Monday, October 31, 2016

Halloween: A Poem

Out I went into the meadow,
Where the moon was shining brightly,
And the oak-tree’s lengthening shadows
On the sloping sward did lean;
For I longed to see the goblins,
And the dainty-footed fairies,
And the gnomes, who dwell in caverns,
But come forth on Halloween.
“All the spirits, good and evil,
Fay and pixie, witch and wizard,
On this night will sure be stirring,"
Thought I, as I walked along;
“And if Puck, the merry wanderer,
Or her majesty, Titania,
Or that Mab who teases housewives
If their housewifery be wrong,
Should but condescend to meet me”—
But my thoughts took sudden parting,
For I saw, a few feet from me,
Standing in the moonlight there,
A quaint, roguish little figure,
And I knew ‘twas Puck, the trickster,
By the twinkle of his bright eyes
Underneath his shaggy hair.
Yet I felt no fear of Robin,
Salutation brief he uttered,
Laughed and touched me on the shoulder,
And we lightly walked away;
And I found that I was smaller,
For the grasses brushed my elbows,
And the asters seemed like oak-trees,
With their trunks so tall and gray.

Swiftly as the wind we traveled,
Till we came unto a garden,
Bright within a gloomy forest,
Like a gem within the mine;
And I saw, as we grew nearer,
That the flowers so blue and golden
Were but little men and women,
Who amongst the green did shine.

But ‘twas marvelous the resemblance
Their bright figures bore to blossoms,
As they smiled, and danced, and courtesied,
Clad in yellow, pink and blue;
That fair dame, my eyes were certain,
Who among them moved so proudly,
Was my moss-rose, while her ear-rings
Sparkled like the morning dew.

Here, too, danced my pinks and pansies,
Smiling, gayly, as they used to
When, like beaux bedecked and merry,
They disported in the sun;
There, with meek eyes, walked a lily,
While the violets and snow-drops
Tripped it with the lordly tulips:
Truant blossoms, every one.

Then spoke Robin to me, wondering:
“These blithe fairies are the spirits
Of the flowers which all the summer
Bloom beneath its tender sky;
When they feel the frosty fingers
Of the autumn closing round them,
They forsake their earthborn dwellings,
Which to earth return and die,
“As befits things which are mortal.
But these spirits, who are deathless,
Care not for the frosty autumn,
Nor the winter long and keen;
But, from field, and wood, and garden,
When their summer’s tasks are finished,
Gather here for dance and music,
As of old, on Halloween.”
Long, with Puck, I watched the revels,
Till the gray light of the morning
Dimmed the luster of Orion,
Starry sentry overhead;
And the fairies, at that warning,
Ceased their riot, and the brightness
Faded from the lonely forest,
And I knew that they had fled.

Ah, it ne’er can be forgotten,
This strange night I learned the secret—
That within each flower a busy
Fairy lives and works unseen
Seldom is ‘t to mortals granted
To behold the elves and pixies,
To behold the merry spirits,
Who come forth on Halloween.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Summer Reading: Tried Something New!

As the days get shorter and chillier, I decided to add up my summer reading — and I decided, "Not bad."

Well, not bad for a slacker. I read one less book this year than last year, but I guess we can't all be Karen.

So, without further ado, I bring you...

Chris' 2016 Summer Reading List

  1. Fates and Furies
  2. Summer House With Swimming Pool
  3. Between the World and Me
  4. Ghostly Echoes
  5. Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls 
  6. The Underground Railroad
  7. The Uninvited 
  8. Who Goes There? (The Thing)
  9. Big Magic
  10. Dorothy Parker Drank Here 
  11. A Spirited Tail 
  12. The Goodbyes
  13. Secondhand Souls
  14. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  15. Everything We Keep
  16. If Books Could Kill
  17. The Bookseller 
  18. Unlikely Friendships
  19. Homicide in Hardcover
  20. Ghostly Paws
  21. The Sleeper and the Spindle 
  22. The Body Reader
  23. Blackout
  24. Me and Earl and the Dying Girl 
  25. Vacations From Hell
  26. 168 Hours
  27. Farewell, Dorothy Parker
  28. When Breath Becomes Air
  29. In the Heights
  30. Crenshaw
  31. How Do You Sleep
  32. In the Shadow of Blackbirds
  33. NOS4A2

I tried something new this year. Some titles listed above were e-books, others were printed books — and, new this year, was the introduction of audiobooks to my reading repertoire. Five of the titles above were audio, a mix of Overdrive library books and Audible purchases.

I can hear a bit of a stir in Reading Land: Why audio? Is audio even reading? What the heck, woman?!?

I was once like you, my cautious fellow readers. However, after going to the Audio Side, I have come to realize: reading is reading. With one book, I was getting lost on the page. With another, my only reading time coincided with my trips to the gym (and I don't read visual/print material on exercise equipment). I challenge you to listen to Fisher Stevens read a novel by Christopher Moore and not find the joy in listening to someone (besides Carole) read to you.

There is a danger to reading at the gym: trying to not cry in public during an intense cardio workout. (I am looking at you, Benjamin Alire Sáenz, with the assistance of Lin-Manuel Miranda!)

The books I enjoyed most were both Cat Winters books, every Dorothy Parker (and related) book, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, The Underground Railroad, and Ghostly Echoes. Each taught me something and took me out of my comfort zone.

My least favorites were The Body Reader (not as taut as expected), Summer House With Swimming Pool (not as good of villains as in the author's first book), and Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls (too long in the wrong places).

As always, my summer reading will benefit my community: I will donate $5 per book 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.

Tell me how you did with your summer reading, and you may win a book!

Thursday, October 27, 2016

All Hallow's Read, An Excellent Tradition — Now with Poetry

So, Neil Gaiman encourages you to — well, let me let him tell you himself.

Long story short, give friends, family — even total strangers — scary books to read.

I think that's a lovely idea.

Personally, I include a Halloween poem with candy for my trick-or-treaters, and take the poem to work for wide distribution.

Stop by Hedgehog Lover on Halloween to see what poem I chose this year.

Can't wait? Check out the poem from last year. Or the year before. Try Halloween 2012. Seriously, I'm a fan, and I know you will be, too.

See you October 31!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Who Tells the True Story of a Marriage?

Marriage is unknowable to anyone but the couple — and, in Fates and FuriesLauren Groff illustrates that even they may not know the complete story.

In her third novel, Groff created an interesting, complex view of a marriage between two very different people who appear deeply in love and totally committed to each other.

The first half of the book, "Fates," captures the tale of Lancelot "Lotto" Sutterwhite, a walking contradiction who finds his calling in the theater. The second half of the tale, "Furies," is told from Mathilde's wifely perspective.

The sections brilliantly capture the characters: "Fates" is careless, while "Furies" is tight and angry. (I picture Tilda Swindon as Mathilde; strange I don't have the same bead on Lotto's Hollywood counterpart.) 

I like the retelling of tales, so to have the same life story told from two different perspectives is brilliant, and a very good demonstration about how little we truly know others.

Lotto kept many friends around him so he would feel well-liked, even loved. He let them ebb and flow as they needed, drawing all of his energy from them, but primarily from Mathilde. In contrast, Mathilde kept people around to satisfy Lotto and for an almost business-like relationship that never quite reached friendship. Lotto skimmed across the top of life, paying attention to things outside himself when they interested him; Mathilde was always looking out — looking out for Lotto and their survival.

The tone and energy of each of the halves was deliciously different. The author thought of the stories as two books (à la Mr. Bridge and Mrs. Bridge), but I agree with the editor: putting the volumes together was the right move. Not only did it require both halves to be read as a single tale, but it also required them both to be spare enough to comprise a single novel.

This interesting tale, a "he said/she said" story full of contradictions, was not flawless. The third-person narrator is unnecessarily interrupted by a Greek chorus, omnipotent and occasionally foretelling (which, only on a rare occasion, was welcome). The author used very specific words, which I looked up with a click on my Kindle — and I am still pondering the value of that specificity against the distraction. I love new language, but I almost felt as if Groff handed me a box of vocabulary words.

The ending felt abrupt, so I overthought it and completely misread it. Thankfully, the author was able to set me straight after I met her at her lecture, and I could enjoy it even more.

I am a fan of Groff and enjoyed this novel. I would recommend it, and her other two novels: The Monsters of Templeton and Arcadia. I'll soon be reading her short story selection Delicate Edible Birds, too.

So, are you more Lotto or Mathilde?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Summer Reading Update from Karen: Reading Off the List, Off the Chart

The days are getting cooler, and our intrepid fellow reader, Karen, has updated us on her summer reading.

Karen reported that she, too, has veered from her reading list. (Unlike anyone else I know who adheres so well to the list constructed with best intentions and good wishes.)

Back to Karen: her reading was off the list, but also off the charts!

Well, I will let her tell it herself.

I ended up way off my reading list this time, but I enjoyed the adventure. In fact, I think this is the longest list I have completed.  I really love my Amazon Kindle Fire.  I am having some vision issues-oh my aging eyes! Luckily the lighted screen on my Fire makes it so much easier to read.
Books read: 

  • Lord Grenville's Choice 
  • A Love That Never Tires 
  • The Red Tent 
  • 32 Going on Spinster 
  • Somewhere in Time 
  • Slim Pickins in Fat Chance, Texas 
  • Salmon Fishing in the Yemen 
  • Tuesday Takes Me There: The Healing Journey of a Veteran and his Service Dog 
  • The Girl With all the Gifts 
  • Clapton: the Autobiography 
  • The Lincoln Penny 
  • House of Reckoning 
  • The Long Walk 
  • Zoo 2 
  • Deep Summer 
  • Chez Stinky 
  • Finders Keepers 
  • Hard Listening: The Greatest Rock Band Ever (of Authors) Tells All 
  • Lightning Rider 
  • Ellie Jordan Ghost Tracker 
  • The Heartbroker 
  • The Waiting Booth 
  • Thursdays at Coconuts 
  • The Haunting of Blackwood House 
  • Learning to Ride 
  • The Bone Labyrinth 
  • The Midnight Watch 
  • Genesis 
  • Exodus 
  • Leviticus 
  • Numbers 
  • Deuteronomy
  • The Mating Season 
  • Highland Archer 
  • Sacking the Quarterback 
  • The McCullagh Inn in Maine

My favorites were Ellie Jordan Ghost Tracker and The Haunting of Blackwood House.  They were exciting and scary.  I did have to leave on lights to sleep.  I liked the satisfying endings in both books.  Everyone ended up getting what they deserved and/or needed.  The characters were believable.  I felt like I was in the story. 

My least favorites were Slim Pickins in Fat ChanceTexas and Thursdays at Coconuts.  Both were boring to me.  The characters were dull and uninteresting.  Especially in Thursdays at Coconuts; I was annoyed by the characters' behavior.  Drinking and driving and infidelity.  Not to my liking at all.

 By my count, Karen read 36 books this summer. Not bad, slugger: you beat me!

For her hard work of reading, Karen will receive a book of her choice, in the format she chooses. Karen, just let me know!

So, how about you: what did you read this summer? Let me know what you read and how you liked it, and you may win a book!

I will report on my reading soon! Until then