who came to my door, as well as every one who walked within bounding distance of me.







Requiescat




        Tread lightly, she is near
        Under the snow,
        Speak gently, she can hear
        The daisies grow.
        
        All her bright golden hair
        Tarnished with rust,
        She that was young and fair
        Fallen to dust.
        
        Lily-like, white as snow,
        She hardly knew
        She was a woman, so
        Sweetly she grew.
        
        Coffin-board, heavy stone,
        Lie on her breast,
        I vex my heart alone,
        She is at rest.
        
        Peace, peace, she cannot hear
        Lyre or sonnet,
        All my life’s buried here,
        Heap earth upon it.

        — Oscar Wilde      

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.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day: What's it All About?

Have you really ever pondered the words of the Declaration of Independence? What do they really mean?

Let Morgan Freeman and some of Hollywood's finest take you on a tour of that risky, volatile document that changed not just our country, but the world.


Saturday, June 21, 2014

Summer Reading: Re-Thinking the E-Book

Amidst the heat of summer and the heft of books being carried in the summer heat, now is a good time to ponder the e-book.

I used to think of my e-book reader (Kindle, for those keeping score at home) as a tool I kept for convenience and desperation. I am a Print Girl, now and forever.

But as I considered how to find new homes for my already-read books, I had to wonder: why remain married to print for every book?

I'm not keen on the control Amazon has over my reader and its contents. Sure, I can get a refund, but if Amazon can put a book on my reader, it can take it off. (And has, for other readers in the past.)

I prefer my e-books inexpensive. Right now I'm considering an e-copy of my favorite Marge Piercy poetry book, but it's more than a couple of bucks. I realize that some older books haven't yet gone "e," but the absurd price of an e-book astounds me. Maybe I don't know enough about the process of e-publishing, but I also can't imagine why an e-book would cost nearly as much as its printed doppelgänger.

However, it's nice to know that I have more than 100 books at my fingertips when I have my Kindle in hand. I have some good ones, too, like Mary Poppins, Chronicles of Narnia, some Stephen King and a little Neil Gaiman. I also have begun to purchase books I do not have in print, including the blockbusters The Goldfinch and The Son.

Having said that, I have heard about Amazon's war with publishers, and I would hate to think my book selection is being so overtly controlled — and my e-book selection even more so. I don't know a lot about the E-World, but the idea of having to convert books from one seller's format to mine, or having to download a special program to read them, does not make me happy.

Plus, we all realize that e-technology assigns us only a "lease" for music and books we claim to have purchased. Ask iTunes or Bruce Willis, and they'll tell you: if you "buy" a digital album, it's not yours to will to your children. How much did you pay for that bestseller you can't give, loan or resell, like you can with print?

Finally, let's be honest: technology changes fast. Today's e-reader could be tomorrow's Apple Lisa. If Amazon went out of business, who would support my technology? I've invested a few hundred dollars in books and a reader that very well could become obsolete. I'm one of the only people I know who still burns her albums to CD "just in case." I'm not a troglodyte, but I am suspicious of the "latest and greatest," considering how quickly it's replaced these days.

Printed books, on the other hand, are the same. I can buy a book printed in 1895 and it still reads the same as a book printed today. I love the smell, the heft, how pages feel when they're turned. I don't write in my books, but I use sticky notes like a madwoman.

I suppose, in the end, we change our minds based on our needs and environment. My bookshelves are full of great books, and I adore seeing them, thumbing through them, taking them off their shelves. Someday, I may not have room for my library full of books. I may not want to move them to another home, or I may simply decide they need new owners. Every few months, I have to consider the inventory, and I love to match books with the right person.

Someday, I may not want that heavy hardback. Some days, I don't want that heavy hardback, and the $1.99 copy of The Goldfinch is right up my alley. I guess we'll just have to see.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: Famous Blue Raincoat




Famous Blue Raincoat

It's four in the morning, the end of December
I'm writing you now just to see if you're better
New York is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening.
I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record. 

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You'd been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without Lili Marlene

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody's wife.

Well I see you there with the rose in your teeth
One more thin gypsy thief
Well I see Jane's awake --

She sends her regards.

And what can I tell you my brother, my killer
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I'm glad you stood in my way.

If you ever come by here, for Jane or for me
Your enemy is sleeping, and his woman is free.

Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried.

And Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear --

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: My Yoko Ono Moment




My Yoko Ono Moment


for Nick Twemlow

It’s annoying
how much
junk mail
comes through
the slot
& accumulates
at the foot
of the stairs

mostly menus
from restaurants
in the neighborhood

endlessly
coming through
the slot

despite the sign
we put on the door:
No Advertisements
No Solicitors

One night
I scoop up the whole pile
on my way out
(as I do periodically)
& dump it
in the trash can
on the corner
of West Broadway & Spring

just as Yoko Ono
happens to be strolling
through SoHo
with a male companion

She watches me
toss the menus

then turns to her friend
& says, “I guess
no one reads those.”

by David Trinidad
courtesy poets.org 


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Begin Your Summer Reading With a Book About One Grand Summer

Bill Bryson is right. The summer of 1927 was an amazing year. in One Summer: America, 1927,  he convinces his readers in his usual engaging, fascinating and conversational way.

Lindbergh? Check. Babe Ruth? Check. Clara Bow, Jack Dempsey, Sacco and Vanzetti? Check, check and double check. He has them all, plus storms and floods, Hoover and Coolidge, a few extra aviators, race relations, gangsters, Prohibition, Broadway musicals and Mount Rushmore.

In no time, you're wishing you lived in 1927 (albeit the safer, wealthier lifestyle). (Hint: it wasn't as a baseball player.)

Bryson does not skate across the top of his topics. He makes sure you understand clearly why aviation was in its heyday in the United States. He is clear about how Prohibition became, remained, then finally was defeated as law. He does it not only with the Roosevelts, Coolidges, Lindberghs and Capones, but also with the individuals with whom you may not be as familiar: Philo Farnsworth, Bill Tilden, Wilson B. Hickox, Robert G. Elliott, Mabel Willebrandt. There were people famous and infamous in their day, people who had the misfortune of becoming a celebrity — or at least renown — in public, unfortunate ways.

As a reader, his chapter near the end about what writers were famous and what books and authors, now famous, were regarded with disdain. I am grateful he agrees with me about Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose books I wanted to like but just couldn't see the attraction. (Much like Anne Rice, Burroughs can concoct a great story, but can't write his way out of a paper bag.)

This fascinating read, complete with photos, ties up all loose ends. Those who were a part of 1927 didn't just vanish at the end of the year and Bryson makes sure you know how those stories ended, starting with Ruth Snyder or Judd Gray).

I love the engaging, inviting way Bryson writes. He makes me wish I was on the field with Lou Gehrig and Babe Ruth on July 4, 1939 so I could know what Ruth said to his old friend. We feel Lindbergh's shock and discomfort at his endless parades and speeches and we're as confounded as the media at Coolidge's August 2 news conference.

Spend a few months in 1927 with Bryson. You'll be glad you did.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: The Man He Killed


The Man He Killed

Had he and I but met
By some old ancient inn,
We should have sat us down to wet
Right many a nipperkin!


But ranged as infantry,
And staring face to face,
I shot at him as he at me,
And killed him in his place.


I shot him dead because —
Because he was my foe,
Just so: my foe of course he was;
That’s clear enough; although


He thought he’d ‘list, perhaps,
Off-hand like — just as I —

Was out of work — had sold his traps —
No other reason why.

Yes; quaint and curious war is!
You shoot a fellow down
You’d treat if met where any bar is,
Or help to half-a-crown.

by Thomas Hardy
Courtesy Everyman's Library

Monday, May 26, 2014

Start Your Books: It's Summer Reading Time!

Without further ado, here's what my Reading Wish List for the summer, in no particular order:









  1. All Souls trilogy
  2. Tobacco Road
  3. Wild
  4. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay
  5. The Sixth Extinction
  6. Divergent trilogy
  7. Map of the Sky
  8. Peyton Place
  9. The Gods of Manhattan
  10. Golem and the Jinni
  11. Bellman and Black
  12. True Grit
  13. The Hangman's Daughter
  14. NOS4A2
  15. And the Mountain Echoed
  16. Shadowfever
  17. The Goldfinch
  18. The Lowland
  19. 11/22/63
  20. I am Malala
  21. Everything Changes
  22. Far From the Tree
  23. Dangerous Women
  24. 168 Hours in a Day
  25. The Decameron
  26. The Heptameron
  27. The Gun Seller
  28. The Weed that Strings the Hangman's Bag
  29. The Eye of Zoltar
  30. Lost Cat
  31. Bellman and Black
  32. The Fault in Our Stars
  33. Cloud Atlas
  34. The Mysterious Benedict Society
  35. A Penny Vincenzi novel
  36. The Family Fang
  37. Arcadia
  38. Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
  39. Poisoner's Handbook
  40. Winter's Tale

Oh, good heavens, that's an ambitious list of 44 books, and it doesn't include most of what has collected on my nightstand recently. I may not get to all of them between Memorial Day and the autumnal equinox, but I'm willing to try!

And here's how I'm going to handle order: a book jar. Yes, you heard me right: I'm resorting to the book jar. I think. Well, I also will give myself permission to walk into my library and ask myself: what sounds good right now? If it's not on the list, so be it.

As I have done in years past, I will again donate $5 per book I read to Main Street Child Development Center, and I will buy three new books for the Fairfax County Public Library from its Amazon Wish List.

Last year I read 27 books. Do you think I can beat that record? How about you: what's on your list?

If you want to get in on this "big kids'" Summer Book Club, send me your reading list as soon as you can (or post it in the comments below), then share your "consumed list" with me at summer's end. The reader who consumes the most books will win a new book of her or his choice, courtesy From One Book Lover. (And when we count our books, we'll be fair: I suspect most readers will balance their list between both modest and substantial volumes)

Are you in? What are you going to read? Do you have suggestions for my reading list?  Tell me!

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Summer Reading: Join the Club!

Now is the time to start thinking about summer reading — and the Summer Reading Club!

Oh, I'm sure you have been pondering your bookish possibilities, sorting the stacks in your head when you look at your shelves (or those in your local library). However, now it's time to get serious.

Some books cry out to be read in the sunshine. Others are more subtle, encouraging you consider the possibilities.

Some you've been saving for this very purpose. Maybe it's a trilogy that the author finally finished (or has announced the publication date of the final book in the series). You knew it would be in July, so you planned your Independence Day weekend accordingly.

There's the one that is set in winter. You tried to start it last December, but the chill was too biting. Skip the parka, bask in the sun.

Some books are safe only in the sunshine. (Yes, that one.)

So, start stacking them up: we have less than a week before the frenzy begins.

If you own them already, find a table or shelf on which you can stack your booty to remain inspired and motivated.

If you'll borrow any or all of them from the library, start timing your reservations now. (Some libraries allow you to schedule your loans; ask your librarian if you are not sure.)

Does your library system have an "instant gratification" section with hot bestsellers? Scope it out and see if your books are quickly snagged.

If you plan to buy them, make sure your local bookstore has them, or can order them. Don't wait until the last minute just to discover that you have to wait that much longer.

When you've made your list, join this special Summer Reading Club! It's like the library-sponsored ones of your youth, only with less pizza (or not). What does it take to join? Enhusiasm! Send me your list and I will share it with the rest of the group. At the end of the season, we'll count up the books we've read. The one who reads the most wins a new book.

The reading period is from Memorial Day through the end of summer. This year, let's choose Friday, May 23 through Sunday, September 28. Send me your list any time you're ready. I'll publish mine by the end of May (and we can compare how many books from last year's list are contenders again this year!).

Ready? Set... Go get your books!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: Translator’s Confession, 3 a.m.



Translator’s Confession, 3 a.m.



Dear C, I dropped



your sentence in hot water.

I talked to the boil. I said Here



is my thumb for you to burn.



Here is the soft heart

of my hand and my arm and



the nape of my wreck.



I said vapor, just take me.

I’m done burning



with these pages. Being invisible

doesn’t mean a person



won’t blister, doesn’t mean



the blisters won’t fill

with pockets of water



or when lanced the rawest flesh



won’t emerge. First the word

then the murky leak



begins—what another mind

may scrape against



but never skin.





By Idra Novey

Courtesy poets.org





About this Poem: 

“I wrote this poem as a way to settle some unfinished business I had with Clarice Lispector, a Brazilian writer whose work I’d been reading intensely for nearly a decade and whose novel I’d recently translated. As is the nature of unfinished business, once I wrote one letter to her, I needed to write another, and on it went for some time.”