"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=========

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A night (and a season) with Sherman Alexie and two reviews

Last night was the culminating author event for this year's Pierce County Reads.  Five books by Sherman Alexie were the suggested readings for this annual, weeks long, county wide book event. In early February the Tacoma News Tribune and the Pierce County Library system announced their unprecedented choice -- to read multiple works by an author, instead of just one of his books. I had read his award-winning YA novel, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian,  several years ago so I decided to focus on the other selections. Don and I both read/listened to the audiobooks of War Dances and Flight. Both are classic Alexie:  irreverent, funny, sad, angry, and connecting his readers with the American Indian experience today.

War Dances is a 2010 Pen/Faulkner Award winning collection of short stories, poems, and essays. The opening story, "Breaking and Entering", made the biggest impact on me. B&E forces us to face the many angles of racism. A young African American teenager breaks into a home to steal whatever he can. The homeowner, a Native American, is working from home and surprises the burglar armed with a baseball bat for protection. The would-be thief lunges at the homeowner, who swings the bat and connects with the young man's head, killing him. Suddenly the victim becomes perpetrator...an assumedly white man taking another black teen's life. When the man attempts to correct the record about his own race, he appears calloused and self-centered. Everything goes wrong.

Don and I listened to most of this book on our way home from a long weekend in Vancouver, B.C. I remember listening to the story above while we were in the longest, slowest border crossing coming back into the US. The long lines reminded me how much we have come to distrust other people today. Just like in the story. Alexie read his own work for the audiobook and I enjoy listening to him speak, and the cadence of his voice. Don and I found we had a lot to talk about in between stories and poems, making our trip home a bit less tedious.

Flight---The protagonist of Flight is a 15-year-old foster care drop out who is half Indian. He answers to the name "Zits". Angry and lonely, Zits is well-known to the police. When he teams up with a boy aptly named Justice, whom he meets in jail, Zits thinks he has finally found a friend. What he finds instead is even bigger trouble as he decides to shoot up and rob a Seattle bank. At this point in the book -- just when you think Zits is dead -- he takes flight and time-travels back to specific, earlier points in American history where he experiences events that have fueled his anger and frustrations. Instead of dying in the bank that day, Zits gains insights which will serve him well in a new and different future, one in which he even enjoys a real name.

If you have not read Sherman Alexie, I should warn you that he does not spare profanity in his writing. Alexie would probably say these are just words. Zits is an angry young man with good reason:  he's been abandoned by his parents, society, and his culture. The ample profane language makes sense, yet still induces some shock. I really like the way this story comes back around, making a full circle, leading Zits to the way out of his situation. If only everyone was so lucky!

One funny note about the audiobook of Flight. The voice actor, Adam Beach, kept mispronouncing a word. One of the settings in which Zits finds himself is at the Battle of Little Big Horn, Beach kept pronouncing the word CAVALRY as CALVARY. Don and I couldn't believe the editors of the audiobook never picked it up and fixed it. There is quite a difference between the two words. Ha!

I am never quite sure if I should say I "like" Alexie's books. Did I like these two books? Hmm. I am not sure, but I certainly did appreciate their messages and I'm glad I read them.

The Shepherd of the Hill book club discussed Alexie and his books during our April meeting. Most of the women selected The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian from the five choices, a YA novel many think is semi-autobiographical about a young Indian boy growing up on a reservation outside Spokane. When the main character decides to attend high school off the reservation, a line is drawn in the sand. Junior is no longer fully accepted at home on the "Res" (pronounced Rez) and the only other Indian at his high school is the school mascot. He becomes a half-time Indian.  I was surprised at the turn the book discussion took. Many gals said they didn't like the tone of Alexie's books. He seemed too angry, they thought. Helen, the host in charge of leading the discussion, kept trying to bring the discussion back around to the story. We ultimately were able to sway the thinking of some members to a more compassionate point of view. Alexie allows himself to be a lightning rod, drawing attention to issues American Indians face in our society. Often, his writing is very provocative, intended to make readers feel uncomfortable (especially, people who are white and relatively affluent!).

During the evening with Sherman Alexie last night, unlike other author events I've attended, Alexie talked very little about his books or even about writing. He mainly told humorous and poignant stories and related how he collects stories from everyday life experiences, some disturbing, all thought provoking. In the end he drew all his stories together by emphasizing how important books and reading are to transport and transform lives. "The smartest and most compassionate people," he said, "are those who read the most." He ended the evening with the chant, "BOOKS! BOOKS! BOOKS!"

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Friday Quotes, April 29

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: Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

Book Beginnings:
When Anna Lania woke on the morning of the sixth of November in the year 1939---her seventh---there were several things she did not know: (several paragraphs follow with the list of things she does not know.)
Friday 56 (Actually page 64): 
"I know it is. The thing is, I'm trying to teach you a whole new language. My language: Road. And in Road there's more than one way to say everything. It's very tricky."
Comments: Set in Poland at the beginning of WWII, Anna is left abandoned when the Nazis take her father. She doesn't know what to do or whom to trust. Her father was a linguist and taught Anna several languages but now that he is gone she has to learn a new language: Road. It is the language "spoken" by the Swallow Man. Since I've only read a few pages so far, I don't know who he is.

I have several friends who are sick of reading WWII fiction. I haven't had my fill of them yet. How about you?

Monday, April 25, 2016

TTT: Bookworm Delights

Hosted by Broke and Bookish
Top Ten Tuesday: Bookish Delights that really make my day.

1. When students get excited about a book I place on hold just for them!
Occasionally I will place holds on books for particular readers in hopes they will like it or want to read it. It really toots my horn if they get all excited about it. This happened just today. A girl was so excited that I thought of her when I realized she hadn't read the 2nd book in the series in which she had read the first.

2. When people enjoy a book I recommended.
Similar to the first delight. I also like having a book in common with a friend

3. Discovering the title of the book within the text.
This just happened last week when I was reading the YA novel, The Memory of Light. The title was revealed in a poem...and you know how much I love poetry.

4. Sharing literary moments with my family members.
Example, my daughter and I attended an evening with Billy Collins, the poet, on Friday night. We will forever share the memory of that evening.

5. Book Clubs
I am in two clubs and love them both. I enjoy the discussions we have and the books we read that are often out of my comfort zone.

6. Perusing Indy Bookstores, including used bookstores.
I enjoy wandering around, reading the little recommendation cards, and noting the books on display. I almost always find some treasure.
7. Watching movies created from books after I've read them.
I especially like it when my husband leans over during the movie and whispers the question, "What happens next?" I like knowing the answer.

8. Discovering literary trinkets where I don't expect them.
A mug of famous first lines from books in a museum store; Jane Austen paper dolls in the paper/card shop; banned books earrings in a shop at the airport...

9. Literary trivia games.
I don't necessarily do that well on the games, but I sure enjoy the challenge.

10. Attending author events,
where the author not only talks about the research done for the book but reads aloud. (See also #4, because these events are best if family members are present, too.)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sunday Salon and Dewey 24 Hour Readathon Finale

Weather: Rain, thunder/lightning, hail.

Dewey 24 Hour Readathon (Modified): This weekend I participated in the readathon which was designed to take place in an actual 24 hour period. I decided to modify the plan and attempt to read for 24 hours over the whole weekend, Friday afternoon to Sunday night. It is currently 8:30 PM and if my calculations are correct I spent 21 1/2 hours actually reading or listening to an audiobook, a personal record. (And there are still a few hours in the day, so I may squeeze in another hour.)

My readathon details:
1. Hours spent reading: 21.5 to 22 hrs.
2. Books completed:

  • The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters (YA, print)
  • The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork. (YA, audio)
  • Sailing Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins. (Poetry)
  • All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness by Sheila Hamilton. (Nonfiction, memoir)
  • Blizzard: The Storm that Changed America by Jim Murphy. (Junior, nonfiction)
  • Jackaby by William Ritter. (YA, print)

3. Books started and my progress:
  • Lit Up: One Reporter, Three Schools, Twenty-Four Books That Can Change Lives by David Denby, page 48, 16%.
  • Golden Boys by Sonya Harnett, audiobook, track 13 of 31
4. Books I decided to abandon:
  • Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey. I've been working on this book for eight months. After reading an additional 30 pages or so this weekend I decided I am just not "into" it right now and will give myself permission to stop.
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. After reading two pages I made the decision to set this one aside. I will try it later in audiobooks.
5. My thoughts:
     After this weekend I realized something about myself, I don't usually dedicate long periods of time to reading. For someone who thinks of herself as a reader, isn't it odd it took so long to gain this insight?

Billy Collins and Aimee Mann: Poetry and Music at the Broadway Center in Tacoma on Friday night. Pinch me. I love Billy Collins poetry. It was a perfect event for me this National Poetry Month. In preparation for the event I read his poetry collection Ballistics.

Faith in Action Weekend: In addition to the readathon, this weekend was our church's Faith in Action weekend where members fan out in the community to volunteer our services. I spent Saturday at the local Food Bank repackaging food. Sunday Carly and I worked on the Days for Girls project which is a sewing project to build kits for personal hygiene products for girls in impoverished areas of the world. We ended the day at a community meal and celebration. This is why I couldn't do the readathan all-day Saturday.

Next readathon is in October. Want to join me?

Dewey 24 Hour (Modified) Readathon Update

1st update:

Here I am several hours into my 24 hours readathon. I've modified the experience to include the whole week-end in an attempt to actually get in 24 hours of reading into a weekend already full of other activities. Here is my update:

Hours spent reading or listening to audiobooks so far: 6 1/2 hrs.

Books Completed: The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters.

Currently Reading and Progress made:
  • Sailing Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins. Currently on page 65, which is about 40% of the book. I went to see Billy Collins read his own poems last night. More on that later!
  • Jackaby by William Ritter. Currently on page 109, about 1/3rd of the way done. This author will be in Tacoma next Saturday for the Cavalcade of Authors West. I hope to meet him.
  • The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork. This is an audiobook. I listened to 2 1/2 hours of this yesterday and I have a little less than two hours left.
  • Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey. I've been working on this book for months but today I read around 20 pages. My goal is to complete at least two chapters of it this week-end.
  • Golden Boys by Sonya Harnett. Another audiobook. This is the one Carly and I listened to this driving and from the Billy Collins event last night. Progress: 40 minutes.
Now I am off to assist at the local food bank. Next update 6 pm PDT. Bye!

Update#2: What's new since my initial posting (Saturday, 8:30 PM)

Hours spent reading or listening to audiobooks since last update: 6 1/2 hrs. for a total of 13 hours so far.

Books completed:
  • The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork. This is an audiobook. I listened to last two hours of it en route to my volunteering position today and when I got home.
  • All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness by Sheila Hamilton. Wow. I learned a lot. I will review this book for you early next week.
Progress on other books:
  • Sailing Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins. Currently on page 93, only 20 or so pages since the last update. I may have to set this book aside until tomorrow morning. My brain is tracking on the poems tonight.
  • I've made no additional progress on the other books I reported earlier.
Up next:
  • Finish books I've currently started.
  • Lit Up by David Denby
  • Blizzard by Jim Murphy
  • The Bitter Side of Sweet by Tara Sullivan

I know lots of participants are entering hour 13+ in one day and I admire your strength to do the whole challenge in one day, but I am pretty proud of myself for the progress I have made and think it will be possible to actually read for a total of 24 hours this week-end. I've got plenty of reading materials. Believe me.

I'm back at it. Bye!

Update#3...What's new since my last update.  (Sunday, 11 AM)

Hours spent reading or listening to audiobooks since last update:  5 hrs. for a total of 18 hours.

Books Completed:

  • Jackaby by William Ritter. A YA paranormal mystery. Fun!
  • Blizzard: The Storm that Changed America by Jim Murphy. A Junior nonfiction book about the blizzard of 1888 in New York.
Progress on other books:

  • Sailing Around the Room: New and Selected Poems by Billy Collins. On page 152, 88%. I read out many poems to the family as we ate breakfast.
  • Vanishing Grace by Philip Yancey.  I finished a tedious chapter and have 20 pages left on the next chapter. It was my goal to get these two chapters finished today. Then I will be a little over half way done with the book.
I'm off to my second volunteering opportunity of the week-end. I hope I still have 6 hours of reading in me when I get home. Tootles!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Friday Quotes, April 22

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---

Title: Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-Four Books that Can Change Lives. by David Denby

Book Beginnings:
The First Days of English 10G: A teacher was speaking. "As we develop a community here, and I see you thinking about a text, your voice is as important as my voice. What you say is as important as what I say."
Friday 56:
The discussion turned to happiness. The people in Huxley's new world are drugged and sated. But is it real? Can there be such a thing as false happiness? "Leonardo," Mr. Leon said, "would you rather be unhappy or falsely happy?"
Comment: I WISH I had had a good English lit class. I hope to learn a ton from this book.

24-hour Readathon

I have decided to join in the fun and attempt to read for 24 hours this coming week-end.
Because of prescheduled activities on Saturday I've decided to extend my reading time from Friday through Sunday but hope to participate in a few of fun activities on Saturday.

Let the reading begin.
Stayed tuned. Watch my progress.

If you'd like to join up and read the official site visit:
Dewey 24 Hour Readathon

My reading plan:
Finish the three books I am currently reading:
1. The Steep and Thorny Way
2. The Memory of Light
3. Sailing Around the Room
Start and make good progress (even finish, if possible):
a. Lit Up
b. Between the World and Me
Read at least a chapter:
*Vanishing Grace
*New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver 

2016 Pulitzer Prize winner for fiction: The Sympathizer

2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction

From the New York Times page announcing all the Pulitzer Prize winners of 2016:

Viet Thanh Nguyen
“The Sympathizer” (Grove Press)
Viet Thanh Nguyen, 45, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction for his debut novel, “The Sympathizer,” which opens in 1975 in Saigon and is narrated by “the captain,” a Communist sympathizer who escapes to Los Angeles and spies on a South Vietnamese group he has infiltrated.
Part satire, part espionage thriller and part historical novel, “The Sympathizer” grew out of Mr. Nguyen’s desire to “write a novel that would allow me to explore the complexity of the Vietnam War, through all eyes;it’s meant to be entertaining and provocative.”
“Get in Trouble,” a short story collection by Kelly Link
“Maud’s Line,” a novel by Margaret Verble
I have just added this book to my Pulitzer Challenge. Sounds like a good one.

Today is poem-in-your-pocket day

Today, as part of National Poetry Month, is Poem-In-Your-Pocket Day. The premise is to incorporate poetry into every aspect of your life. Today surprise your co-workers, friends, and family members by pulling out a poem and reading it to them! Share it on Twitter #pocketpoem, Facebook, Instagram, you name it! Get the poem out into the world.

Here is a link to Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day resources

My pocket poem is "The Moment" by Marie Howe. It is about a moment when life and all its buzy-ness seems to stand still with "no what-have-I-to-do-today" lists.

What poem are going to carry in your pocket today?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Poetry and Poets: Billy Collins

Last week I participated in one of those blog linky activities. The topic was poetry. Participants were asked to identify some of their favorite poems and poets. (See my answers here.) For poets I listed, among others, Billy Collins as one of my favorites. Then I was shocked when other participants said they had never heard of him before. How could have a self-identified poetry lover not heard of Billy Collins, I scoffed.

Billy Collins was identified as "the most popular poet in America" by Bruce Weber of the New York Times. He also served as the U.S. Poet Laureate from 2001-2003. In that role he was asked to write a poem about the events of September 11th when the Twin Towers fell. He delivered it to a combination of both houses of Congress. His poems are witty and accessible for the common man. In fact, Collins describes his own poetry as "suburban, domestic, and middle class." Best of all I can understand the poems when I read them! Ha.

As I was nurturing my snotty "I know about Billy Collins and you don't" attitude, a fleeting thought entered my head, "But Anne, you haven't read any of his poetry books, either." That thought knocked me back a pace or two. It also caused me to stop and analyze how I do know about him and why I like his poetry.  It all started with Poetry Out Loud. As the school coordinator of P.O.L. I often do presentations in English classes about reciting poetry from memory. I always show the following recitation of Billy's poem, "Forgetfulness" by one of the past winners of the National Poetry Out Loud contest, Jackson Hille. It is really obvious that Hille understands the poem he is reciting, which is an important part of the scoring. Take the time to listen. It is a delight.

Students are all very attracted to this poem because it is humorous even though the topic is serious.

The second way I knew about Billy Collins is by the volumes of poetry in my library, in particular two volumes edited by Collins called Poetry 180 and 180 More. These two volumes, crammed full of fun poems, are designed to be the type of poems one would enjoy reading every day. In the Forward from Poetry 180, Billy Collins includes his own poem, "Introduction to Poetry" which is one I recommend each teacher read before they teach a poetry unit. It starts with: 
I ask them to take a poem
 and hold it up to the light
 like a color slide
Collins, the poet, shares what he hopes with his poems...
I want them to waterski
across the surface of a poem...
but it ends with these lines, which is clearly not a good thing...
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.

Just this past week, I learned that Billy Collins will be in Tacoma on this Friday night, April 22nd. Woot. Woot. Guess who will be there dragging her daughter along for company? Right-o. Me!

(Click on this link for the Broadway Center for details about the program.)

But it was not until I learned about the program that I finally decided to read one of his poetry volumes. I am currently 3/4th of the way through Ballistics: Poems published in 2008. I've been marking up the slim volume with post-it notes because I want to go back and reread or share these poems with others. For example, last night I read "Greek and Roman Statuary" to my daughter. When we traveled in Italy a few years ago we noticed how many statues are missing body parts. Collins must have noticed the same thing since this poem begins with these funny lines:
The tip of the nose seemed the first to be lost,
then the arms and legs,
and later the stone penis if such a thing were featured.

We all had a good laugh over this one, though my daughter, who took an art history class, reminded us the penis removal was done on purpose.

In the poem from which the book is entitled, "Ballistics", Collins muses over about a photograph of a bullet passing through a book. Instead of admiring the photograph he starts thinking about the book, wondering what book was destroyed for the shot. He decides it was "a recent collection of poems written/by someone of whom I am not fond/and that the bullet must have passed through/his writing with little resistance." Ha! What a funny and fun poem. I, too, would be worried about the book.

In the poem "The Poems of Others" he confesses he can't get the poems written by others out of his head. Me, too! I am constantly walking around trying to figure out the actual words of favorite poems, or just repeating to myself favorite phrases. This is what I love about poetry---when I find myself in the poems.

Collins doesn't just connect with me, he attempts to draw in all his readers. He describes himself as "reader conscious....I have one reader in mind, someone who is in the room with me, and who I'm talking to..." (Poetry Foundation). Perhaps this is why I consider Collins one of my favorite poets. It is as if he and I are sitting in the kitchen and just talking to each other.

I am enjoying this volume of Collins' poems very much. I encourage you to do a bit of investigation of his poems, too. (Click the link above Ballistics to see a YouTube video of Billy reading the poem to a Poetry Club.)



Monday, April 18, 2016

TTT: Humorous books

Hosted at Broke and Bookish

Top Ten Tuesday: These books should make you laugh...

1. The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
This book is hard to describe. There are hilarious, hilarious parts but while you are laughing you will realize there is a dark undertone. Isn't that always the case with good humor?
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
This book is not only funny, it is very silly. Consider the names of the characters: Zaphod Beeblebrox; Slartibartfast; Ford Prefect, and Dirk Gently.
3. The Rosie Project by Graeme  Simsion
Don Tillman, a college professor with undiagnosed Asperger's Syndrome, sets out to find a perfect mate. His foibles will keep you laughing.
4. Going Bovine by Libba Bray.
Bray has to be one of the funniest YA authors out there. This book is so zany and creative, yet also very poignant.
5. A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
This book is a memoir about Bryson's experiences walking the Appalachian Trail. Bryson is a very funny man and his book reflect it. Also consider his book about Australia, In a Sunburned Country. I can bring up scenes from my memory which make me laugh just to think of them.
6. Winterdance by Gary Paulsen
Another memoir. This one about Paulsen training his dogs and then running the Iditarod race. This is laugh-out-loud stuff. I mean it.
7. Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith
This guy writes stuff that is way off in left field. His books are so, so zany and different. I guarantee you will laugh and you will cringe. Also try 100 Sideways Miles, The Alex Crow, and Winger. All are fun and funny in their own way.
8. Couch by Benjamin Parzybok
This is Lord of the Rings, except the ring is a couch, and it is set in Portland, Oregon. This book really appeals to my quirky reading tastes.
9. Bossypants by Tina Fey
What a funny comedienne and a funny book.
10. Anansi Boys by Neil Gaiman
My daughters and I can recall lines from this book and laugh about them today as if we read it yesterday. A delight.
Bonus. Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern
My husband and I read this little book together and just howled with laughter. 

Can't wait to see the lists for this topic on others' blogs.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Sunday Salon, April 17th

May you experience each day/as a sacred gift/woven around the heart of wonder. -O'Donohue
Weather: Lovely. It was a perfect work-in-the-yard temperature yesterday. It should be the same today.

For your listening enjoyment. Cue the music. "Toccata from Symphony No. 5" by Charles Marie Widor. This is not the type of music I usually listen to but this is the piece played at Charlie's memorial service and I was swept up my the majesty of it. It you ever get a chance to hear this piece played in a sanctuary with a pipe organ, take it.  Listen to a bit while you read the rest of my blog post.

Today: We have tickets for Saturday Night Fever, the Musical at our local theater. I have recently been obsessed with disco music specifically that music from the movie Saturday Night Fever because of the book I recently finished Burn Baby Burn by Medina, which is set in 1977, during the disco era. I am so excited to go to this musical today.

National Poetry Month: To celebrate poetry I have been pulling out all the stops (to use a pipe organ term.) Here are a few things I've done:
  • Sidewalk poems in chalk. See photos. The rain earlier this week washed them away so i will have to go out and do it again.
  • Created a list of poetry-related activities I hope to do/accomplish this month. It was picked up by Teaching with Heart, Fire and Poetry and was published by them. Take a look at it by clicking the link.
  • Participated in a Poetry Questionnaire. See my answers about favorite poems and poets by clicking on the link.
  • Created a display about poetry and poems in my library case. Included are books, poems, posters, and quotes about the value of poetry. I never know if my displays attract the attention I hope they do but I will prevail and keep hoping.
Thatching the lawn and defrosting the freezer. Sometimes life is just filled up with mundane tasks. That was yesterday.

Only one book completed this week: The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. This classic novel about old New York was my classics club spin book of the quarter; part of the Women's Classic Literature event; and a Pulitzer Prize winner (1921.) Check out my review by clicking on the link.

Currently only reading one book (a rarity): The Steep and Thorny Way by Cat Winters. A YA novel set in Oregon in the 1930s which racism and the KKK were active in the area.

A poem for your enjoyment:
"Song of the Builders" by Mary Oliver (from Why I Wake Early)

On a summer morning
I sat down
on a hillside
to think about God-

a worthy pastime.
Near me, I saw
a single cricket;
it was moving the grains of the hillside

this way and that way.
How great was its energy,
how humble its effort.
Let us hope

it will always be like this,
each of us going on
in our inexplicable ways
building the universe.

Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing/there is a field./I'll meet you there. -Rumi

Saturday, April 16, 2016

More Poetry Month celebrations

Hosted by The Edge of Precipice

The Questions

What are some poems you like?

What are some poems you dislike?

  • I can't identify any poems I don't like, but there sure are a lot of poems I don't understand.

Are there any poets whose work you especially enjoy?  If so, who are they?

  • Mary Oliver
  • Galway Kinnell
  • Rumi
  • Billy Collins

Do you write poetry?

  • How does the quote go? "We all write poems. it is simply that poets are the ones who write in words."  But actually I do write down a few poems occasionally. For example, I always write haiku at the end of each school year which I publish on m blog.

Have you ever memorized a poem?

  • Yes, but usually they aren't what people think of as poems. I have memorized lots of lyrics to songs and scriptures like the 23rd Psalm.

Do you prefer poetry that rhymes and had a strict meter, or free verse?  Or do you like both?

  • What is mot important to me in poetry is accessibility. If I can understand a poem and find something that relates to my life, those are the ones I prefer.

Do you have any particular poetry movements you're fond of?  (Beat poets, Romanticism, Fireside poets, etc?)(If you haven't got any idea what I'm talking about, that's fine!  You can check out this list for more info, if you want to.)

  • Um...I look at the list and decided that I still have no idea. I like what I like, not a particular style of poetry.
Join in the fun. Copy the questions and post them and your answers on your blog. Hop over to The Edge of Precipice to sign up.

The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton

786700Whenever I read classic literature I question my ability to add anything to the full cadre of information and opinion already available about the novel. This is the case with The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. I sit here in front of this blank blog post and the only words which circulate through my head are from Wayne's World, "I'm not worthy." How am I, a lowly person who never even took one English Lit class in college and faked my way through them in high school, qualified to add anything on the discourse in the face of such greatness? Well, I'm not. Instead I shall attempt to pull together a few thoughts and tidbits of information I have gleaned from the tiny bit of research I've done on the book and the author. I hope this will satisfy you, my readers, and encourage you to pick up those classic books which you've always meant to read knowing that you too can at least say something which is interesting and presented in a new way.

First, I selected to read The Age of Innocence to satisfy three reading challenges: Classics Club Spin, the Women's Classic Literature Event, and my own personal challenge to read some of the past Pulitzer Prize winners. I'd long wanted to read something by Wharton, so it seemed like it would be a win, win, win selection and it was.

Reynolds, The Tate Museum
"The Age of Innocence"
Secondly, I was very perplexed by the title, The Age of Innocence. As I read the novel I kept wondering at the title and its meaning. Were the 1870s truly an age of innocence, at least in the minds of those who lived it? Did the characters and their stubborn adherence to their own rules of conduct make the appearance of innocence to outsiders? Or was the title relational, comparing the 1870s in New York to 1920s Europe, where Wharton was when she wrote the book? I concluded, in my mind, it was probably some combination of all three. So imagine my surprise when I learned that Wharton titled the book after a famous Reynolds painting entitled, "The Age of Innocence." Ha! Got me.

The setting, old New York in the 1870s, was handled very deftly by Wharton. It was really obvious that she had lived the life she was describing since she knew it so intimately. The rules and snobbery by which the characters lived their lives: who was in and who was out; what to eat and what to wear; where to vacation and what to do while there. Everything was spelled out. One got the impression that Wharton was poking fun at the stupidity of it all without being funny or ironic in the text. Here is a quote from the book which describes a dinner party in which the guests were served Roman punch.
Roman punch made all the difference; not in itself but by its manifold implications--since it signified either canvas-backs or terrapin, two soups, a hot and a cold sweet, full decolletage with short sleeves, and guests of a proportionate importance. (Chapter XXXIII)
Wharton also seemed to poke fun at old New York by giving her characters funny, odd names. There were no Bills or Williams in the bunch. Instead there were characters with unique names like Newland Archer, Manson Mingott, Sillerton Jackson, Emerson Sillerton, Julius Beaufort, and Lemuel Struthers. Not exactly hilarious names but odd enough to make this reader pause and notice.

The Age of Innocence is the story of a love triangle but not in the modern and irritating angle which involves a girl who has to choose from two sexy boys. This story begins with Newland Archer, who is newly engaged to May Welland, meeting May's cousin, the Countess Olenska, for the first time. May represents the best and the worst of old New York, while the Countess appears to embrace the opposite. Archer is attracted to both the old and the new and it just about tears him apart. The lack of sex makes this book more full of passion than ones where the sexual act is explicit. When Newland finally decides to take the plunge, so to speak, his plans are thwarted by the Countess leaving town.
This was her answer to his final appeal of the other day: if she would not take the extreme step he had urged, she had at last yielded to half-measures. He sank back into the thought with the involuntary relief of a man who has been ready to risk everything, and suddenly tastes the dangerous sweetness of security (Chapter XXX.)
Near the end of the story there is a quote which seems to sum up life in old New York perfectly, 
It was the old New York way of taking life “without effusion of blood”: the way of people who dreaded scandal more than disease, who placed decency above courage, and who considered that nothing was more ill-bred than “scenes,” except the behavior of those who gave rise to them.
I can totally relate to the ending where Newland (spoiler alert) decides to go home rather than meet Madam Olenska again after thirty years of separation. We all have our memories of past loves and events associated with that person. Those memories are real to us. I, for one, am not sure if I want to have those memories wrecked by present realities. But readers who crave happy endings will find this finale frustrating.

Apparently Edith Wharton lived in France during or right after WWI and became very disillusioned with the life she had lived before in old New York. She penned The Age of Innocence, her tenth novel, as a reaction to those feelings. It won the Pulitzer Prize in 1921, the first time the prize was awarded to a female author. The prize was awarded amid a controversy where the lead person on the committee ignored the recommendations of the other judges to award the prize to Sinclair Lewis for his classic, Main Street, in favor of Wharton's The Age of Innocence. Since both books have stood up to the test of time, I am glad the award went to Wharton since she was female.

In an effort to know more about the author, I visited the website about Edith Wharton's past estate, The Mount in Massachusetts. It was designed by the author herself. It looks like a very lovely place which clearly shows the author's love of art and symmetry, something I recognized in her writing. After viewing the webpage I have added a visit to The Mount to my bucket list. It will be a long trip from Washington State, though.

In conclusion (this blog post is much longer than I originally thought it would be) I can wholeheartedly recommend The Age of Innocence to my readers. I wasn't as enraptured with the love story as I was with the peek at a by-gone age and era shown us of 1870s New York. It is amazing to think there were people who lived such gorgeous, frivolous lives as the Archers and the Wellands. Read it for that reason alone and you will gain new insights into American history and how people lived (at least some of them) in the past.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Friday Quotes, April 14, 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---

Title: The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork

Book Beginnings:
I open my eyes when I hear my name.
I'm lying down. A white bed. To my left is a window. Pale-blue sky. To my right a face. The same lady from last night. Underneath her white coat, I see a shiny green dress.

Friday 56:
"I'm sorry we lost touch." There's silence on the line. I hear Becca breathe. Maybe she is thinking of all my calls she didn't answer. Then, "No one told me anything. I didn't even know you quit debate, for God's sake."

Comments: I haven't started this book yet, but I have it queued on my iPod with the audiobook so I will start it as soon as I'm done with my current audiobook. I've read three other books by this author and I really appreciate how he ethically deals with tough subjects. The topic of this book is mental illness and teen suicide.

Monday, April 11, 2016

TTT: For people who like to read award books, my recommendations

Hosted by Broke and Bookish
Top Ten Tuesday: 
I recommend these to people who want to read an award book.

I really enjoy reading well-written books so I try to read as many award books as I can each year, especially focusing on awards given to young adult books my students might like.

1. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie
National Book Award -Young People's Literature 2007
Boston Globe/Horn Book Award for Fiction 2008
2. Looking for Alaska by John Green
Printz Award 2006
3. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
Printz Award 2015
Stonewall Honor 2015
4. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
Pulitzer Prize 2015
Alex Award 2015
5. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2008
6. Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
National Book Award -Young People's Literature 2015
7. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2014
8. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
National Book Award, Fiction 2009
9. Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx
National Book Award, Fiction 1993
Pulitzer Prize 1994
10. Going Bovine by Libba Bray
Printz Award 2010