"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=========

Monday, March 25, 2019

TTT: Some of my favorite audiobooks

Top Ten Tuesday: Some of my favorite audiobooks 
(that I've listened to recently)---

1. The Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole, read by Brett Whitener.  
I love, love, love this narration. Whitener brings the New Orleans accent to the book. This is a fun, quirky, hilarious read. Perfect as an audiobook. Listen to a clip here:

2. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, read by a cast of 166, including Nick Offerman and David Sedaris. 
This book won the best audiobook of 2018 for good reason because of this amazing cast. The audiobook is much better than the book, I understand from my book club friends. Those of us who listened, loved it, those who read it, didn't. Read more about the audiobook here.

3. There There by Tommy Orange, read by Alma Cuervo, Kyla Garcia, Darrell Dennis, Shaun Taylor-Corbett.
This is a hard story about a hard topic but the audiobook is so, so good. And the reader feels like they are at the Big Oakland Powwow with the others on that fateful day. For a sample clip, click here:

4. The Soul of America: the Battle for Our Better Angels by Jon Meacham, read by the author and Frank Sanders.
For folks who are disturbed by what is happening in America politics today, this book is a salve for the soul. Jon Meacham  is an excellent narrator for his own historical writing and Frank Sanders is so inspiring to listen to. If you like reading history, I recommend this book in this format. Listen to a clip here.
5. Becoming by Michelle Obama, read by the author. 
I just saw Michelle last night at a big event here in Tacoma. It is so wonderful listening to stories about her life in her own voice. Listen to a sample.

6. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, read by Stephen Fry
This is possibly the funniest book ever written and Stephen Fry is master of creating unique and memorable voices, making it even funnier. This is not-to-be-missed in this format. Sample here.

7. The Raven Cycle series by Maggie Stiefvater, read by Will Patton
I love every book I've heard read by Will Patton. He has a very unique and interesting voice and his narration makes this series, which is wonderful by itself, simply superb. Give the audio a try here.

I'm not done, I'm just tired and want to go to bed. Come back tomorrow for my complete list.

Sunday, er.. Monday Salon...BECOMING!

Announcement of the birthday party for Shirley

Weather: Overcast and cool. Good day to do housework, which I am doing.

Mom celebrating her 90th birthday with friends she's known for 80+ years.
90: This weekend was a big one. My mother and sister, Kathy, drove up from Eugene. My younger sister, Grace, flew over from Boise. Several relatives drove down from Seattle. My daughter and her family drove up from their home. Other friends arrived from points west and north. Why? To celebrate with my mom as she turned 90! It was a wonderful celebration...good food, lots of laughter and love. This is Mom's first birthday since the death of my father, yet she was very calm and happy, clearly thrilled with the whole day! (Part 1)

A rock memorial to remember God's faithfulness to us and our church

50: Sunday our church celebrated its 50th anniversary with a special church service followed by a luncheon and program in the fellowship hall. It was such a nice celebration and wonderful opportunity to reconnect with old friends who came back to be a part of the celebration. (Part 2)

Photo credit: Joshua Bessex, TNT
Becoming: Last night we went to the Tacoma Dome for Michelle Obama's Becoming tour stop at the Tacoma Dome. It was a terrific event. Jimmy Kimmel interviewed her. She highlighted many stories written about in the book, but several stories were new to me. She is such a delightful person, obviously funny and genuine. The event had been rescheduled from its original date due to snowy weather. I'm sure everyone in my group was thrilled to be in attendance.

Right to left: Margaret, Me, Mom, Kathy, Rita (Missing from shot, Don) waiting for Michelle Obama
'Read Your Own Books' Challenge: I finished my first book, La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith earlier this past week and have nearly finished my second book, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom. Even though I am not done yet, I plan to start my third book today, Redeployment by Phil Klay, because I am doing a read-along with a friend with this book. Now that the "big weekend" is over, I hope to get to the book reviews for these books.

Ian and Great-Grandma share a special moment before the party

The wisdom of Ian: If you want to get better at some skill--- practice, practice, practice. (Ian is practicing walking up and down stairs. Up and down. Up and down. Over and over.)

Have a good week!

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Wordless Wednesday: Cozy Classics

Wordless Wednesday:

Classic board books. Each has ten pictures and ten words.
War and Peace

Les Miserables

Huck Finn

Pride and Prejudice

Monday, March 18, 2019

TTT: My spring reading list

Top Ten Tuesday: 
What books will be populating my spring reading list?


I. I am hosting a challenge to 'Read My Own Books' between now and May 15th. I selected ten books I pulled from my own book shelf. They are:


  1. La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith (Currently reading)
  2. Redeployment by Phil Kay
  3. Ten Windows by Jane Hirshfield
  4. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom
  5. The Four Things that Matter Most by Ian Byock, M.D.
  6. On Chesil Beach by Ian McEwan
  7. The Confessions of Fitzwilliam Darcy by Mary Street
  8. Small Wonders by Barbara Kingsolver
  9. Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
  10. The Buddha in the Attic by Julie Otsuka
  11. Fear by Bob Woodward
II. I know a few upcoming book club titles:
  1. Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa
  2. The Walk by Richard Paul Evans
  3. Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue
III. Books I've placed on hold at the library that likely will be available soon
  1. Shout: a poetry memoir by Laurie Halse Anderson
  2. Voices: The Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott
  3. The Friend by Sigrid Nunez
  4. Sadie by Courtney Summers
How did I do on my Winter TBR? Very good. I read seven of the nine books I wanted to read during that time period. See photo below.


Sunday, March 17, 2019

Sunday Salon...March 17th

Swans. Taken at the Beijing zoo by Don Bennett Nov. 2017
Weather: Lovely and warm. Perfect dog-walking weather.

Today in church: Our pastor, Heather J., read to us a portion of The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:1-12) from The Message version of the Bible. I loved it so much I decided to share it with you today. Each verse will be bolded and italicized. Let the message of these words of Jesus speak to you today.
“You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.
This week my Mom turns 90. We are celebrating with the family that lives near us in Western Washington but both my sisters will also be here (from Oregon and Idaho). Only my brother, who lives in Switzerland, will miss the event. Happy Birthday, Mom!
“You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.
New Bible Study: Our women's group is starting a new book called Wonderstruck. I hope to spend the rest of this Lenten season in wonder of God's world. Today I noticed the flowering plums are in bud, just days away from blooming. Last night, as I stepped outside with the dog, I could hear the frogs in a nearby pond, croaking away. Wonderful!
“You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.
The wisdom of Ian: Greet new learning experiences with exuberance and enthusiasm. (I took him to the local library and it had a computer set up just for little kids. He was in awe.)
“You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.
Books finished this week: Great House by Nicole Krauss. A print book I've owned for nearly a decade. It is one of those books where the story unfolds slowly. The plot revolves around ownership of a desk, but it is really about grief and loss. not a very inspiring book, but very well written.
“You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.
Currently reading:
  • Your Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa---Audio. About the WTO Riots in Seattle in 1999. It is very, very disturbing. It is a book club selection, but we may decide to not read it. 67% complete.
  • Winter Hours: Prose, Prose Poems, and Poems by Mary Oliver---Print. More from my favorite poet. 20%.
  • La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith---Print. Reading for 'My Own Books' challenge. I pulled this one from the shelf and wondered when I got it and why. So far, so good. McCall Smith is easy to read. 17%
“You’re blessed when you get your inside world—your mind and heart—put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.
Happy St. Patrick's Day: In honor of this holiday, best known for shamrocks, green things, and drinking, we will be eating a boiled dinner of corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes. 'Beannachtam na Feile Padraig!'
“You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.
Prayers for: the victims and their families of the shootings at the Mosques in New Zealand. My heart is just broken for the hatred that is simmering around the world.
10 “You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.
Yard work: The garden is coming to life and so are we. Yesterday Don prepared a side bed to plant tubers of hostas and ferns. By days end the task was finished---the tubers were safely tucked in the earth and the ground was mulched to deter our digging-loving dog from digging them up.

11-12 “Not only that—count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens—give a cheer, even!—for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

The Message (MSG)
Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson
Breaking the plastic addiction: I am attempting to give up plastic for Lent. It is impossible! I made a few accommodations and I am trying to be aware what I am using. Here are a few things I've learned. At restaurants, ask servers to avoid bringing straws to the table. If you get straws and don't use them, likely they will be thrown away. Ask for paper bags at the market if you forget your reusable ones. Sandwiches wrapped up in waxed cloth doesn't get too dry before lunch time. Talk to others about what you are doing so they can be more aware, too. Reuse, reuse, reuse.


I hope that you were blessed and will be blessed by the Beatitudes today! Have a wonderful week!



Thursday, March 14, 2019

Friday quotes: La's Orchestra Saves the World

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

Review, of sorts, to follow.
This is the book I'm highlighting right now---


Title: La's Orchestra Saves the World by Alexander McCall Smith

Book Beginning:
Two men, who were brothers, went to Suffolk. One drove the car, an old Bristol drophead coupe in British racing green, while the other navigated, using an out-of-date linen-backed map.
Friday 56:
La thought she heard the interviewer laugh, but only briefly. 
Comment: I start today (Friday) reading books that I own as part of reading challenge. This is the first book on my list and I haven't even started it. I can't even remember where I got this book. It seems to have materialized out of thin air and has lived on my book shelf for at least a year. But I love Alexander McCall Smith's writing and his books are usually so funny but I am not sure that this one will be. It is set in the countryside outside London in 1939. Lavender, La for short, isn't escaping bombings, she is escaping a shattered marriage. Should be good.

Join me on the 'Read My Own Books' Challenge. Click the hyperlink here for details.  It is not too late to join in.


Wednesday, March 13, 2019

GREAT HOUSE...more a reflection than a review

GREAT HOUSE by Nicole Krauss has been on my reading list for almost a decade. It was given to me by my husband for Christmas in 2010. He knew how much I liked The History of Love by the same author so it was a natural choice for a guy trying to please his wife. I was pleased but not enough to actually get right to reading the book and eventually it got relegated to a back book shelf, nearly forgotten. Then about a month ago I embarked on a personal challenge to read at least two of the National Book Award winners or finalists for the past ten years. I wasn't interested in reading the 2010 award winner for fiction, so I looked at the finalist list and noticed Great House. It was time to dust off my own copy.

As I said in my title for this blog post, this will likely be more a reflection than a review. I am not sure I could adequately review the book anyway. It seems like the book would require a greater mind than mine to decipher. In lieu of that, here are a few of my reflections, or more accurately, a few random thoughts...

On the importance and detrimental aspects of goals: Several years ago I heard about a Olympic medal skier who was suicidal. She didn't kill herself and when she recovered she told her story to a journalist. I don't remember the whole story but what stuck with me was this (loosely paraphrased) statement, "I earned a gold medal. It had been my life's dream and my one goal. Once I accomplished it, I ran out of goals and didn't know what to do with myself." That skier's story came to my mind several times as I read Great House. One man obsessed with a goal, distracted by nothing but that goal, kills himself once it is achieved. Heavy stuff.

On our interconnectedness; Sometimes it isn't obvious how interconnected we are, other times we can't escape our connections to people we don't even know. Part 1 of Great House rolls out seemingly four separate stories. Part two draws the connections between the stories and the people. It became fun, almost a game, to guess how the connections would draw together in the end.

Like a dream: Have you ever had a long dream that seems to go on and on all night and when you are roused a bit, you return to the sleep state to pick up the dream thread again? Often, when this happens to me, the second (or third or fourth) stab at the dream will change a bit each time because new details have been brought forth. I felt like I was in a sort of dream state as I read this book. There was no dialogue, only written or spoken recollections, so all the action comes at the reader in a sort of shrouded way, cloaked by time. The book was much more thought-full than action/plot-full. Like most dreams, as I stepped away from the book, the details faded. I am left mostly with impressions.

Great loss: "A Great Loss" would probably have been a better title for this book but Great House derives from a historical event where all of Jerusalem was burned and the Jews had lost their great house, such a great loss (2 Kings 25:9: He burned the house of the LORD, the king's house, and all the houses of Jerusalem; even every great house he burned with fire. ) The title of the book and this scripture wasn't revealed until page 279 of 289. It kept me wondering and watching for it. All of the main character's lives were shaped by great losses, most by the Holocaust or the Jewish experience. Let's call these people the "enchanters". The narrators of the book were all caught in the web of their enchanter's sorrow. And, as the reviewer from the NYT said, all the enchanters were enchanted by their own sorrows. Ah, what a tangled web!

On the importance of storytelling: each of the four narrators tells a story that isn't really theirs to tell. Nadia, tells the story to "Your Honor" about how she got the desk from a Chilean poet, Daniel Varsky; a father tells of his complicated relationship with his son, Dov; a husband tells the story of his wife, a Holocaust survivor and writer, and her big desk which she gives to a stranger, Daniel Varsky; and an American woman tells the story of her love with Yoav Weitz, son of an antiques dealer who is obsessed with locating the desk. Once the story is told by the narrator, the stranglehold it had on the teller seems to be loosened.

Comparisons: If you have heard of The History of Love and not this book, I am not surprised. In a lot of ways the two books are similar: both have a lost object that is being sought: a book, in the first, and a desk, in the second. But while they have similar qualities, the important difference is the first book is funny and endearing, the second has none of that. It is pretty hard to want to read something which is mostly depressing from start to finish.

My job is done: I wanted to read this book to satisfy my own personal goal related to National Book Award winners/finalist. I've done that. I also want to read more books that I own, which relates to another reading challenge which starts on Friday to read more books from my own shelves. Since I don't plan a reread of this one, I will donate it to the public library for their annual book sale.


Monday, March 11, 2019

TTT: Books in a series that work fine as standalones

Top Ten Tuesday: Books in a series that work fine as a standalone. (A twist on the theme of standalone books which need a sequel.)

1. The Giver by Lois Lowry---It is the first book of a four book series, but I think most people read it as a standalone and it is perfect the way it is.

2. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card---I didn't even know how convoluted the Ender's Game series was until I looked at this diagram on Wikipedia. I liked the book but felt no need to read on.

3. Thick As Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner---Is the fourth or fifth book in Queen's Thief series but it works well as a standalone...I should know. I read it and none of the previous books.

4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott---Actually the book we know as Little Women was originally published as two books. But put that aside, it doesn't need the sequels to be a classic.

5. Unwind by Neal Shusterman---honestly I haven't read any of the other books in the Unwind Dystology, yet I liked the way the first book ended and had no need to read on.

6. Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta---the first book of the Lumatere series. I had no need to read on, though many of my students enjoyed the whole series.

7. Graceling by Kristin Cashore---Now I imagine I'll get some push back on this choice because Fire, the prequel, is so excellent, too. But I would have been happy with just the first book, even though I read on.

8. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams---I love, love this book but have never read on...which doesn't mean I wouldn't love the sequels.

9. Bridget Jones' Diary by Helen Fielding---I read this book years ago and thought it was just fun, not even realizing it was a retelling of Pride and Prejudice.

10. Whistling Season by Ivan Doig--- This book is part of a trilogy, which my husband tells me if very good, but I stopped after the first book. Whistling Season is one of my favorite books ever. I've reread it several times.



Sunday, March 10, 2019

Sunday Salon---March 10th

Ian in his toy box.
Weather: Gorgeous. Sunny with blue skies. Children were outside playing which is so weird since it snowed early in the week.

Yard work: Last weekend  Don and I braved the cold windy weather and deadheaded and pruned the hydrangea bushes...no easy task since our bushes are so huge. This weekend we pruned the Japanese willow tree which is next to our deck and was growing too large for the space. The contrast in the weather couldn't have been sharper. I even took off my jacket, working in a t-shirt. Don also drained the hot tub and cleaned it out. After our work today we had a nice soak.

The Wisdom of Ian: Try new things and delight in them. Throw your head back while swinging and marvel at the sky.

Join me in a reading challenge: 'My Own Books' reading challenge will give you the opportunity to read books on your own shelves. Please follow the link for the details and to sign up.


Lent: This year for Lent I am doing two things. 1) Read the daily devotional designed for the season of preparation, and  2) Use less plastic. I know I won't be perfect. In fact, the very first day, at the church sponsored soup dinner, I used a plastic spoon. But I figure if I and everyone uses one less plastic thing a day, we can make a significant difference. See the photo above for some of the tools I will use to reduce my addiction to plastic:
a. wax-covered clothes to cover food in the fridge
b. wax paper instead of plastic wrap
c. a hard plastic cup that I can reuse every time I order a venti cold drink at Starbucks (which is pretty often) 
d. a metal straw 
e. chopsticks which I wash and reuse
f. glass containers for leftovers, a reusable plastic lid
g. flexible, reusable plastic covers for leftovers
h. aluminum cans instead of plastic bottles, or the obvious, of course, my own water bottle (not shown)
i. silverware,  I plan on keeping a set in car for emergencies
Not shown: recyclable shopping bags, silicone lid covers

Ideas: Help me out. Can you think of other things I can do?
Join me!

Today in church: God called me through a song. The first four verses of the song "The Summons" by Iona Community, are God calling his people. The sixth verse is man answering God's call. Below are verses four and five:
(God asks: )
Will you love the "you" you hide
If I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
And never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found
To reshape the world around,
Through my sight and touch and sound
In you and you in me?
(Mankind answers: )
Lord, your summons echoes true
When you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you
And never be the same.
In your company I'll go
Where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow
In you and you in me.


Feel good story: Honeys and Bears, a senior synchronized swim team in Harlam. Watch it. It is only 1.45 min.

Books: 

  • I finished one book this week---Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver. Audiobook read by the author. The book has settled well in my brain. It gave me a lot to think about concerning both climate change and politics. 
  • Currently reading: Great House by Nicole Krauss---print, 69%, reading as part of my own challenge to read National Book Award titles. 
  • Currently listening: The Heart is a Muscle the Size of a Fist by Sunil Yapa---audio, 6%, a book club selection.


Thursday, March 7, 2019

Review and quotes: Unsheltered

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

Review, of sorts, to follow.
This is the book I'm highlighting right now---


Title: Unsheltered by Barbara Kingsolver

Book Beginning:
"The simplest thing would be to tear it down," the man said. "The house is a shambles."
Friday 56:
Iano detached from her and vanished. Willa held her vigil over Tig, the child she'd lately forgotten to worry about. For all the years her daughter had been bouncing like a molecule through an unstable universe, anxiety was Willa's steady state.
Summary: Iano and Willa were forced to move from their home in Virginia when Iano's teaching job fell through. Fortunately, Willa's aunt had willed her house in Vineland, N.J. to them before her death, so they had a place to land. Unfortunately, both of their adult children have to move in with them after situations in their own lives required it. Plus Iano is taking his turn caring for his curmudgeonly father whose health is failing rapidly. Additionally, the new home is any thing but new. It is old and literally falling apart. Willa feels like her life is spinning out of control, not a position she expected to be in at this stage in her marriage.

Jump back in time 150 years in Vineland and meet the then owners of the same house, Thatcher Greenwood, a young science teacher, his wife, Rose, and a mother-in-law and sister-in-law. Thatcher is trying to teach science in his high school which has a hostile environment to anything new especially having to do with discovery and scientific methods. And he is not allowed to say anything about Charles Darwin's thoughts on evolution. Also, meet Mary Treat (a real historic figure), a 19th century biologist, and Charles Landis, the historical founder of Vineland, a man who attempted to create a Utopian community until he committed the crime of the century!

Told in alternating chapters, the house is the anchor of the story in two different centuries.

Review: My book club decided to not read Unsheltered as a club selection because one of the gals had heard it was preachy. I hadn't read enough about the book to have much to say to counter the opposition. Since I had the word "preachy" in my head as I started reading, I looked for instances to confirm or deny it. Actually, I think that readers who attend conservative churches or don't believe in evolution, would find the book to promote issues in opposition to those believes. But since I am not in either of those camps, I didn't feel preached at.

My favorite parts of the book involved the discussions about issues of the day..."evolution" as a new theory in the nineteenth century and "climate change and overuse of resources" in the twenty-first century. The book's title, Unsheltered, also formed a theme which was fun to think about. What is shelter and who defines it? At one point in the book, Thatcher is reflecting on a time during the Civil War when he slept in a tree for several nights. He slept well and deeply on those nights. Willa thinks back on where she and Iano lived while in college, an apartment above a garage. Her memories of the time spent in that tiny apartment with its cast-off furniture were all happy ones. The house in Vineland was falling apart in 1870, and it was still falling apart in 2016. It sheltered families, but just barely and probably not very happily. It gave me a lot to think about in terms of what I consider shelter and got me thinking about my huge house in which my husband and I rattle around. Time to downscale, perhaps.

Barbara Kingsolver read the audiobook. She is a favorite author and this book, like all her other works, got me thinking in a new way. Unbelievably, this time my ah-ha moments had something to do with President Trump and a new way to think about him and leaders of his generation. Did I love the book like I've loved so many of her books? No, but I liked it a lot. Unsheltered gave me a lot to think about and a new way of thinking of tough issues. That is worth the time it took me to read it!

A few more quotes I want to include, just so I won't forget them:
"Tig gently took the scrap of paper from Willa and read aloud. 'I was something that lay under the sun and felt it, like the pumpkins, and did not want to be anything more. I was entirely happy. Perhaps we feel like that when we die and become part of something entire, whether it is sun and air, or goodness and knowledge. At any rate that is happiness; to be dissolved into something complete and great.' "(The quote within the quote was taken from the book My Antonia by Willa Cather.)
 "Nor did he tell Mary now that he could see her soul. It was a giant redwood: oldest and youngest of all living things, the tree that stood past one eon into the next."
Join Me: in a two month limited reading challenge to read your own books. Check out the details and sign up here: 'My Own Books' Reading Challenge.



Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Poetry review: Incarnadine by Mary Szybist

Okay. True confession. Most of the time I don't "get" poetry. I often like poetry but usually only pieces or bits of a poem sing out to me. Those songs, however, usually speak directly to my heart so I am swept away with the sound of the words and the emotions that are generated. That is what happened when I read the poems in Incarnadine by Mary Szybist. Most of the poems didn't make any sense to me but bits and pieces transported me to some other place for a while, long enough for me ruminate on a word or phrase before returning to reality.

So let's see if I did "get" anything from this slim volume of poems. First the cover illustration is a copy of a Botticelli painting of the Virgin Mary being visited by angel Gabriel titled the "Annunciation." It just so happens that nine of the poems in the collection have annunciation in their titles. So my first clue is that I should look for some grand announcements, like those when Gabriel told Mary that she was going to be the mother of our savior. Though I am dubious since these titles don't quite evoke that big event: "Annunciation (from the grass beneath them)", "Annunciation with Nabakov and Starr", "Annunciation as Fender's Blue Butterfly with Kincaid's Lupine", "Annunciation Under Erasure" and five others. My favorite among them is the last, Under Erasure. Imagine the scripture, Luke 1:26-38, but with important words erased. That is this poem: The Lord is/troubled/ in  mind/ be afraid Mary. Clever. Some annunciations just don't live up to the original.

The second thing I noticed was the title. Incarnadine sounds a lot like another holy word, "incarnate", which means "embodied in human form (usually referring to deity or spirit.)" So now my senses are open to poems which will mention something about God or Christ among us, as one of us. Perhaps I missed all the mentions but one poem, a concrete poem titled "How (Not) to Speak to God" stands out for it's uniqueness drawn in the shape of a sun with rays. "who saw the the world incarnadined, the current flowing/whose face is electrified by its own light/ who could be a piece of flame, a piece of mind shimmering." This poem chased me to the dictionary where I learned that incarnadine is actually a word all its own. It means a bright crimson or pinkish-red color. Hmm. Guess that explains the red color on the cover. Learned something new.

Another theme I noticed may have been the actual point, a play on the author's first name, Mary. I couldn't decide if I was supposed to think of the mother of God or the woman who wrote the poems  as I tried to understand the meaning behind the words. Perhaps that was the what I was supposed to grapple with because scripture tells us that Mary of Biblical fame, was just a girl, like anyone else except she was special. The poem "Hail" really does seem like a poem from Mary, the poet, to her namesake. In another poem titled "Update on Mary" one has to wonder if Mary, the poet, is giving us an update on herself. It begins, "Mary always thinks that as soon as she gets a few more things done and finishes the dishes, she will open herself to God." Oh boy, can I ever relate to that phrase.

Many of the poems seemed to be pulled from the headlines or directly from Mary's life. In "On a Spring Day in Baltimore, the Art Teacher Asks the Class to Draw Flowers" one gets the creepy feeling that the art teacher is a lech...he is always around with his sketchbook drawing the girl. Just when I am ready to skip to the next poem I come upon this line, "I closed my eyes, felt the sunlight on my thighs. To be beheld like that --- it felt like glittering."  I know what it feel like to glitter in God's sight, I'm guessing that Mary does, too, and she knows what it feels like to not experience the feeling any longer. We see it in the poem "Holy" which is about the illness and eventual death of her mother. In this time and space Mary can no longer feel the Holy Spirit and is bereft. "Fragile mother, impossible spirit, will you fall so far/ from me, will you leave me/ to me?"

And finally I had fun with the poem "Happy Ideas." It was inspired by a Duchamp quote "I had the happy idea to fasten a bicycle wheel to a kitchen stool and watch it turn." Szybist expands on this idea and names many happy ideas which got me thinking about happy ideas. I even got my husband to play along. I had a happy idea, as a matter of fact, to include him in on the fun. Try it...I had a happy idea to play fetch with the dog. I had a happy idea to call a long-lost friend.  I hope your happy ideas are just as happy.

I decided to read Incarnadine as part of my personal challenge to read National Book Award winners. This one won the poetry category in 2013. I'm glad I found it!







National Book Award Personal Challenge selection.

Monday, March 4, 2019

TTT: Characters I Admire

Top Ten Tuesday: The topic is supposed to be characters I'd like to change places with. I couldn't even put my brain on that task. If I replaced a character, the book wouldn't be the same! Duh! So I changed my prompt to be: Characters I Really Admire

1. Levi in Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell---he is just the best boyfriend and not a typical male character usually found in YA lit.

2. Elinor Dashwood in Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen--- she single-handedly holds her family together in the face of financial demise, and unfair prejudice against her sister and her for their poverty.

3. April May in An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green---April is the protagonist in the part Sci-Fi novel who discovers and names the Carls. She becomes famous overnight and has to grapple with what fame means.

4.  Leni in The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah--- Leni is a teenager when her parents move her to the bush of Alaska and she learns a whole new way of life among other Alaskan characters and how to cope with a father who is seriously mentally ill.

5. Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter books by JK Rowling--- Hermione is such a model student and friend, smart and capable.

6. Werner Pfennig in All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr---Werner was a German orphan forced to serve the Third Reich because of his radio skills. In the end, he is true to his nature and saves another character I admire, Marie-Laure. He is a hero.

7.  Vascilisa in The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden--- She believes the fairy tales told by her nurse and she helps protect her home in Northern Russia as she placates the household spirits.
(I haven't read the other two books in the series, yet.)

8. Zelie in The Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi---I love this story set in Nigeria which includes Nigerian folklore. Zelie learns to use her magic for good.

9. Wade Watts in Ready, Player One by Ernest Cline--- Wade is just a kick-ass character who solves a puzzle and does the right thing along the way, hitting "the man" where it hurts.

10. Lireal in the Abhorrsen series by Garth Nix--- she saves the kingdom and remains humble.

Join me in my new Reading Challenge to read books you own. Check out the link for the details.