"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=========

Friday, October 18, 2019

Friday quotes and review: Winesburg, Ohio

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
Th
e Friday56 is hosted at Freda's VoiceFind a quote from page 56.

The book I am currently reading (with a summary and review):

Title: Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson
Book Beginnings: from the beginning of the first story, "The Books of the Grotesque"---
The writer, an old man with a white mustache, had some difficulty getting into bed. The windows of the house in which he lived were high and he wanted to look at the trees when he awoke in the morning. A carpenter came to fix the bed so that it would be on a level with the window.
Friday56: from the beginning of the fifth story, "The Philosopher"---
Doctor Parcival was a large man with a drooping mouth covered by a yellow mustache...His teeth were black and irregular and there was something strange about his eyes. The lid of his left eye twitched; it fell down and snapped up; it was exactly as though the lid of the eye were a window shade and someone stood inside the doctor's head playing with the cord.
Summary: The fictional town of Winesburg, Ohio was based on Clyde, Ohio where the author grew up. It was a town of 1800 people in the late 1910s, where everyone knew everyone else. It is a collection of short stories based upon these people. In fact, Sherwood Anderson suggested that "there are grotesques in all villages who are spiritually and psychologically warped by emotional or sexual frustrations." He sets about to write their stories. One person, George Willard who writes for the local newspaper, is the only character to appear in more than one story. It is possible the the reader is supposed to think that George, who people find themselves drawn to talk to, is the actual writer of the stories.
Review: Like most short story collections I have liked some stories better than others, but one certainly gets the feeling that the town is indeed made up of a bunch of grotesques. When it was published in 1919 it won high praise from reviewers. One said, the book "contains two of the half dozen most remarkable stories written in this century. It is an extraordinarily good book." It certainly hearkens back to olden times made up of horse and buggies, candles and lanterns, and even a night watchman. The book, a classic recommended to me long ago by an English teacher friend, is my Classics Club Spin selection of the quarter. I wanted to read short stories on my recent trip and found a lightweight paperback edition of Winesburg, Ohio so I took it with me. Would I recommend this book to general readers? Probably not unless someone was looking for a book which had a general nostalgia feel to it.

European vacation: Switzerland. Part 4.

River Reuss and Chapel Bridge in Lucerne. Photo credit: D. Bennett
We've been home for over a week from our wonderful European vacation. We are over jet lag, at last, and both of us are recovering from colds we got when we returned home (airplane germs?). Today I am highlighting the end of our trip where we stayed with our brother and sister-in-law in Switzerland. We made daily sojourns to see the sights but came back to their apartment every evening for fun Swiss food like fondue and delicious raclette.

For updates and highlights from earlier parts of the trip, please click the hyperlinks: 

We left Munich and headed toward Zurich on a train. Though we had reserved seats someone was sitting in them so we sat across from the couple instead and struck up a conversation. They were fellow travelers from Australia (Darwin) and both were recovering from horrible headaches due to their Oktoberfest drinking the night before. Meeting new people is one of the best parts of traveling. In London we made new friends at our B&B every morning as we sat and ate with other guests. In Prague we visited with other Americans staying at our hotel. In Nuremberg we chatted with Germans sitting nearby as we dined in a restaurant; one was a history buff who had lots to share. Our new Australian friends got off the train before it entered Switzerland so the four of us were able to sit together and make plans for the end of our trip.

Tony (Kathy's and my brother) has lived in Switzerland for just the past 6 months. He and his wife expect to live there for only two years so family members are flocking to visit them while they are there. Right before we got there, they were visited by a niece and her husband, a day after we left they expected three friends, and later in the week Becky's sister was expected. Whew. I guess everyone waited for September/October for a visit

Tony and Becky live in a little village about 20 minutes by train from Zurich and their apartment has a view of Lake Zurich. We didn't get to see this view of the lake with the Alps in the background while we were there, however, as it was cloudy and rainy most days.
View of the Alps and Lake Zurich taken from their apartment. Photo taken in February 2019 by T. Kingsbury
The day after we arrived in Switzerland Tony escorted us on a big adventure. We took a train to Lucerne. We walked around this beautiful and picturesque town before boarding a boat for the second leg of the adventure.

Lucerne: Chapel Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over the River Reuss. It was partially burned down in the 1990s and beautifully restored.
Lucerne: Another view of the River Reuss
Lucerne: A lovely scene
Lucerne: Sweet street scene with my brother, Tony, and brother-in-law, Tom.
Lucerne: Cathedral spires. Uniquely Swiss.
Lake Lucerne, as viewed from a boat/ferry
Lake Lucerne: Aboard the boat/ferry. Out of the wind, the sun was warm. Left to right: Tom, Kathy, Anne, Tony. Photo credit: D. Bennett
The boat docked at Vitznau and we clamored aboard the Rigi Kulm cogwheel railway, the oldest mountain railroad in Europe. We ascended several thousand feet gaping at the scenery and at the small mountain farms as we passed. We had a steep climb by foot after we disembarked but the views of the countryside, the lake, and the mountains made it worth the effort.
 
Me looking at the scenery aboard the cogwheel railway. Photo credit: K. Kingsbury
A view of the scenery on the return trip
Don enjoying the view from the top

The crew at the top of Rigi Kulm
The next day Don, Kathy, and I headed to Zurich on the train alone. We decided to go to the Swiss National Museum because it was raining and sightseeing did not appeal to us. We are glad we did. The museum had a very well curated exhibition on the history of Switzerland. We learned so much and enjoyed many interactive aspects of it. We now know why Switzerland is and has been a neutral country and we suspect that is why so many prominent thinkers during the Age of Reason came from Switzerland. We also enjoyed the temporary exhibition about the Japanese artists who came to Switzerland in the 1970s to get inspirations for their anime series on Heidi. I really enjoy seeing artists preliminary diagrams to see how they create their work.

After leaving the museum, we joined up with Tom, who had taken a train to Buhler, a small village that bears his last name. Even though it was still raining we headed out to see a few sights recommended by Rick Steves in his guide.

Guardian Angel by Niki de Saint Phalle in the Zurich train station

Clock Tower of St. Peterskirche
Munster Brucke (Bridge) leading to Fraumunster. Still beautiful despite the rain
I loved the spires on buildings in Switzerland. They are more pointy than elsewhere.
The next day Tony was our guide again. This time we took a train the other direction to a small town, Einsiedeln, which has a huge monastery which houses a black Madonna. Photos were not encouraged so I grabbed a photo from the Internet. Apparently she is clothed in different finery depending on the time of the year. When we saw her she was wearing the golden cloth as pictured.
The Black Madonna poses a mystery. For centuries people have been making pilgrimages to see her and to pray at her feet. She is claimed to have a magical aura.
After visiting the stables and walking the grounds of the monastery, we stopped in a coffee shop to warm up (it was still raining.) I was on the hunt for the perfect piece of cake so I ordered one I thought look delicious not knowing it was about 90% proof alcohol. Yuck! Tony and Don ended up eating it. Our last night in Switzerland and the end of the adventure, Becky invited a Swiss neighbor to join us for delicious raclette. See the photo below. Raclette is a way of grilling vegetables and meats at the table while, on the lower tier cheese is melting to add to the foods after they are cooked. I am a big fan! Delicious and fun food!
Becky, standing, is explaining how raclette works. Photo credit: D. Bennett

All good things come to an end. We got up at 4 AM the next morning in order to board the first train out of Oberrieden going to the Zurich airport. By the time we got home at 4 PM with the time change we had been awake for nearly 24 hours. But look who greeted us when we got home. It is always good to come home.
Ian modeling his new shirt, which we hope says "Mountain climber"
Our trip is done. As I reflect upon the trip I laugh at how much dumb stuff I took with me. I was really concerned that I would get sick and not have what I needed, so I took Sudafed, Benadryl, Gas-x, anti-acids, Tylenol, in addition to my prescriptions, only using the Tylenol. I also took every foot thing I could figure out to take because I knew my feet were going to be a problem. They were and the stuff didn't help. I took sandals and shorts thinking it might be hot. It wasn't. I took dress clothes thinking I might want to dress up. I did. But I could have worn more casual clothes just as easily. Two rain coats took up room in the suitcase when one would have sufficed. We took 16 protein bars in case of emergency and only ate about eight of them. I carried a magnifying mirror, and only used it once. Same for the umbrella. I even took too many socks. Next time I will pack lighter!

It was lovely to end the trip with family and I am so grateful to my brother and sister-in-law to make room for us and to make our visit so comfortable. It was fun sharing the adventure with my sister and brother-in-law. We now have shared memories that will be fodder for stories in the future. I'm already trying to figure out how I can work in a trip with my younger sister in the future. Where shall we go? Maybe a sisters only trip? We'll see.

Thanks for reading this series of blog posts!



Monday, October 14, 2019

TTT: Extraordinary Book Titles



Top Ten Tuesday: Extraordinary book titles
These titles make it clear what I should expect in the book, cause me to want to discover the title in the text, or make me laugh

1. Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
Who hasn't wondered if God was there and if He cares about our concerns? I think this book title is perfect.
 
2. Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs by Judi Barrett
This hilarious title sets up the young readers to expect something zany.
 
3. Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus by Mo Willems
The title of this book made me search it out to read. The book is even funnier than the title.
 
4. The Curious Case of the Dog in the Night-time by Mark Haddon
The title is odd and so is this mystery of who killed the dog. I love how the title gets the reader ready for something different.

5. The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake by Aimee Bender
This title is very surreal and so is the book. How can a cake be sad? How can a man turn into a chair? 

6. The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Everyone in this book is off-kilter, especially Ignacious J. Riley who is the biggest dunce of all. 

7. An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green
The title comes to life in the book when we learn that Carl is really from another world. It is an absolutely remarkable title.

8. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
I've often wondered how people could ever fall in love during times of high stress. We find out here in this magical realism classic.
 
9. Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison
The title is funny enough to attract readers.

10. The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler
Another funny title that helps reader decide to choose it knowing that to some degree it is humorous.

11. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
When I found the title in the text I let out an audible gasp. I love it when authors hide the title in the text so it feels like a game to find it. 

12. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie
What is a part-time Indian? You'll find out if you read the book. 

13. And to Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street by Dr. Seuss
This whole list could be populated with Dr. Seuss titles:  One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish; The Cat in the Hat; and Green Eggs and Ham are prime examples. But Mulberry Street started them all as Dr. Seuss's first book.

14. Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst
We refer to bad days by this title even years after we first read it. 

15. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick
Good question. All Philip K. Dick's books pose questions like this one.

16. A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki
We actually discussed the meaning of this title in book club and we had a difference of opinion. I love it when book titles themselves evoke discussion.

I'll stop, but could keep going.
What books do you think have extraordinary titles?


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Sunday Salon and European Vacation, Part 3 B

Munich town square
Weather: Overcast. We are hoping that the rain holds off so we can take the boy to the pumpkin patch when he wakes from his nap.

Austen's Pride: A Musical: Last night Rita and I joined a friend and her mother for dinner and a show. We ate at an Italian restaurant and I had the hugest bowl of fresh clams and linguine, Rita had chicken and risotto. Everything was delicious but we couldn't linger because we had to rush down the street to make it to the theater on time to be seated for the musical Austen's Pride. The premise of the play was Jane Austen needed to dust off First Impressions, rewrite it, and make it into the book we know today, Pride and Prejudice. She gets help from her sister Cassandra and the whole cast of characters from the book. It was so much fun to see how an author interacts with her text and makes decisions about wording or action. At several points in the play characters would come to Austen and ask what happens next or what they should do. The music part of the musical was forgettable but the singers all had tremendous voices, including the actress who played Austen who was clearly pregnant. We all left the theater remarking on her strong voice and remembering how out of breath we were during pregnancy. How did she do? All in all the evening was a huge success...then we had to drive home and got trapped in the hugest traffic jam ever, which was weird for a late Saturday night. It took us over an hour longer to get home than usual.

Jet lag recovery: It took us at least five days to fully recover from our jet lag after returning home from our European vacation last Sunday. The good part was both of us went to bed earlier every night so our Fit Bit Sleep scores were in the high 80s, low 90s, usually they are in the 70s or 60s.

European vacation highlights, part 3B,  Bavaria: After our delightful sojourn in Rothenburg we raced down the autobahn (I'm not kidding about the racing part) to meet up with our brother and sister-in-law, Tony and Becky, in Fussen, the town at the base of the famous Neuschwanstein castle. The next day all six of us hiked up the hill to tour Mad King Ludwig's castle.
Tony, Tom, Kathy, Becky, Anne (me), Don at the base of Neuschwanstein Castle
View of the castle from Marienbrucke
View of the countryside from the castle
Sweet little country church, the one that can see seen in the countryside in the above photo.
After lunch at an outdoor restaurant with a view of the caste, my brother and sister-in-law turned around and headed back to Switzerland. Our quick visit would be extended after we joined them at their home in a few days. En route to Munich, our next point of interest, we stopped by the Wieskirche, a pilgrimage church which houses a weeping Jesus statue. We saw many people with infirmities making their way to the church in hopes of a miraculous healing. Unfortunately, a tour bus of tourists pulled up while we were there and their objective didn't seem one of reverence, but just wanting to take photos of themselves with the statue. Sigh.
Weeping Jesus Statue in Wieskirche
A record: Don and I wore our Fitbits throughout our vacation. On our hike up to Neuschwanstein Castle, during the tour itself, and then the hike up to Marienbruke, we each recorded over 80 flights (elevation or stairs) a record. No wonder I was tired! I usually have to work to get 10.

Munich and Dachau, our last stops in Bavaria: Because of Oktoberfest we were unable to find lodging in Munich so we stayed in Augsburg, not far away.

At the recommendation of several people we decided that we should visit Dachau, the first and model Nazi concentration camp. Like our time at the Nazi Documentation Center in Nuremberg, visiting Dachau was a very emotional and draining experience. To think of the atrocities committed against thousands/millions of human beings. It is so tragic. Yet the museum is also a testament to human endurance and strength. Despite the terrible conditions, some people survived and built the religious memorials now gracing the back of the camp.

The gate of Dachau with the message "Work Will Make You Free"

Part of the artistic memorial, the colors stand for different victim groups.

Cross in the Catholic Memorial
Munich: What a fun, beautiful, zany town! We saw a glockenspiel clock, an oompah band, wonderful architecture, people running around in lederhosen and dirndls, a skeleton covered in gems in a cathedral, a huge park where we found actual surfers in the river.

Dancing figures in the town hall clock

View from the clock tower

Oompah band

Gem encrusted skeleton in the cathedral
Surfers waiting their turn to brave the river waves
Highest point in English Garden Park, Munich
Tomorrow I hope to finish up my highlights of our European vacation with photos from Switzerland. Please come back.

And, yes we made it to the pumpkin patch: And a party was happening at the farm. Ian had fun riding a tractor train, dancing to the bluegrass band, riding in the wheelbarrow, and eating kettle corn...and the photos with pumpkins are pretty cute, too.

Ian riding in the last car of the tractor train.
Have a good week. Thanks for visiting my blog.