"Outside a dog a book is man's best friend, inside a dog it is too dark to read!" -Groucho Marx========="The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid." -Jane Austen========="I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book."-JK Rowling========"I spend a lot of time reading." -Bill Gates=========“Ahhh. Bed, book, kitten, sandwich. All one needed in life, really.” -Jacqueline Kelly=========

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Friday Quotes...April 1

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now

Book title: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters

Book Beginning: 
July 1, 1923: I drew a deep breath and marched into the woods behind my house with a two-barreled pistol hidden beneath my blue cotton skirt.
Friday 56: 
'People shut me up at my trial,' Joe had told me at the pond. 'No one, not even my own lawyer, let me speak, as if they'd all gotten paid to keep me quiet.'
Comment: I am pretty excited to start this book, set in Oregon, my state of origin. It deals with the topics of racism and the Ku Klux Klan. It is also a re-imagining of Hamlet.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A chain reaction leads to...

It is one of those things that led to this and that and finally dumped me out here.

Let me explain.

Today a girl checked out her second Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett

She seemed pretty excited about it and so I showed her the map of all the Discworld novels and what comes after/before what. It is very confusing. She and I pondered it for a minute and decided that it probably doesn't matter which novel she reads next. They all seem to work back to each other.

I showed her a photocopy of this reading map
After she left the library I thought about Terry Pratchett and what a pity it is that he is gone and there will be no new Discworld novels to entertain us again. Of course that is silly of me to get all sentimental since I've only read two of the Discworld novels, both from the Tiffany Aching sub series (the purple YA blocks on the diagram.) And I didn't read those in order either. If I really cared I should be running to the shelves to pick up The Color of Magic, a good starting book for the series.

Still thinking of Terry Pratchett and his Discworld series as I drove home, I wondered if other people would like listening to the audio of The Shepherd's Crown, his last novel, if they hadn't read anything else by him. My thoughts had wandered to audiobooks because I was mentally compiling a list of my recent favorites.

As I walked into the house I instantly went to my computer to locate a blog post I wrote about my favorite audiobooks of 2015. On that post I had added links to audio files of all the books. As I listened to the clip of The Shepherd's Crown narrated by Stephen Briggs I was struck by this question, Was Briggs the narrator of all Pratchett's Discworld novels?

I never did find out the answer to that question, though I think the answer is yes. But I don't really care anymore because I found this wonderful tribute to Pratchett by Briggs. Please watch it. It is only 5 minutes and quite magical. The narrator speaks...

Terry Pratchett and Stephen Briggs became great friends as they worked on so many projects together. It makes me smile to think about collaborations. Check out Stephen Briggs' website.

See how it goes? One student innocently checks out a book.
Then I think about the author and the narrator of his audiobooks on and off all day.
I dig around to find out some answers.
This is my favorite kind of research.

Monday, March 28, 2016

TTT: 5-Star books read in 2016, so far

Top Ten Tuesday: Books with 5-star ratings.
Note: I have read 33 books in 2016 of these I gave 5-star ratings to 11 of the books, one third. Oddly they represent mostly nonfiction and poetry books. Apparently I am pretty picky and stingy with my 5-star ratings for fiction so far this year. 

In reverse order by date:

1. Teaching with Fire: Poetry that Sustains the Courage to Teach
Edited by Sam Intrator and Megan Scribner
A favorite poetry book. 
One side of each page contains a small story how the educator is inspired by a particular poem. the other side of the page contains the poem. 
Reread: March 10th

2. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
A memoir. 
Ruth grew up in a polygamous  family and community. this is her story and how she got out. Riveting. 
Completed: March 9th

3. Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World Which Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Ms. Cain pulls together all kinds of research on introversion/extroversion. This book gave me a lot of insights into my daughter and several of my students who are introverts. It lent itself to an excellent book club discussion.
Audio and Print.
Completed: March 3rd.

4. The Voice that Challenged a Nation: Marion Anderson and the Struggle for Equal Rights 
by Russell Freedman
A YA nonfiction book about the famous African American singer who wasn't allowed to sing in an auditorium in Washington D.C. because of her color, so Eleanor Roosevelt had her sing at the Lincoln Memorial. This act help bring about equality in the Arts.
Completed: March 1st.

5. Enormous Smallness: a Story of E.E. Cummings by Matthew Burgess
Nonfiction picture book for children.
I've always liked his poems and now I love them. What a treat!
Completed: Feb. 29th.

6. Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden
Housden's explanations and descriptions make poetry accessible to me. I've read all his poetry books and now am rereading them.
Reread: Feb 28th.

7. Scottsboro, Alabama: A Story in Linoleum Cuts by Lin Shi Khan
Nonfiction. Art.
Another Black History Month read. This one is about an event which occurred in the 1930s which gained international attention, if it hadn't it would probably be another lynching story.
Fascinating and horrifying.
Completed: Feb. 23rd.

8. War Dances by Sherman Alexie
Short stories, poems, and essays.
Alexie shines the light on what it is like growing up Native American.
Funny and disturbing by turn.
Audiobook, read by the author.
Completed: Feb. 23rd.

9. Felicity by Mary Oliver
A slim volume full of poems about love by a favorite poet.
Completed: Jan. 27th.

10. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings by Margarita Engle
A memoir, written in verse.
The poetry in this memoir is exquisite.
Completed: Jan 24th

11. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The only fiction book on my list and it is a good one. A Pulitzer Prize winner for good reason.
Completed: Jan 20th.

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and Bookish

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Sunday Salon...Happy Easter

Happy Easter!

I am writing this blog post a day early since tomorrow is Easter and it promises to be a busy day.  I have a lot to share this week.

Weather: It is sunny right now, Saturday afternoon but around here that doesn't mean anything. Rain is a constant threat around here this time of year.

Holy Week: It was a full week of preparations for Easter. Wednesday we attended a concert at PLU of St. Matthew's passion. The program, Matthauspassion by Sven-David Sandstrom, was in German and included four soloists, a quartet of singers, a large choir, and a full orchestra. The next night we had a Maundy Thursday communion and a tenebrae (Latin for darkness or shadows) service to commemorate the Last Supper of Jesus with his disciples and the events that happened after it that led to the Crucifixion of Jesus. Then last night we were back at church to go through the stations of the cross, taking the opportunity to prepare ourselves spiritually for Easter. Taking the three events together I feel my heart turning toward the cross and prepared for Easter, or Christ risen.

Sad day: Tuesday we all arrived to school to learn that one of our students had committed suicide the day before. I knew this young man. He was a reader. He participated in all my library activities. He had just signed up to participate in the Cavalcade of Authors West event the end of April. Just the week before his death he had selected his sessions for the Cavalcade and had acted excited about going. His counselor had met with him about his college plans. He had a girl friend. He was doing well in his classes. Obviously something snapped, but it appeared he had all the pieces put together. All of us were caught unawares. We, his friends and teachers, spent the day in a fog of grief. Such a sad, sad day. What a sad end to a promising life. The juxtaposition of his death with meaning of Holy Week, a time of redemption, makes me doubly sad.

Kathy here: My sister came up for a few days and participated in many of the events of the week with us. We sat together at the Matthauspassion program and had a hard time staying awake. The hour was late, it didn't end until after 10:30 PM, and quite meditative. The combination was soporific on us! Ha! She also came up to school to see me in action one day. She even watched me teach a session on research in a junior US History class. She accompanied me to book club and sat through a discussion of a book which she hadn't read, Running the Rift. Thanks for the visit, Kath!

Before the Easter Bunny, there was the Easter Dinosaur...or that is what it seemed: Today our neighborhood hosted a big egg hunt. Participating houses put out a balloon, which indicated that the yard could be searched for eggs. At an appointed hour young neighbors ran through our yards looking for eggs. A half hour later, older children came through and cleaned up. As we were leaving the neighborhood en route to the Democratic Caucuses, we saw a group of children being led from house to house by a huge dinosaur. We all had a good laugh about that vision. Carly thought it had a very Easterish message... all the dinosaurs had to die so we could live (on fossil fuels.) Ha!

Democratic Caucus today: The three of us did our civic duty today and attended a caucus today in our precinct. The caucus system leaves a lot of the electorate out of the process but it does give the attendees a chance to speak their peace.

Books completed this week:
  • Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot... not sure I loved the poems in this volume, though they do contain some wonderful and quotable phrases.
  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainier Maria Rilke...not what I expected, which I thought was mostly writing advice. This book contains advice on a whole host of subjects, including sex. Ha!
  • Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron...a book club selection. We had a very good discussion on this book on Wednesday mostly centered around the Rwandan Genocide.
  • Shipwrecked! The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy by Rhoda Blumberg... a gem of a book I found hidden on my library shelf when I was doing inventory this week about the first Japanese man to come to America.
Currently reading:
  • The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg...admittedly I haven't read a page of this book all week but I am determined to finish it. Progress: 33% (I said the same thing last week.)
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton...I have finally started this book (just barely) which is my Classics Club selection. 
  • Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart...another book club selection and my current audiobook. This book is a mystery set in 1914 New Jersey. Progress:33%
  • Teaching with Heart: poems that speaks to the courage to teach edited by Intrator and Scribner
Starting to make plans for Spring vacation...which will be a staycation this year. Ours plans for a trip to somewhere warm and relaxing fell through so now we are making creative plans for doing activities close to home. More on this next week.

Happy Easter!

Friday, March 25, 2016

This might cure me of this crazy poetry craze... or not

So I just finished reading Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot, a classic in poetry. The only problem, I have no idea what the poems are about. None. I think this is an example of the types of poems which turn people off to poetry. About halfway through the collection I decided to quit trying to understand the poems and to just look for phrases that spoke to me.  When I switched the focus suddenly the poems came alive. Here are a few of my favorite phrases and my thoughts about them:

“Love is most nearly itself
When here and now cease to matter.” 

I love the idea that love places on a different plain. We can operate in a different realm.

“Humankind cannot bear very much reality.” 

It seems that this an completely accurate phrase. Think of the events of this week with the bombings in Brussels, and the stupid things Trump has said. I know at some point I just shut down and have trouble with too much reality and I jump into a book or a Jane Austen movie for escape.

“We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.” 

We can travel the world over but there is no place like home. (Ever feel that way after a vacation?)

“Footfalls echo in the memory
down the passage we did not take
towards the door we never opened
into the rose garden. My words echo
thus, in your mind” 

I often think about the "what-ifs" of life. What if I had done this instead or that? What if I went here instead of there? What if I could redo that regret? These thoughts certainly echo in my mind.

“For last year's words belong to last year's language 
And next year's words await another voice.” 
There is a political message in this phrase. I understand that the Black community in the South is sick of all the Civil Rights leaders of the 1960s being dragged out to speak about this issue or that when this generation needs a new voice.

“Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.” 
“Only through time time is conquered” 
― T.S. EliotFour Quartets

Not sure I can explain these phrases mean but it blows my mind to think about them.

“All time is unredeemable.” 

But this phrase about time is quite clear. We can't get back those wasted hours or days when we squandered our time on frivolous pursuits.

“Every phrase and every sentence is an end and a beginning, every poem an epitaph.” 

This is a nice wrap-up for this blog post. It reminds me there is beauty and power in the written word if I am willing to do the gleaning.

Don't give up on poetry, just dig in a find a few gems hidden within them to inspire you today and always. I am living proof it works. A poetry book, Four Quartets, was inaccessible to me until I changed my focus.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Friday Quotes, March 24, 2016

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now:

Book Title: Girl Waits With Gun by Amy Stewart

Book Beginnings:
Our troubles began the summer of 1914, the year I turned thirty-five. The Archduke of Austria had just been assassinated, the Mexicans were revolting, and absolutely nothing was happening at our house, which explains why all three of us were riding to Paterson on the most trivial of errands.

Friday 56:
I had made one small miscalculation in confronting Mr. Kaufman and brought a little trouble our way as a result.

Comment: The book is based on a real story about a woman who became the first female deputy sheriff. So far I am enjoying it.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Rilke and Kingsolver

(Please don't abandon me while I work out my current poetry craze. I don't anticipate it will last much longer.)

Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke
     Though Rilke is one of the most admired poets of the twentieth century, this small book is often what he is remembered for. It is a collection of ten letters written to a young man from his Alma Mater, Franz Kappus. Herr Kappus wanted to be a poet and wrote to Rilke asking the poet to critique his poems. Rilke never did critique the poems instead, in a series of ten letters, he gave Kappus all kinds of advice on things like women's rights, solitude, self-esteem, dealing with grief, love, and even sex. The most memorable and remarkable advice, however, was on writing and finding one's own voice and style. Many students read this small collection of letters today for the writing advice that Rilke gave Kappus over 100 years ago.
     My first thought is this book deserves more than a cursory look. If you are interested in writing advice, I would suggest buying a copy for yourself (as compared to a library copy) so you can take notes in the margins. My second thought, this book contained a whole lot more advice than I was expecting. It was almost shocking when I got to the letters about sex. It makes me laugh to think of my reaction. Obviously some of his advice is outdated but compared to many men of his day the advice was very progressive for his day. Read the book with a grain of salt for that reason.
     My last thought, though we never see Kappus' original letters we get the idea what each was about from Rilke's thoughtful replies. If every educator took requests for advice and help as seriously as Rilke did we would have such a different society. Rilke encouraged Kappus to look into his own heart for answers. He urged him to find a quiet spot to think and ponder. He wanted Kappus to be a good, happy, and fulfilled person...a complete person.
     The book is only 80 pages which includes the end notes. I think it is well worth the time to read it. A friend of mine, an English teacher, encouraged me to read it, saying it was one of her favorite books. Now I encourage you to do likewise.

A favorite quote from the first letter written in response to Kappus asking for a critique of his poems:
You are looking outwards, and of all things that is what you must not do. nobody can advise and help you, nobody. There is only one single means. Go inside yourself. Discover the motive that bids you write; examine whether it sends its roots down to the deepest paces of your heart, confess to yourself whether you would die if writing were denied you. 
Rilke, Rainer Maria. Letters to a Young Poet. Mineola, New York: Dover Publications. 2002. Print.

Another America/Otra America by Barbara Kingsolver
     In the introduction to this poetry collection, Another America, Kingsolver says she has the hardest time thinking of herself as a poet, yet she writes beautiful poetry about very hard subjects. The poems are so deep and serious I found myself having to pause to either flinch or to ponder over them. Many of the poems deal with the topic of illegal immigration and what is done to people who attempt to enter our country illegally. Other poems are political in nature.  While others deal with the topic of violence toward women. Kingsolver, who has never shied away from speaking out the truth, is calling us to attention with these poems.
     Margaret Randall, in the book's Forward, says that poetry has long been a tool of resistance, sounding the clarion's call. She says that Kingsolver, like so many other poets before her, is "a keeper of the faith, particularly in times of grief." She goes on to say,
For once, back when we were young, some of us believed that poetry could change the world. We meant this literally and metaphorically. I am one who has not forgotten, who still believes, who knows without qualifying the statement that we will change this world---with our poems and with our lives. That we must change it, or there will be no world left to change.
     The title, Another America, was chosen by Kingsolver. When she moved from Kentucky to Arizona, she expected to be greeted by dry, hot days and lots of cactus. What she hadn't expected to find was a whole other America in the southwest desert. "This desert that burned with raw beauty had a fence built around to divide north from south. I'd stumbled upon a borderland where people perished of heat by day and cold hostility at night. This is where poetry and adulthood commenced for me."
     An so poetry poured out of her. Poems which cry out to be heard, to be noticed, to make a difference. Raw, angry, sad, beautiful, ugly, all crackling this life and pain. Published in 1992 and republished in 1998 with Spanish translations, one would think this collection to be outdated but that is not the case. This year, a campaign year, we have a presidential candidate bragging if he becomes President he will build a wall so high no one can get over it and any illegal immigrants will be deported, no questions asked. No, we have not learned and little has changed these past twenty years.
     But with poetry there comes hope. Kingsolver concludes her comments in the Introduction with this, "But when I want to howl and cry and laugh all at once, I'll raise up a poem to the darkness. This is my testament to two Americas, and the places I've found, or made, or dreams, in between."

Kingsolver, Barbara. Another America/ Otra America. Seattle: Seal Press. 1998. Print. (Translated into Spanish by Rebeca Cartes.)

Monday, March 21, 2016

TTT: Books I really love (but rarely gush about)

Broke and Bookish is the hosting site for Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I love, but you might not know it since I rarely gush about them.
I've hyperlinked my review, if I wrote one, so you can really catch the love!
1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Mariel Barbery
I was struck by the language used in this beautifully written and exquisitely translated book. I read it with a dictionary nearby and I still loved it.
2. The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
If you don't know how much I adore this book, it is only because I can't fit it onto every TTT list. This book is so-o funny. If you haven't read it, you are missing a great one.

3. Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
OK, you probably do know how special I think this book is because I do mention it whenever I can.

4. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
This is the most geektastic book I've ever read. EVER!

5. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Funny, funny, funny.

6. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
My daughter and I quote from this book often. The plot is so zany and different, there is lots to love.

7. Couch by Benjamin Parzybok
Lord of the Rings except with a couch. Can you tell I like quirky books?

8. The Book of Lost Things by John Connolley
I used to mention this book quite often but haven't done so recently. This is a nearly perfect book.
9. The Plot Against America by Philip Roth
"The novel is sinister, vivid, dreamlike, preposterous and, at the same time, creepily plausible." -NYT Review
Crazy good yet I don't think I've mentioned it here on my blog that often.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Salon, March 20, 2016

Weather: Overcast and grey. Yesterday was lovely, though. It seemed that all our neighbors were out working in their yards which is a clear sign that spring is here! Update, since I started writing this blog, it has started raining. Sigh.

Death of a family friend: My Dad's best friend, Charlie, died this past week. They have been friends for over fifty years. In their retirement these two friends would get together several times a week to talk and laugh. Just about every time I have visited my parents in the last ten years or so, we have seen Charlie and his beautiful wife Lorraine. His death is such a poignant reminder that the clock is ticking. Today I shed tears for my father because he lost a good friend.

University of Oregon Basketball: When one thinks of UO sports, Football usually comes to mind. But this week there is excitement over the men's basketball team which were selected as a #1 seed in the NCAA tournament (of 64 teams.) They play their second game today. You bet we will be watching.

Graduate school interviews: Today Carly is flying out for her first of four graduate school interviews hoping for a slot in a Genetic Counseling program. Keep your positive thoughts and prayers heading her way.

Jane Austen Week: This past week was the tenth annual Jane Austen Week in the library at my school. I showed the Sense and Sensibility DVD which features Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman. It was a little too long for the event, since I have to divide it up to fit into the 1/2 hour lunch period for five days, so I didn't have as much time for trivia and games as I have in the past. The students who stuck it out for all five days really seemed to enjoy it, one group even cheered when they learned that Edward hadn't married Fanny afterall.

For your listening enjoyment: Listen as you read the rest of my blog post, "My Father's Favorite" from the Sense and Sensibility movie:

Book completed this week:
  • Another America by Barbara Kingsolver...a poetry collection by a favorite author. All, and I mean all, of the poems deal with very serious subjects like rape and poor treatment of immigrants. This was a tough read.
Books currently reading (I have a lot of books partially read on my bedside table right now. I hope to finish all of them this week):
  • Four Quartets by T.S. Eliot... this slim volume of poems has long been on my TBR pile. Progress 25%
  • Letters to a Young Poet by Rainier Maria Rilke...another classic I've had my eye on for years. Progress 80%
  • Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron...my book club selection for this coming Wednesday. I got started on the audiobook too late and worry I may not finish in time for our meeting. Progress: 64%
  • Shipwrecked! The True Adventures of a Japanese Boy by Rhoda Blumberg... a gem of a book I found hidden on my library shelf when I was doing inventory this week. Progress: 40%
  • The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Konigsberg...admittedly I haven't read a page of this book all week but I am determined to finish it. Progress: 33%
Classics Club Spin book:
  • The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. This will be my fourth Classics club spin book I've read in a year. The spin rules: list 20 classic books, number 1-20. Someone at the Classics Club website spins and announces the "winning" number. Look down your list to see what book you will read. The winning spin number was 8. The Age of Innocence was in the number eight slot on my list. I had hoped to start the book by the end of the weekend but I am still stuck in the middle of five other books (see above) and I want to finish them before I launch into this book. 
Served lunch for homeless folks today: Don and I served lunch at a homeless center today after helping make the sandwiches after church. We served a very simple meal: ham or turkey sandwiches, 
bananas, chips, and Oreo cookies. Afterwards we went out to lunch with another couple who also served food to the homeless folks with us. The irony was not lost on any of us and we commented on it as we munched our sandwiches and soup, or burgers and fries.
Today is Palm Sunday: a day of celebration on the church calendar. Our church celebrated by including children in the service by leading a processional with palm branches and in song. Hallelujah! This week is considered Holy Week with Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.  Next Sunday is Easter! I can't believe it is already here.

Prayers for: 
  • Carly and her Graduate School interview at University of Utah.
  • Dave W. who had a heart-related event at church and had to rush to the hospital.
  • Lorraine, Charlie's widow and for my dad, who lost a friend. 
Batman puzzle: a teacher donated this puzzle to the library. I thought we'd better try it out at home first. Working on it is bringing back lots of memories of reading comics when I was a kid. (see above.)

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Friday Quotes, March 18

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
The Friday 56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

Check out the links for the rules and for the posts of the participants each week. Participants don't select their favorite, coolest, or most intellectual books, they just use the one they are currently reading. This is the book I'm reading right now:

14569046Title: Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron

Book Beginning: 
1984- Jean Patrick was already awake, listening to the storm, when Papa opened the door and stood by the side of the bed. Rain hissed at the windows and roared against the corrugated roof, and Jean Patrick huddled closer to his brother Roger for warmth.
Friday 56: 
'You are old enough to understand now. A shadow of fear follows me wherever I go. I can't remember a time since I was a young child when both eyes slept at the same time.' She stepped across the rutted earth, the basin steady atop the ingata. 'We cannot forget we're Tutsi, eh? It's a curse but also a blessing.' She leaned her weight into the hill as if pushing against an opponent.

Comments: Set in Rwanda before, during, and after the genocide of almost a whole culture, the Tutsi tribe, Jean Patrick has a dream to be an Olympic athlete, but he is a Tutsi. Will he be able to survive long enough to run his race? I am about a third of the way through the book and I am bracing for the horrors i know are ahead. I haven't read many books set in Africa and I am enjoying all the cultural references, which includes words and foods,

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Poems from the Book of Hours by Rainier Maria Rilke


I am feeling a little ripped-off right now. I just finished reading the tiny volume, Poems from the Book of Hours by Rainier Maria Rilke. The book is published by New Directions and translated by Babette Deutsch. It is a mere 51 pages long with poems appearing in the original German on one side of the page and the English translation on the other.

Two thoughts entered my head as I read through the collection. 1) I had no idea that Rilke held such different religious views from the mainstream and 2) I wondered why everyone is so crazy for this poet. I found most of the poems to be uninspiring and, frankly, confusing. My overall reading experience was "meh."

Then I visited Goodreads to read the reviews and I couldn't believe what I discovered. Everyone was gushing about the poems, the poet, and the translator. A few of the reviewers said they had originally read the book from a library book but had to purchase their own copy to keep. Several other people quoted lines from their favorite poems. This caused me to turn back to the book to look for those particular poems wondering if I had been half asleep when I read them since I remembered none of them. After a thorough investigation I discovered the favorite poems listed by other readers were not included in my volume. So the publisher, New Direction, included all the uninspiring poems and left out all the good ones? What a bummer.

The very first reviewer on Goodreads says her favorite poem, "I am praying again, Awesome One"
(Ich bete wieder, du Elauchter) is in the book. Nope, it is not. I've looked three times. Too bad, because I really like the sounds of the opening stanza:

You hear me again, as words
from the depths of me

rush toward you in the wind.

So maybe this one reviewer got confused. I continued to check for more mentioned poems.  The very next poem mentioned by a reviewer, "Widening Circles" is not in this volume, either. Another pity. This one (I found it online) is short but good but not in my volume unfortunately.

I live my life in widening circles

that reach out across the world.
I may not complete this last one 
but I give myself to it.

A third reviewer mentions another poem which I dearly want to read because it sounds fantastic. But, alas, it is not in this book, either. She quoted this stanza from a poem she didn't name:

We become so accustomed to you, 
we no longer look up

when your shadow falls over the book we are reading
and makes it glow. For all things
sing you: at times
we just hear them more clearly. 

OK, I did find one reviewer who mentioned a poem which is actually in this volume. But by now I am so disgusted with this book I hardly notice. 

Do not, I repeat, do not read this volume of Rilke's poems. Take the time to read the complete Book of Hours, Love Poems to God, not this badly abridged version. But, I might add, based on the three examples from above, I really do want to read the complete Book of Hours some day just not today. I need my anger to simmer down a bit.

 Avoid this particular version:
 Rilke, Rainier Maria. Poems from the Book of Hours. New Directions: New York. (1941) 1975. ISBN: 9780811205955

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Classics Club Spin book: Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

I am embarking on reading another Classics Club spin book. This time the spinner stopped on #8 which, on my list,  was Edith Wharton's The Age of Innocence. Written in 1920 this book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1921. I'm actually pretty excited to dig into this classic. Here are a few gems I gleaned from Spark Notes (at least I admit it!):
  • Edith Wharton was 57 when she wrote The Age of Innocence. 
  • She was living as an expatriate in Paris after WWI and was concerned with what she saw was happening in the world as it moved toward a more modern, mechanical age.
  • She grew up in New York to a very wealthy family. She enjoyed all the benefits that her station in life and wealth could afford but she still saw that her life was very confined by the societal confines put on her. 
  • In the book she called people, like her own family, Old New York. 
  • "To Wharton, Old New York imposed on its members set rules and expectations for practically everything: manners, fashions, behaviors, and even conversations. Those who breached the social code were punished, with exquisite politeness, by the other members."
  • She was unhappily married to a man, thirteen years her senior. From her experiences, it is believed, she formed her character Ellen Oleska, who had to face the temptations of adultery and the horrors of divorce.
  • Wharton was awarded the Pulitzer Prize under a cloud of controversy. Two of the members of the selection committee wanted to award Lewis' Main Street as the winner, but the chairman overturned their decision and gave the award to Wharton for its “wholesome atmosphere of American life and the highest standard of American manners and manhood.” Wharton wondered if they had understood the book at all (Reader's Almanac).
So now I dig in and see what the book shall reveal to me. The version I am reading is 380 pages long. I have seven weeks in which to finish it, if I am able to complete it by the deadline of May 2nd. If I stay on schedule that is 55 pages a week, a very doable goal.

I'm off to find a cozy spot for an afternoon of reading.

Works Cited

"The Age of Innocence." SparkNotes. SparkNotes, n.d. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.
"A Controversial Pulitzer Prize Brings Edith Wharton and Sinclair Lewis Together." Reader's Almanac. The Library of America, 28 June 2011. Web. 15 Mar. 2016.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: TBR Pile for Spring

Hosted at Broke and Bookish
Top Ten Tuesday: Books on my Spring TBR pile, with an update from my last TBR list.

In the January 18 TTT I listed these book on my new year TBR pile. Here is my update on how I did:
 1. Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Perez
Completed January 28th.
2. The Porcupine of Truth by Bill Koningsberg
Currently reading
3. Enchanted Air by Margarite Engle
Completed January 24th.
4. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Checked out from the library, haven't started yet
6. Running the Rift by Naomi Benaron
Currently reading, for book club this month
9. Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Completed February 17th.
11. The Sound of Gravel by Ruth Wariner
Completed March 9th.

Of the eleven books I listed, I have made progress on seven of them. Not bad, huh?
Now here are books on my Spring TBR pile (some are still on the pile from Winter.)

1. Girl Waits with Gun by Amy Stewart
A book club selection which will be held at my house and I'll be in charge of the discussion.
2. Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
I am adding this book back onto the list. I love the author and the topic sounds fascinating.

3. Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
I just received the audiobook of this new YA title.
4. My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout
Another book club selection for this Spring
5. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
This is my Classics Club Spin Selection for the Spring.
6. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
This YA book is physically on a pile of books I am readying for Spring Break week.
7. The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters
A new historical YA title set in Oregon, deals with racial issues. Another Spring Break read?
8. Another America, poetry by Barbara Kingsolver
I'm into reading poetry lately. One of Kingsolver's books I've never read.
9. The Memory of Light by Francisco Stork
Stork is one of my favorite YA authors because he takes such an ethical approach to his writing. I am looking forward to reading his latest book.
10.  Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
OK. I have it checked out but haven't read it. I still want to get to it soon.