Sunday, December 12, 2010

Opening Lines Are Tough

Now that I've gotten myself into this mess, I suppose I should get started.  I've begun working my way through Owen's Library.  I was hoping for some surprises and I've already gotten a few!  None of the books were empty shells hiding large sums of cash between the covers.   That would have been a great surprise, no?  I have, however, come across a book or two that have been pretty darn great and enjoyable reads to boot.  Surprise!  Way better surprises than those times when I catch myself in the mirror and think "Who is that old woman in my house?" and then realize that it's me.  Now there's a shocking moment.  I often need to sit down when that happens to catch my breath.

While we're on the subject of sitting down (Sally Segue, that's me!), I have had the chance to sit down with banker's box #1 and am ready to share what's inside.  Here goes:

1.  My Name is Asher Lev by Chaim Potok

   Asher Lev is a young boy, an Orthodox Jew, living with his mother and father, both of whom work for the influential rabbi of their community.  Asher is a gifted artist, seeing his world through a lens that puts him in direct opposition to his community and to his family.  As he grows to adulthood, the tension between his gift and his familiar world becomes tighter and tighter until he must make a choice between the two. 
  Did I like this book?  It was interesting.  I am glad I read it.  Is it one that I would read again?  Probably not.  There were scenes that I might go back to, but I don't think I would re-read the whole book.  Am I interested in keeping this in my library?  Not so much.  Would I recommend it?  If you read Potok's more famous works The Chosen or The Promise and enjoyed those works, then you very well might enjoy this one as well.  Incidentally, I was reading about Chaim Potok and saw that he had written a sequel to Asher Lev called The Gift of Asher Lev.  I think I might put that one on the library list.  I'm interested to see where Asher Lev ends up.

Monday, December 06, 2010

 Owen’s Library

My grandfather, Owen, was a great collector of many things.  Paintings, tools (functional and not), costume jewelry, anything that might attract large amounts of dust, people who loved him, more dusty things and books.  Granted, that is only a partial and inconclusive list, I must assume that the picture has been painted.  After his death, my amazing aunts and uncles, along with numerous cousins and my pretty great brother, began the mountainous task of cleaning out his houses.  It is taking a long time and much work, plenty of tears and even more laughter.  One of the big questions is “what to do with ALL those books?”.

I have decided to take on that task.  I don’t know what will eventually happen to the boxes and boxes  (and boxes) of books.  Will I be able to find a buyer; who buys old books these the days of Kindles and E-readers?  Will I donate them?  If that is indeed the case, who would want 30 plus bankers boxes of pre-1970 books? I can guarantee that none of these are from Oprah’s bookclub or have sparkly vampires as protagonists.  What I can say, without hesitation, is that I am going to read as many of them as I am able.  This is how I am going to honor my wonderful granddad, I am going to spend time lovingly paying attention to something he collected and valued. 

Thus I am turning my blog over, for the time being, to cataloging those books I encounter on my journey.  I expect some to be dry and dull, my grandfather was a military man and I have a relatively short attention span for minute detail.  I hope there are some that surprise me.  But most of all, I hope that I am able to spend even a little bit of every day remembering an extraordinary man by doing what I love more than most anything: reading.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Niequist

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way

I found this book to be a whole lot more sweet than it was bitter.  The trials that this young woman so honestly and genuinely shares are most certainly real and are most certainly painful for the author.  The lessons she derives from each of those times are insightful and innocently wise.  I found myself smiling, often, at her youth as she shared her life stories.  Being 25 and full of life to share, advice to give and stories to tell is indeed a sweet thing.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

You Suck (Vampire Trilogy #2)

You Suck: A Love Story by Christopher Moore 
It didn't. Strange. Funny. Vampire-y. Christopher Moore is an acquired taste, however. Kind of like vegemite. Or gin.

Here's what the author has to say about the current vampire trend. I like his style. There will be more from him later. Not necessarily about vampires though, just random awesomeness.

"Stephenie Meyer: Her vampires are sparkly, which I think we can all agree is wrong."
— Christopher Moore

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

I'll own it.

I was way obnoxious at Costco yesterday.

Here's what happened:

It started out as an innocent shopping trip with my friend Karen.  We were being efficient shoppers, staying to our lists and zipping down those aisles as fast as the extraordinarily heavy carts would let us.  Seriously, those carts are HEAVY! They're heavy even before you put anything in them.   Add 144 jars of peanut butter and a case of water and, shoot, you've got one heck of a job as pusher.  Olympic bobsled teams should train at Costco.

Then we got to the book aisle.

It's like the La Brea Tar Pits and just like a mastadon bogged down in the tar, I get stuck in the pit of inexpensive and Oprah recommended books.  I can't just walk on by.  Oh no, I have to stop and be more than a little obnoxious.  Hard to believe, I know, because normally I'm the picture of gentility and grace.

You might want to clean the vomit off the floor before you leave the room.  Someone might slip and fall.  I don't want to be held accountable for any injury.

Meanwhile, back at Costco, I start playing the"Read That, Didn't Read That, Won't Read That, You Should Really Read That" game.  I also like to play that game at BevMo, but substituting the word "Drink" for "Read".  It's charming.

Apparently I have a voice that carries because after one round of the game, I accrue an audience.  No, really, several people come over to our side of the gigantic table and watch which books I point too.  Then they ask my opinion.

Silly people.  They have no idea the Pandora's Box they have just opened.  The only difference are my Furies are either hard bound or paperback.  That and they don't destroy things unless you throw them but that is an entirely different post for much later.

I gladly hold court on the aisle of cheap paperbacks for a few moments while my wonderful, long suffering friend waits patiently with our basket of bread, bagels and economy sized cereal boxes.  I don't know why she puts up with me.

Clearly I need to find place to work my book suggesting magic.  Anyone want to pay me?  I'll work for cheap.  I do love those Costco hot dogs.  They're cheap.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

3 Things I Realized When I Finished Reading Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell

1.  It's a very good thing that I did not major in business or any other business type concentration.  Or law.  Or medicine.  Or computer science.
2.  When it comes to success, some people are just luckier than others.  The rest of us get to buy books about the lucky ones.  Lucky us.
3.  I might feel really horrible about how unlucky I am if I had the same definition of success as the author of this book.  Good thing I don't.

Monday, March 29, 2010

I'm still working my way through Cutting for Stone (Vintage) by Abraham Verghese.  It's a very long book.  Did you know that Ethiopia has a strong Italian influence, especially in the years following World War II?  I didn't.  I learn so much from reading.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

I sometimes think that God might be a librarian.

For some time now I've been thinking a lot about heaven; what happens after our bodies are done working.  If heaven exists, what is it like?  Is it the "pearly gates, streets of gold" thing that I was taught about in Sunday School?  Is it a specific place?  Will I get bored?  How long is eternity anyway?  Will Ben & Jerry's be served?  I hope so, I love that Cherry Garcia.  There is a new flavor called Maple Blondie that is pretty darn awesome too.  That would be so cool to eat Maple Blondie ice cream in heaven.  I wonder if Jesus will want a bowl?  He might have to get his own pint.  I don't know if I'll want to share, even in my heavenly state of wonderfulness.  Ice cream is a pretty personal thing.

Wait, where was I?  Heaven and librarians.   In any case, I've been thinking about heaven for a while now. I have spoken at a women's retreat about longing for heaven.  I find myself wishing and wondering about the whole thing more often than I think might be normal.  Given my recent streams of thought, I thought it interesting when I opened my most recent read, Cutting for Stone (Vintage) and the epigraph (A poem that the author chooses to use to lead the reader into his book.  Thanks Lita, you are a wonder woman of all things literary! What color shall I make your cape or would you prefer a tiara?) is a wonderful poem by Rabindranath Tagore that reads:
And because I love this life
I know I shall love death as well.
The child cries out when
From the right breast the mother
Takes it away, in the very next moment
To find in the left one
Its consolation.

Funny that I should be thinking about life after death and the very first thing I read in a randomly chosen novel is this poem.

The other book I picked up that very same trip, just because I love the author, not because I was looking for books on the subject:  Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church by N.T. Wright.  Is is way too geeky to have a favorite theologian?

God is many, many things.  Creator, protector, redeemer . . . librarian.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

 Just breathing.

Thanks Eddie Vedder for the reminder.

Love that song.

Watch a great version here:

Eddie?  Would it be weird if I told you that I have a mad crush on you?  I loved you in Singles.  You, Matt Dillon and Campbell Scott all in the same movie at the same time?  Oh, and that guy who played the cute professor on Thirtysomething.  Bridget Fonda is pretty cute too.  But you're my favorite.  Glad we're growing old together.


On second thought, it would be weird.   Never mind.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Last night I attended a Taize service at a local church.  We entered the church, which was completely dark, lit only by candles at the front and the back of the sanctuary.  We were given an order of worship, copies of the songs to be sung and a tiny flashlight so we could read both.  I love flashlights.  It was all I could do to keep myself from switching it on and off the entire service.  I exercised incredible self-control.  Praise God for small miracles.

The service was beautiful.  There were large periods of silence interspersed with short chants led by a woman with a clear and beautiful voice.  There were times to pray silently, to pray aloud and to light candles as an expression of worship.  As my singing voice is sketchy at best and Latin isn't a language I jump easily into, I spent most of the time in silent contemplation.  I found myself praying that God would remove all the worry and burden and sadness that seems to be holding me back from being the woman I know deep in my heart that I am supposed to be.  There's a whole lot of all that stuff.  God might need a forklift to haul it all away.  It will probably take several trips.  Lots of worry.  Lots of sadness.  Heavy burdens.

As much as I would like to say that there was some supernatural lifting of my spirit and I left empowered and changed, I left pretty much the same girl as I was when I walked in.  I wasn't disappointed.  I just wasn't transformed in a dramatic way.  No big deal.

I woke up today, went for a run, stopped off at the market, baked a cake and then sat down for lunch.  Tuna salad.  Yum.  I do like to read while I eat if I'm home alone and today was a day to start a new book.  Cutting for Stone (Vintage) by Abraham Verghese is my latest read.  I'm on page 13.  It's amazing.  I'm sure there will be many entries about this book.  I more than kind of think I was supposed to start this book today, especially after my Taize experience last night.  Here's why.

Marion is an orphaned boy in Addis Ababa, Ethiopa.  He goes to Matron, "Missing Hospital's wise and sensible leader" (Verghese, 3) for guidance.  She advises him to do the hardest thing he could possibly do as his life's work.  When he questions her advice she tells him, and this is the part that stopped my tuna salad laden fork in awe of timing and providence, "Because, Marion, you are an instrument of God.  Don't leave the instrument sitting in its case, my son. Play!  Leave no part of your instrument unexplored.  Why settle for 'Three Blind Mice' when you can play the 'Gloria'?"  (page 6)

Marion takes her literally, protesting that he can't play any musical instrument, so how could he possibly play Bach's beautiful "Gloria".

Hold on.

Here comes the part I love.

The Matron tells him "'No Marion,' she said, her gaze soft, reaching for me, her gnarled hands rough on my cheeks. 'No, not Bach's Gloria. Yours!  Your Gloria lives within you.  The greatest sin is not finding it, ignoring what God made possible in you.'" (page 6)

Not Bach's "Gloria" but mine.

I have to think about this more.

I think I use too many words to be a blogger.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Still working on  Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  Now not only do you need to be supernaturally lucky in order to be "successful", but you need to be in the upper middle class with highly educated, overly involved parents.  Hmmm.  Oh, and you need to have been born in very specific years, depending upon your area of specialty.  Yikes.  I'm more than kind of screwed.

In other news, just finished a sweet little novel called Austenland: A Novel by Shannon Hale, about a young woman who spends three weeks at a Jane Austen themed camp like thing.  I would call it an Austen-immersion program maybe?  Very sweet.  A quick read.  Made me want to go on a three week vacation to anywhere.  I wonder what literary vacation I would choose to be immersed in.  Most likely not Beowolf.  Hmmm.  What would you choose?

Friday, March 12, 2010

In my last post I asked, rhetorically of course, about the nature of success.  As it would happen, I was listening to "Morning Edition" on NPR this morning and the Rabbi Harold Kushner was being interviewed and he mentioned a book he had written in 2007 called Overcoming Life's Disappointments.  He talked for a bit about how our culture has linked power with success and what happens to us when our lives do not turn out the way we had planned them.  I will be reading this book.  I wonder if it is on Itunes as an audio book.  I may have to listen to it tonight.  Amazing how God works.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Upon suggestion from two friends, I've started reading a book called Outliers: The Story of Success by Malcolm Gladwell.  Granted I've only read the first few chapters, but what I can surmise so far is that his premise is that success lies mainly in the hands of luck.  Some people get those extraordinary opportunities and some don't.  Yes, what one does with said opportunities plays a huge factor in the person's success, but the mitigating factor is the lucky chance that just happens to land in one's lap.  As a spectacularly unlucky person, I am guessing that Mr. Gladwell's response to my apparent lack of success would be a big ol' "sucks to be you."  Huh.

I am interested to read the rest of this book in hopes that it doesn't turn out that way.  What it has made me think of, however, is how I define success.  What does successful look like?  Can it be whittled down to strokes of luck?  Can an "unlucky" person who never gets that big break be considered successful?

Thursday, March 04, 2010

"Life forms illogical patterns. It is haphazard and full of beauties which I try to catch as they fly by, for who knows whether any of them will ever return?"
~Margot Fonteyn

Patterns are cool. If you pay close enough attention, you can find all sorts of patterns in pretty much every arena of life. I have a tendency to seek out patterns in my world as a way of trying to figure out the "why's" of my life. Sometimes the patterns I find are significant, sometimes trivial and if I wait long enough, each one of them has a reason.

I have recently read two books that are similar thematically enough for me to consider the start of a pattern: Still Alice and Deaf Sentence: A Novel. Both are stories of people, experts in their fields, who find themselves afflicted by whatever it is they are experts in. In Deaf Sentence: A Novel, the protagonist is a linguist who is losing his hearing, becoming unable to hear those sounds he has for so long studied and taught. Still Alice, tells the story of Alice, a professor of cognitive psychology who develops early onset Alzheimer's Disease, going from one who studies thinking to one who cannot think clearly enough to put a sentence together.

So here's the pattern I noticed in the books I have been led to read:  it seems as though the crosses we bear are inextricably linked with how we are gifted.  A linguist, a lover of language, loses his ability to hear.  A psychologist loses her ability to think.  I think about Beethoven, brilliant musician and composer becomes deaf.  Accomplished athletes lose limbs to disease.  A singer is robbed of her voice.  Those in the most need of community are continually left alone.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

While watching "The Bachelor" finale last night (Vienna? Really?), I finished Deaf Sentence by David Lodge. I often read while the television is on. I read with music playing. Shoot, I could probably read sitting in the front row of a rock concert. At least if it were an older band there would be enough light for reading from all the lighters. Do you still raise lighters at concerts? Crud, I'm getting old. In any case, I suppose you could say that I more than kind of like reading.

Deaf Sentence is an interesting book, the story of a retired linguistics professor who has developed high frequency deafness, which allows him to hear and comprehend most consonants but very few vowel sounds. It follows him through several everyday seasons of life: the birth of a grandchild, the death of a parent, the challenges of marriage, all seen through the lens of his increasing deafness. The plot line itself is not extraordinary. What would prod me to recommend this book, however, is the intelligent, gentle, vulnerable and real voice of the protagonist, Desmond. I bet Desmond could read at a rock concert. He's deaf. He wouldn't be distracted by the noise.

Monday, March 01, 2010

I am working on a book right now called Deaf Sentence by David Lodge. I'll have something to say about it when I'm finished. More important that WHAT I'm reading right now, is WHERE I'm reading.

I had some time before D's hockey game this Sunday in Escondido, CA. I wandered about and ended up at the California Center for the Arts. The museum didn't open until 1 o'clock so I had some time to crack open a book.

The sky was a perfect blue and the temperature 68 degrees. I found a great bench and did what I do best, I read.

Yet another reminder why one should ALWAYS have a book handy. You never know when you will find the perfect spot.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Working on two books by Rob Bell: Drops Like Stars and Sex God. So far, pretty interesting stuff.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The Wordy Shipmates The Wordy Shipmates by Sarah Vowell

Suggestion, nay an exhortation, get this book as an audio book! Listening to Sarah Vowell read her work on the early American Puritans is a wonderful experience. Yes, there is a LOT of information, but I found that listening allowed me to absorb a great deal more of the material than I think I would have had I read the print version. Vowell uses guest readers to voice direct quotations, making this armchair history fun to listen to. Part history, part social commentary, all quirky and as delicious as that first thanksgiving dinner. Thanks Wampanoag people. The venison was great. You'll have to share the recipe.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Still Alice Still Alice by Lisa Genova

There are so many adjectives I want to use to describe this novel: beautiful, heart-wrenching, indicting, comforting. Lisa Genova's story of a Harvard professor of Cognitive Psychology's journey down Alzheimer's wandering path is all of those things. Told from the professor's point of view, the story gives the reader a glimpse into what it might be like to lose and gain who you are, all at the same time. I think the thing I found most striking about Still Alice was the use of perspective in the telling of this sad, sad story. Beautifully crafted. I highly recommend this book.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Scars and Stilettos Scars and Stilettos by Harmony Dust

Harmony's story of perseverance through an extraordinarily difficult early childhood and adolescence was not easy. Her story telling style was comfortable and practiced, as if she had told her story a million times. Stylistically, this wasn't a difficult book to read. What made it so difficult, for me, was the reality that her story was not an isolated one; that for every one of Harmony, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of women trapped in the adult entertainment industry. Her transformation and desire to help other women was inspiring. Her story, eye-opening. I would certainly recommend this book to anyone interested in social justice in the darkest corners of our own culture.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Home Safe: A Novel Home Safe: A Novel by Elizabeth Berg
Elizabeth Berg's books tend to be those I refer to as "brain resting" books. Not to say that the characters aren't real or developed nicely, or even that I do not enjoy reading them, it's just that reading them is a whole lot like wearing that pair of pajama pants that are definitely not for public viewing. Her books are comfortable and cozy and not at all surprising in any way. Sometimes a girl needs a book like that. In Home Safe: A Novel , I felt so often that Berg is becoming more and more autobiographical in her character development. There was a time in this book where the main character is asked during a question/answer session to give the audience a bit of knowledge that perhaps they wouldn't already know about her. She answers saying that if they have read her work, they already know all about her because who she is a part of every book she writes. Somehow I felt as if Berg was making that statement herself. It made me wonder how much of the character creating process is a self-examination of sorts. Do authors of fiction use this to discover themselves or to explore sides of their own personalities that may not be fit for their everyday lives?

Friday, January 01, 2010

Firefly Lane Firefly Lane by Kristin Hannah

I'm sure if this author had a profile on Facebook, Beaches would be her all time favorite movie, since the plot of this novel was pretty much just lifted from that movie. Only the excessive details are different. Firefly Lane is the kind of book you would want with you on a beach with a blended drink . . . lots of blended drinks.