"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, March 24, 2017

Friday Quotes, Because of Winn-Dixie

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e 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: Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

Book Beginning:
My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.
Friday 56:
And Winn-Dixie stood and stared back at her. He didn't hardly move. He didn't wag his tail. He didn't smile...He just stared at Gertrude [a parrot] and she stared at him. And then she spread her wings out real far and flew and landed on top of Winn-Dixie's head.
Comment: We had to have our dog put to "sleep" last night so I am feeling quite sad and tender today. I'd be honored if you would check out the tribute I wrote to Muffy here. Because of my sadness, today I decided to read a quick, middle-grade book about a wonderful dog, Because of Winn-Dixie written by a masterful author. Don't you just love the book beginning? I'm hoping that Winn-Dixie will work her magic on me like she did for Opal.


Thursday, March 23, 2017

Saying Goodbye to Muffy with a look at the literature

Memories of Muffy on a better day
Today we will put our dog to "sleep." She has a horrible cancerous growth on her leg. It is time to end her suffering. Since I first talked about this on my Sunday Salon post last week I have heard from many, many friends who have had to face the same situation and can empathize with our pain. We know we are not alone.

I wanted to eulogize Muffy for the good dog that she was but unlike my favorite authors who have been able to put pen to paper to extol the virtues of their dogs or of dogs in general, words seem to be eluding me right now. Therefore I will grab a few of their words. I hope these words will not only bring solace to my soul but will also be a salve to yours, if you are also going through a similar situation with a beloved pet.

I hope there is a pet heaven. If there is, as Cynthia Rylant tells us in her children's book Dog Heaven, there will be fields and fields for running, ponds full of geese for barking, tables to lay under, and lots of biscuits to eat. Biscuits in every shape and flavor. God loves dogs and in heaven all dogs are good. And, at the end of our life, our dog will be waiting for us, as she waited for us to get home from work or school here on earth. Muffy will especially like the dog biscuit part. She is definitely a food-lover.

Enzo, the canine narrator of the book The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, heard that when a dog comes to the end of his life "his soul is released to run until he is ready to be reborn" (316). When it is his time to leave, Enzo sees another world where he is free and he wants his master to know he is OK.
There are no fences. No buildings. No people. There is only me and the grass and the sky and the earth. Only me...I take a few steps into the field and feels so good, so nice to be in the cool air, to smell the smells around me. To feel the sun on my coat...I gather my strength and I start off and it feels good like I have no age at all, like I am timeless. I pick up speed. I run... I bark twice so he knows, so he remembers.
Bailey, another canine narrator, knows she needs to help her master. But she is not sure how. After many incarnations she finds he way back to her original master and is able to assist her master with what he needs most, to find love. It was her purpose in life to be there for him and to teach him this. (A Dog's Purpose by W. Bruce Cameron.) I'm pretty sure that Muffy's purpose was to fill a void we had in our lives at the moment she entered in. We got her during a very stressful period for our family. Don was deployed to Iraq for a year. When we got Muffy suddenly we all knew we'd be OK. (And we were!)

We learn so much from our dogs if we are willing to pay attention. My favorite poet, Mary Oliver, is quite a dog lover and has written a whole volume of poems, Dog Songs. dedicated to them, She, like all of us who love our pets, talks to her dogs and imagines that they answer back. In this poem she imagines a conversation with her dog Percy:

In another poem written after Percy dies, Mary Oliver eulogizes him in a beautiful poem. One line jumped out at me: "And you loved Anne." Mary's partner's name is Anne. It is my name, too. If I were to write the poem I would say this about Muffy---
"And you loved Anne and Don and Rita and Carly...your people."

Enzo, wise Enzo,  also reminds us---
To live every day as if it had been stolen from death, that is how I would like to live. To feel the joy of life, as Eve felt the joy of life. To separate oneself from the burden, the angst, the anguish that we all encounter every day. To say I am alive, I am wonderful, I am. I am. That is something to aspire to. (The Art of Racing in the Rain.)
He also reminds us that we should always try to improve on one thing dogs are really good at---listening. Really listening. Not just hearing and preparing to tell our own story as soon as the person stops speaking. He said, "Learn to listen! I beg of you. Pretend you are a dog like me and listen to other people rather than steal their stories.” Muffy was a great listener (unless there was a laser pointer in sight.) She would perk up her ears and look right at you, and you could tell she was listening and trying to understand what we were saying. She would also remind us, and did everyday, that we are all wonderful and lovable.

Winn-Dixie, the adorable mutt who changes Opal's life in Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, understood the importance of proximity. "He [Winn-Dixie] sat down next to me and leaned into me the same as I was leaning into my daddy" (182). All the people in the book recognized how special this dog was and in the end, they celebrated his life,
Dunlap cracked his knuckles and said, 'Well, are we gonna sing or what?' 'Yeah,' Stevie echoed, 'are we gonna sing or what?' 'Let's sing,' said Sweetie Pie, opening her eyes and sitting up straight. 'Let's sing for the dog.'
Today, I want to sing for the dog, Muffy, the special dog in our lives. The dog who knew how to listen and loved to sit close to us. The dog with the most amazing, soft, huge ears that we used to tease were "as soft as dog ears." I want to sing out in celebration of a dog who loved us unconditionally and in return modeled how to accept love. My heart is breaking but I am comforted thinking about Muffy running through fields, barking her head off, and eating biscuits whenever she wants. And in the end, I hope she will be there to greet us on the other side.

Muffy, if there is a dog heaven, I hope that there are plenty of things to chase, even if you never catch them. I hope that you always get to the food bowl first and not have to nip at the cat to get out of the way. I hope that there will be long walks full of good, stinky things to smell. I hope there are lots of good hiding places for your bones and lots of stuffy-toys with fake eyes you can pull out and squeakers you can destroy.

Muffy, you have made us laugh more times than I can count. I even chuckled this morning, even though you were feeling so poorly, when you tried to break up Don and I as we kissed goodbye for the day. You also did take your job as PDA police very seriously. With your comedic antics you endeared yourself to us. "It is hard not to fall in love with a dog who has a good sense of humor" (Because of Winn-Dixie). And fall we did.

And thank you, Muffy, for reminding us that it is wonderful to be alive, even when it hurts because we will miss you so much.

Love, Anne and all your people

May there always be blue balls, green grass and good places to roll around in heaven.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

TTT: Books that I read in one sitting

Top Ten Tuesday: Books that can be read in one sitting (and are worth the time to do so!)
I really did read all of these in one day!
TTT is hosted by The Broke and Bookish

1. Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker
Illustrated with little factoids. Funny, too.

2. The War Within These Walls by Aline Sax
WWII in the Warsaw Ghetto. Illustrated.

3. March: Book Three by John Lewis
The third book in a memoir/graphic biography by an American Civil Rights hero.

4. Ten Poems to Change Your Life by Roger Housden
Ten poems but lots of text and explanations to help break them down.

5. Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings. A Memoir by Margarita Engle
Written in prose, this is a memoir about growing up away from her homeland, Cuba.

6. El Deafo by Cece Bell
A graphic novel about a deaf girl and her life adjustments.

7. The Shift: One Nurse, Twelve Hours, Four Patients' Lives by Theresa Brown
A memoir written by a nurse and her twelve hour shift. Wow. What a hard job.

8. The Boys Who Challenged Hitler: Knud Pedersen and the Churchill Club by Phillip Hoose
Another inspiring WWII story out of Denmark where a group of young teen boys took on the Nazis.

9. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
The classic children's story, not to be missed by adults.

10. Dog Songs by Mary Oliver
A slim volume of poems dedicated to our best friends, our pet dogs.

Monday, March 20, 2017

LaRose by Louise Erdrich

The central question in LaRose by Louise Erdrich is: Can a person "do the worst thing possible and still be loved"?

Landreaux Iron does the worst thing. When he is out hunting one day, he accidentally hits and kills the young son, Dusty, of his best friend. Set in North Dakota on the Ojibwe Indian Reservation, Landreaux and his wife seek tribal remedies in a sweat lodge and by talking to their priest about ways to deal with their guilt. Ultimately they decide to give their son, LaRose, to Dusty's family following an ancient tradition as a way of seeking pardon. Dusty's parents, Nola and Peter Ravich, are obviously tentative in accepting another child as "payment" for their lost son but eventually find that LaRose does indeed fulfill a deep need for solace in their hearts.

LaRose, who is named for a long line of ancestors with the same name, is really a remarkable kid who seems to have an intuition what he needs to do to help both families heal from this horrible situation. He seems to be able to draw upon the strength and lessons learned from his previous namesakes, whom we meet in short, retrospective chapters.

In the hands of most authors LaRose would be a completely sentimental, sad book, but not in the very adept hands of Louise Erdrich. She understands how to tell a story which compels the reader to confront the situation at hand without being sappy. Along the way we even gain insights and knowledge about Native American culture and family structure.
Perhaps the most important of Erdrich’s achievements is her mastery of complex forms. Her novels are multivocal, and she uses this multiplicity to build a nest, capacious, sturdy and resplendent, for her tales of Indians, living and dead, of the burden and power of their heritage, the challenge and comedy of the present’s harsh demands. Woven into the specificity of these narratives is Erdrich’s determination to speak of the most pressing human questions. ---Mary Gordon, NYT Book Review
Running concurrent to the story involving LaRose and his two families is the story of Romeo, a community n'er-do-well. He is always digging up dirt on everyone which he saves up to use at a later date. He is especially interested in digging up something incriminatory on Landreaux since he blames all/most of his current woes on him for an accident that occurred when Landreaux and Romeo were boys. Romeo provides the story with much needed comedy relief. He also is complex and interesting. Even though he is a despicable character, the reader will enjoy the time spent with him and his narrative.

Food plays a rather large role in the story. People tend to gather together when there is food giving the characters a chance to gather and converse. My favorite, where the full force and power of community and culture were on display,  happened around the graduation party and potluck for Hollis, one of the children raised in the Iron family. Blessings over the food and an elaborate drumming ceremony over the cake bring to the forefront the importance of traditions and culture in family gatherings. I was so touched by this scene I found myself crying when I tried to explain it to my husband. In light of the recent attacks on Muslims and Mexicans it seems that our government forgets the importance of culture and traditions on who we are as a people. We are all "less than" if we don't allow everyone a chance to express and rejoice in these celebrations of culture or religion.

Another book by Louise Erdrich, Roundhouse, is one of my favorite books. It is set on the same Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota and deals with the theme of revenge. LaRose deals more with the theme of forgiveness. Through forgiveness we find there is an answer to the initial question. Yes, one can still be loved, even if the worst possible thing happens.


Sunday, March 19, 2017

Sunday Salon, March 19

Daffodil season is upon us. I am keeping my eyes alert color splashes of yellow.
Weather: the day looks to be shaping up nicely, or at least a brief respite from the rain.

Song of the Day: Pentatonix "Can't Sleep Love". I am probably the last person alive who hasn't seen this until this week. But I enjoyed it so thought you might enjoy seeing ti again.

Hard decision ahead: A few weeks ago I reviewed the book Lily and the Octopus about a dog who was dying from a brain tumor and her master. I couldn't help making the comparisons between Lily and our dog, Muffy. Both are 12 years old, both are low-rider dogs, and both have tumors. (Click the hyperlink if you want to read the review.) This week we had to take Muffy to the vet twice because the tumor had grown so much and we wanted to talk over options during the first visit, and for wound care the second visit. The only option to save her life is to remove the leg, and that isn't really even a solid option because the tumor has spread to her lymph glands and, being a short-legged dog, she would have tremendous difficulties with only three limbs. During our last visit the veterinarian spoke aloud the word which was rattling around in our brains: euthanasia. Oh boy, hard decisions ahead. Both Don and I broke down repeatedly yesterday just thinking about our options...which is really shaping up to be one option.

Spa Day: For my birthday LAST year my daughters gave me a gift certificate for a spa day. Yesterday Rita and I went and treated ourselves to a facial (Rita) and a massage (me.) Ah.h.

Books completed this week:
  • LaRose by Louise Erdrich. I am about half finished with the review of this marvelous book. Watch for it later today or tomorrow. (Audio)
  • History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera. A gay teen's first love dies in an accident. He is trying to cope with his guilt and shifting friendships. (YA, E-Book)
Currently reading:
  • Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. Slavery. Interconnected stories. Horrifying and disgusting, I am having a lot of trouble making myself listen to this book for that reason. (Audio, book club selection, 25%)
  • Tales from the South Pacific by James Michener. This is my Classics Club Spin book. This also is made up of interconnected stories. (Print, >10%)
  • Long May She Wave: a Graphic History of the American Flag by Kit Hindrichs. This is a coffee table-sized book all about the American Flag. I am totally digging this book. I have it opened on the counter at school and look at it when I get a chance here and there during the work day. It was given to the library by the JROTC program. (Print, 33%)
60 for my 60th: Today I am going to see the movie Beauty and the Beast with my husband's cousin. Just us girls! Then later this week a friend, one of my oldest and dearest, is driving up from Portland so we can spend the afternoon/evening together. She turns 60 in a few weeks so we will double celebrate our age and our long friendship.

Gotta run!

Friday, March 17, 2017

Brona's Salon, on rereading

Brona's Salon is a new meme which aims to gather a group of like-minded bookish people 'under the roof of an inspiring host, held partly to amuse one another and partly to refine the taste and increase the knowledge of the participants through conversation.'

Each week she will provide a prompt intended to inspire a conversation.
However please feel free to discuss your current read or join in the conversation in any way that you see fit. Amusement, refinement and knowledge will surely follow!

This week's prompt: Lately I have been thinking about rereading a lot.

I, too, think a lot about rereading but rarely do it. I want to revisit old friends or retrieve the good feeling I got the last time I read the book. Sometimes I want to reread because I want to refresh my memory of the action, plot of characters, as my daughter would be sure to tell you if she was here. But usually I do not succumb to the pull of the desire for a reread because I have so many other unread books calling my name.

On the rare occasion when I do reread a book I am never quite sure what the experience will hold for me. Several times I've actually ended up not liking the book as much after the reread as my memory told me I would like it. Case in point, I just reread Little Women for the Classics Club Spin late last year. I embarked on the rereading journey expecting to be entranced again by the March sisters and their world. What I found was a preachy, almost stilted book. I was shocked. Now to be fair, I first read Little Women when I was a pup myself, probably under the age of twelve and I may have read the abridged version first time around. But I think that in my childish stage I completely glossed over or didn't recognize the overt preachiness of this classic. This has happened a few other times with books I loved as kid and didn't admire as much when I reread it as an adult. 

(Word of caution here: if you are a parent and want to read a book aloud to your children, one which was one of your childhood favorites, read a few chapters to yourself first. You might be shocked at what you find. My mother-in-law, God rest her soul, gave me one of her favorite childhood books to read to my children. I didn't preview it, just started reading it aloud and had to stop. It was too racist. Society norms had changed a lot since Mom was a young girl. I was pretty upset with myself for not previewing it first.)

I have actually made a conscious decision to NOT reread some of my favorite books because I don't want to risk having my memory tainted if, by chance, I don't like it as much the second time through. Three books which come to mind as examples of this are:  The Secret Life of Bees; Cold Sassy Tree; and The Power of One

Rereading a book can also help me realize how much I have changed and moved on since I first read the book. For many years I reread a favorite book A Town Like Alice by Neville Shute. I saw the mini-series based on the book back in the 1980s and loved it. I first read the book at that time and would reread it with some regularity afterwards. For some reason it really spoke to me. The last time through, though, I realized that the book no longer spoke to me. I actually touched it and said goodbye. It was obvious to me that I was done with it, whatever need it had fulfilled was done. Now it will become part of my memory bank of books, one I will only revisit in my mind.

When I do reread a book, the format may help make my decision. For example, I love to listen to the audiobook of To Kill a Mockingbird read by Roses Prichard. I have it on my iTunes account and relisten to all or part of it every once in a while. This narrator has become for me the voice of Scout. Stargirl read by the late, great John Ritter, is a treasure to be enjoyed many times.  I first read The Fault in Ours Stars in the print edition then reread (or re-consumed) it in the audio format. Likewise, I may read the print edition of books I first listened to as audiobooks. Mirrormask by Neil Gaiman is an example of that. As I listened to the story I realized I was missing out on the illustrations which would bring it to life in the print edition.

Oddly, because I never saw myself this way in the past, the books I reread the most often are poetry books. Well, that statement isn't exactly accurate. I am more likely to reread poems than anything else, I rarely reread the whole book. My favorite poets are Mary Oliver, Billy Collins, Maya Angelou, and Galway Kinnell. My favorite poetry books are those edited by Roger Housden in the "Ten Poems" series. What I love best about the poems in these books is how Housden adds his thoughts and a commentary which opens up the poems for me. I reread these books often. Poetry, on a reread, always come across as new because various aspects are revealed on closer examination.

Lastly, I should mention Jane Austen. I read her books all the time. Need I say more?

So there you have it. I don't often reread books but if I do I either do it with trepidation or I attempt to consume it in a different format (usually audio.)  What about you? Do you often reread books? If so, what are your favorite rereads and why do you reread books? If not, why not? Let's have a discussion. Your turn to talk in the comments below....


PS- If you are a blogger and want to participate, join up at Brona's Books.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Friday Quotes, March 17th

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e 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: Tales from the South Pacific by James Michener

Book Beginning:
I wish I could tell you about the South Pacific. The way it actually was. The endless ocean. The infinite speaks of coral we call islands...But whenever I start to talk about the South Pacific, people intervene. I try to tell somebody what the steaming Hebrides was like, and first thing you know I'm telling about the old Tonkinese woman who used to sell human heads. As souvenirs. For fifty dollars!
Friday 56:
Shortly after Bill learned to play volleyball, he made junior-grade lieutenant, automatically. He was chagrined at the promotion, especially when he read in a letter from home that Lenore's brother Eddiie, who had joined the Army, was already a captain! The news made Bill restless. He wanted to be doing something. There was great activity in the air. Things were happening in the world, and he was sitting on Efate, sunning himself, becoming a volleyball champion.
Comment: This is my Classics Club Spin book. I just started it (I'm on page one!) But here are a few things I know so far: This was Michener's first novel and it was so good, it won the Pulitzer Prize for literature in 1948. It is collection of short stories set during WWII in the South Pacific. The very famous Broadway musical, South Pacific, came from this book. It is not as hefty as his other novels. It is only 380 pages compared to the average of 1000 in many of his other books.I like the beginning, don't you?

Bookish (and not so bookish) thoughts, March 16th

1. To retire or not to retire? That is the question. At the beginning of the school year I thought I would retire this year, then I decided I would go one more year. Now I am leaning toward retiring. People tell me I will "know" when it is time. What if "knowing" changes every day? Yes. No. Maybe.

2. Jane Austen week. For the past eight or nine years I have hosted a Jane Austen week in the library. I highlight her books, show one of the movies based on her books, play trivia, hand out prizes, decorate the display case with everything Austen. This year, I am not feeling it. For one thing only one student has asked about it. For another, Jane Austen readers have diminished over the years. The only book they know is Pride and Prejudice and that is because of the movie, I'm sure. I am pretty sure this is a sign. Refer to #1.

3. So who knew that there were such different types of book-cover laminates? I opened a new roll today to cover a larger book I just purchased for the library and I struggled, really struggled to get it on the book without adhering to itself and then there were a million tiny air bubbles I couldn't get out. Gah!

4. We found out we are going to be grandparents in September. Yay! And this week I received my first grandma gift, a board book, Moo Baa La La La by Sandra Boynton. It was a favorite when my kids were little. Thanks, Grace!

5. Feast or famine with audiobooks. I place holds on audiobooks at the library and they all come available at the same time. Why do I keep doing this to myself? It happens every time. Currently I have four (or is it five?) audiobooks checked out to me and they all have three week circulation dates. The problem, of course, is that a person can only listen to one audiobook at a time, unlike juggling two or three print books. Therefore more than half will go back without me listening to a minute of them. I will finish one audiobook today, LaRose by Erdrich, and restart another I had set aside, Homegoing by Gyassi. Other than that I am not sure I will get to any of the others. Back in line, to start the whole process again.

6. The JROTC program just gave the library a ginormous book called Long May She Wave, all about the American flag. Although extra big books are hard to store in a library, I am going to keep it and place it on display. It is so cool. (See photo.)

7. On an unrelated and non-bookish note, our dog's tumor started bleeding last night. I had just taken her to the vet the day before and it wasn't that bad. It grew that much overnight. Ugh. Really gross. Time to start making hard decisions. Sigh.

This meme is hosted by BookishlyBoisterous


Monday, March 13, 2017

TTT: TBR Spring Books 2017

Top Ten Tuesday: What books top my to-be-read pile of books this Spring.

The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
A YA book I've been seeing on a lot of lists.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Set in Africa with the roots of slavery forming the framework of the stories. I've started it but had to put it on the back burner until I am done with my current audiobook.

Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War by Mary Roach
This book is this year's selection for Pierce Reads 2017!

Dear Bob and Sue by Matt and Karen Smith
Matt and Karen visit all the National Parks and write to their friends about their experiences. 
A book club selection.

We Are OK by Nina LaCour
This is one of the first four-starred reviews of 2017. I love LaCour's writing and hope this one is as good and the reviews state.

This Is How It Always Is by Laurie Frankel
Another upcoming book club selection.

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Another 2017 YA title. This author got a lot of love last year. Will this book live up to the hype?

Sunday Salon on Monday, March 13th

(Rain, rain, go away. Come again some other day.) Photo credit: LegendNation

Weather: RAIN. This past week we also had snow, hail, sleet, fog, sun, and more rain.

Cousin's Shower: My youngest cousin had a baby in November. All my attempts (more mental than anything) to get up to Seattle to meet and welcome Miss Zoe were for naught, so I organized a shower to meet and greet the latest member of our family. Yesterday four cousins, my aunt, my sister, my daughter and son-in-law came to our house for a baby shower. I am still basking in the glow of the event. It was so good to be together with family, especially since we rarely gather together, chatting and catching up on our lives. And of course, Miss Zoe, allowed us all to snuggle her a little bit. What a doll.

More visits for my 60 for my 60th: This was a busy week on my yearlong plan to reconnect with my friends and relatives: Cousin's Shower---four cousins, one aunt, one sister = six; coffee date with friend Margaret = one; dinner at a Mexican restaurant with my cousin's daughter and her husband = two. Total for the week = nine. My little plan is working out well.

Prayers for: My father and my brother. My dad is unwell. He has a mass in his abdomen, is experiencing pain, and no appetite. He has a CAT scan scheduled for Thursday. Prayers that they find an answer and some relief. My brother will be receiving his last melanoma treatment this week but he has also been unwell with chest congestion and a horrible cough. Prayers that he is well enough to get his last treatment and that he gains strength and lung function going forward.

Books completed this past week (a lot of poetry):
  • Selections from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman...what can I say? I finally read at least some of this famous American poet's poems and enjoyed the experience. Check out my review by clicking the hyperlink. (Print)
  • Howl and other poems by Allen Ginsberg...what can I say? I finally read this famous poet's small volume of poems patterned after Whitman's and I admit it, I hated them. (Print)
  • A List of Cages by Robin Roe...my first potential Mock Printz book of the year and not a good starter for me. I sped-read through the middle of this very disturbing book about foster care, abuse, and neglect. But also about the power of friendship. I won't be recommending this book for our reading list. (E-Book)
Currently reading:
  • LaRose by Louise Erdrich...several generations of individuals with the name LaRose in a Native American community. Pretty complicated but it does provide a peek at what life is like on the reservation. I love this author. (Audio, 72%)
  • History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera...another YA Mock Printz contender. (E-book, just starting)
  • Sad Animal Facts by Brooke Barker . Illustrated, silly book about animals. (Print, 11%)
For your listening enjoyment: So excellent.

Have a good week!


Friday, March 10, 2017

15th Classics Club SPIN number is...

The Classics Club SPIN was today.

So today is the day to discover what book I will be reading for the next six weeks and it is....


The 12th book on my list is Tales of the South Pacific by James Michener.

Published in 1947 this is the book that launched Michener's career. He is a master storyteller. This book is set in the South Pacific during WWII and from it came the famous Broadway Show: "South Pacific." Tales of the South Pacific won the Pulitzer Prize in 1948. I've read at least one other book by Michener many years ago, Centennial, which was an epic tale almost starting at the beginning of time. I wonder if this book starts the same way? I don't have my own copy of the book so I will have to borrow it from the public library

In case you are playing along, consult your list. The book you will be reading is your 12th book on the list.

Here is my original list.

Happy Reading.


Thursday, March 9, 2017

Friday Quotes, March 10

Book Beginnings on Friday is hosted by Rose City ReaderShare the opening quote from the book.
e 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: A List of Cages by Robin Roe

Book Beginnings:
Julian: There is a room in this school that no one knows about but me. If I could teleport, I'd be there now. Maybe if I just concentrate----
Friday 56:
Adam: I've never been inside the ISS room, but I can already tell it's going to suck.
Comments: Julian's parents died in a car accident. Adam's mom fostered him until a relative could be found. Now can Adam save Julian from the hellish life Julian is living?

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman. My first time reading it.

Walt Whitman, Library of Congress. Photo taken by George C Cox; restored by Adam Cuerden
Unbelievably, I am taking a maiden voyage. I am reading Selections from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman for the first time. In my initial exploration of the slim volume of the Selections from Leaves of Grass that I have in my library I learned quite a bit, which made me even more determined to read it.
  • Walt Whitman is considered to be the first poet of democracy, or the first truly American poet whose voice is singularly American.
  • Harold Blood said, "If you are American, then Walt Whitman is your imaginative father and mother." He went on to say that of all the literary works we associate with America--- Huck Finn, Moby Dick, Emerson's Essays--- Leaves of Grass tops the list.
  • Whitman kept editing Leaves of Grass throughout his writing career and published nine editions of it. Each edition had different variations of poems. He didn't just keep adding and adding, he sometimes subtracted poems, too.
  • The influence of "Song of Myself", Whitman's most famous work, on American poetry is incalculable. "The poet insists that 'every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you'—words that have inspired countless poets to map new worlds. Indeed it is hard to imagine William Carlos Williams discovering “the pure products of America,” Theodore Roethke undertaking “the long journey out of the self,” or Allen Ginsburg writing “Howl” absent Whitman...We all live under the gaze of that pioneer who counsels us, in the final lines of “Song of Myself,” to look for him under our boot-soles."---Univ. of Iowa
  • "Song of Myself" has 52 numbered sections. One per week of the year? Even though it got longer with the different editions, and renamed, it is still a marvel and was thought so from its first printing onward. The version I am reading is unnumbered and not sectioned, so I believe it to be the original 1855 edition.
  • The poem "Song of Myself" is so long it can't be easily summarized but suffice it to say that what, at first glance, appears to be a very self-centered poem is actually the opposite. As it says in the first stanza, "For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you." Whitman seems to love everything and everybody except those who are judgmental or preachy. Seems like a good message for today's politics.
  • Henry Canby, who wrote the biographical notes on one of the editions of Leaves of Grass said, "nobody ever read or should attempt to read Leaves of Grass cover to cover." Good. I will have an excuse to take my time.
Favorite lines from "Song of Myself:"

lI celebrate myself, and sing myself,
     And what I assume you shall assume,
     For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

lThere was never any more inception than there is now,
     Not any more youth or age than there is now,

lI believe in you my soul...

lI resist any thing better than my own diversity,
     Breathe the air but leave plenty after me...

lI exist as I am, that is enough,
     If no other in the world be aware I sit content...

lWhoever degrades another degrades me,
     And whatever is done or said returns at last to me. 

lThe clock indicates the moment --- but what does eternity indicate?

"O Captain, My Captain" Goes to show how little I know. I had no idea that this poem, a favorite of mine since the movie Dead Poet Society came out, was written by Whitman after the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. The poem was embraced by the American public as soon as it was published for good reason. Reread it and you will see what I mean. Everyone in the country is celebrating because the battle is over and the victory is secured, but the captain lays dead. How can they celebrate?
                      Exult O shores, and ring O bells! 
                            But I with mournful tread, 
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies, 
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

"I Sing the Body Electric" Well here is another Whitman poem I recognize by title. But when I went searching for some audio version, I ran into this, from the 1980s movie, Fame. The title of the song is just about all that is borrowed from this poem. I did enjoy listening to the song, so thought I'd give you the chance to listen and watch, too, this blast from the past.
"Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" When Whitman first published Leaves of Grass some people considered it obscene since some of the poems contain quite frank lines about our bodies and sexuality. By today's standards, of course, they are quite tame. Here is a line I found tucked in this poem, "About my body for me, and your body for you, be hung our divinest aromas." It speaks to me of the mysteries of knowing another person fully.

"Song of the Open Road". Years ago, when I was a classroom teacher and taught Sociology my students and I would explore the theme of cultural literacy, or being able to understand and participate in one's culture fluently. I would then send out my students and have them interview teachers, parents, grandparents about what they thought every American should know to be culturally literate. When we convened we would compile and discuss our lists. Usually our lists contained things like knowing the rules to baseball; the words to the National Anthem and the Pledge of Allegiance; nuanced things like which side of the stairs to walk up/down, etc. Apparently, however, it never occurred to anyone, including me, that Whitman should be included on the list. I'm bumping into lines in his poems which I seem to know by heart, without even knowing how I know them or knowing that he wrote them. Case in point are the opening lines to this poem, "Song of the Open Road",
     Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road, 
     Healthy, free, the world before me, 
     The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. 

"Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking". Here is another thing I just discovered. I know the titles of many of Whitman's poems, once again not knowing that they were his, like the title of this poem. Don't these titles just roll off your tongue? "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking"; "Song of the Open Road"; "I Sing the Body Electric"; "I Saw in Louisiana a Live-Oak Growing."  The titles alone invite the reader in. Now granted, all the 52 (there's that number again!) poems in this slim volume don't have wonderful, catching titles, but many, possibly most, do.

Selections from Leaves of Grass, the edition I hold in my hands right now, is one of the Walt Whitman poetry books in the GKHS library. It is a slim, plain volume weighing in at 109 pages. It was published in 1961. Apparently, book font styles were very different in past decades. Even though the book is short, the font is small and the text cramped. For the longer poems like "Song of Myself" and "Song of the Open Road" I found myself searching on the the Internet for copies of the poem which were easier to read. I liked those I found on The Poetry Foundation the best. I'm sure you agree. Font size and style really do make a difference for  reading enjoyment.

Death is a theme I see repeated in Whitman's poems but he doesn't get all morose or creepy as he describes it. In fact in several poems, one gets the impression that he welcomes it or at least likes it.
"When Lilacs in the Dooryard Bloom'd" is an elegy to Abraham Lincoln after he was assassinated in 1865. In this poem he uses a lovely and comforting metaphor for death---"a dark mother as gliding near with soft feet." The poem "Scented Herbage of My Breast" seems to be all about death and being buried with lines like this that evoke a very natural order of things---"Tomb-leaves, body-leaves growing up above me above death..." In the poem "Out of the Cradle Endlessly Rocking", where a boy (Whitman) is awakened to poetry through nature because he observes and then hears the lovely and heart-rending lament of a sparrow who is mourning the loss of his mate.
     O past! O happy life! O songs of Joy!
     In the air, in the woods, over field,
     Loved! loved! loved! loved! loved!
     But my mate no more, no more with me!
     We two together no more.

Favorites. It seems that everyone has a Whitman favorite. I think my favorite is "O Captain, My Captain.", but now that I've read this volume full of other favorites I think I may change my mind. I'll let them simmer a few more days before I decide for sure. What about you? What is your favorite Whitman poem?

"Says" is the last poem in this collection. In this poem Whitman seems to be giving us all advice. Here are a few of the gems he leaves us with:
l"I say nourish a great intellect, a great brain;"

      l"I say man shall not hold property in man;
            I say the least developed person on earth is just as important and sacred to himself or herself, 
            as the most developed person is to himself or herself."

     l"...anything is most beautiful without ornament,"

     l "I say that every single right, in politics or what-not, shall be eligible 
            to that one man or woman, on the same terms as any."

I like that last thought so much I highlighted it.

Whitman was truly a great poet and I'll claim him as my "imaginative father." Thanks for sticking with me, dear reader. This is a log post and you deserve credit for reading to the end.

Edition: Whitman, Walt. Selections from Leaves of Grass. Avenel Press. New York. 1961. Print.