Tag Archives: reading

The Written Word Endures #6

“What was it like when you were growing up?”

Sookie took a sip of her tea. “Like a three-ring circus, with Lenore as ringmaster. The house was always full of people. The bridge club or garden club always had some kind of meeting at our house and Buck’s friends were running in and out. Poor Daddy, I miss him. He was the sweetest thing; he said the only reason he could live with Lenore was the fact that he was deaf in one ear. One time Buck said, ‘Daddy, why can’t you hear out of that ear?’ And Daddy said, ‘Wishful thinking, son, just wishful thinking.’ He was a scream.”

Believe me, Mother lives well, but since Daddy died, who knows what she’s liable to do next. She can come up with the craziest things.”

“Like what?”

“Just crazy stuff. Five years ago so many new people started moving here and she didn’t think the Welcome Wagon and the Newcomers’ Club were doing enough to suit her so she formed the Welcome to Selma Club … and I feel sorry for the poor people who move here. As soon as they hit town, Lenore’s troops make a beeline over to their house and swarm all over them like ants before anybody else can get to them. I said, Mother, it’s a wonder you don’t scare them to death. I know if I looked up and saw Lenore Krackenberry and her gang storming up my driveway with ribbons and balloons, singing at the top of their lungs, ‘Welcome to Selma,’ I’d move back where I came from.”

“Singing what?”

“Some old stupid song that one of her friends wrote. “ ‘Welcome to Selma, Selma, Selma…can we help ya, help ya, help ya.’ It’s just awful, but God knows people know they are welcomed.”

Sookie got up. “Promise me you won’t let me have more than two glasses of wine. Earle says I’m a cheap drunk and I get silly and talk too much if I have more than two glasses. I’m liable to get drunk and reveal all the family secrets.”

“Do you have any?”

Sookie sat down and threw her legs over the side of the chair. “Secrets? Are you kidding? In Selma, honey, we couldn’t have a secret if our lives depended on it. My life is an open book. Everybody in town knows that Buck is a big goofball and that Mother is a card-carrying crazy … and I’m probably not operating on a full deck myself.”

Dena was unwinding and the feeling was pleasant. “Sookie, tell me about your life down here.”

“My life? It’s just a plain old normal life. You’re the one who hobnobs with the stars. We are just plain old people, dull, dull, dull.”

-Fannie Flagg, Welcome to the World, Baby Girl!

* I simply adore Fannie Flagg. The closer I get to the end of her novels, the slower I read them. She weaves her worlds so well, I feel that I know these characters. I think some of us would even be dear friends. This book had so many things that just tickled my funny bone. It was hard to put it down at 2am, but I woke up Mr. Michie by bursting out laughing at a particular paragraph. So out went the lights…

The Written Word Endures #5

The Mists of Avalon Book Cover

They wound her hair in a garland of crimson berries and crowned her with the first of the spring flowers. The precious necklace of gold and bone was reverently taken from the neck of the Mother of the tribe and placed around her own; she felt its weight like the very weight of magic. Her eyes were dazzled with the rising sun. They placed something in her hand – a drum, taut skin stretch over a hooped frame. As it it came from somewhere else, she heard her own hand strike it.

They stood on a hillside, overlooking a valley filled to the brim with thick forest, empty and silent, but within it she could sense the life in the forest – the deer moving on silent, slender feet, the animals climbing in the trees, and the birds nesting, darting, moving, surge with the life of the first running tide of the full moon of spring. She turned for a moment and looked behind, on the hillside. Above them, carved white in the chalk, was a monstrous figure, human or animal she could not tell, her eyes were blurred; was it a running deer, was it a striding man, phallus erect and filled with the spring tide , too?

She could not see the young man at her side, only the surge of the life in him. There was a solemn, waiting hush all over the hillside. Time ceased, was again transparent, something in which she moved, bathed, stepped freely.

-Marion Zimmer Bradley, The Mists of Avalon

The Written Word Endures #4

Foxs Earth Book Cover

The old road lies in another country, in an older South. Broom sedge and seedling pines chew voraciously at the roadside ditches. Malignant green kudzu masks toppling tenant shanties, rusted barbed-wire fences, brittle old telephone poles, whole sweeping miles of lunar roadside landscape. Cotton fields here are smaller, scantily tended, leached much of the year to blowing pink dust; 1930s iron bridges span tea-colored creeks with names like One Stump, Hellpeckish, Booger’s Water, Coosaula. They are tributaries of the deep-running Oconee River, which powers the textile mill in Sparta and a dozen towns like it, on its leaping journey to join the Ocmulgee and create the Altamaha at the fall line. The creek names are the harsh and homely place music of the Piedmont.

The naked earth is seldom visible along this old road, thatched as it is with sedge, pine, and kudzu. The pale dust of the fields and ditches is not the true color of the earth but the color of fatigue and decay. The earth is littered crazily here: with cement-block houses and grocery stores; with one-pump filling stations attached to wailing road-houses and evil-smelling rest rooms; with ancient, gap-toothed family graveyards; with sagging power lines and county road signs bleached by decades and pitted by the showered gravel of pickup trucks and tossed Pabst and Nehi bottles. Along this road only Jesus saves, only Coke adds life.

-Anne River Siddons, Fox’s Earth

The Written Word Endures #3

Jack Kerouac On the Road Cover

Two rides took me to Bakersfield, four hundred miles south. The first was the mad one, with a burly blond kid in a souped-up rod. ‘See that toe?’ he said as he gunned the heap to eighty and passed everybody on the road. ‘Look at it.’ It was swathed in bandages. ‘I just had it amputated this morning. The bastards wanted me to stay in the hospital. I packed my bag and left. What’s a toe?’ Yes, indeed, I said to myself, look out now, and I hung on. You never saw a driving fool like that. He made Tracy in no time. Tracy is a railroad town; brakemen eat surly meals in diners by the tracks. Trains howl away across the valley. The sun goes down long and red. All the magic names of the valley unrolled – Manteca, Madera, all the rest. Soon it got dusk, a grapy dusk, a purple dusk over tangerine groves and long melon fields; the sun the color of pressed grapes, slashed with burgundy red, the fields the color of love and Spanish mysteries. I stuck my head out the window and took deep breaths of the fragrant air. It was the most beautiful of all moments.

– Jack Kerouac, On the Road

The Written Word Endures #2

I Always Loved You Book Cover

But she had kept these letters, as he had kept hers, though what they had been thinking, she couldn’t imagine. Such recklessness. Private conversations should always remain private. Why should anyone know what they themselves had barely known? And even if something had once been committed to paper, did it mean that it was still true? Always true? Unlike the relative permanence of paint, words were temporal. You uttered them and they evanesced, but if you wrote them, they remained, though whether the written word was any more truthful than the spoken was a mystery to her. Only paint was honest. But even a painting could be wiped clean and refined. He was forever revising, stealing his paintings back to rework them, everything always unfinished with him.

– Robin Oliveira, I Always Loved You

{I’m not finished reading this book just yet, but I’m really enjoying it, I just couldn’t wait to share a small snippet!}

The Written Word Endures #1

Emma Stone Reading

I recently read a post on Cup of Jo, the focus of which was a discussion on the most beautiful sentence or paragraph that you’ve ever read. That drew my attention, as I’m often marking sections of a book I’m reading or making a mental note of page numbers, to be able to go back to a favourite sentence or paragraph and write it down.

I have the great fortune of getting to read a lot while I’m traveling around London and my choice of genres is always varying. I thought I would begin a new series on this blog as a journal of sorts to record lines and words and paragraphs that have stayed with me. I’m entitling it: The Written Word Endures, which is taken from a Neil Postman quote.

Travels with Charley Cover

 

I went to the small restaurant run in conjunction. It was all plastic too — the table linen, the butter dish. The sugar and crackers were wrapped in cellophane, the jelly in a small plastic coffin sealed with cellophane. It was early evening and I was the only customer. Even the waitress wore a sponge-off apron. She wasn’t happy, but then she wasn’t unhappy. She wasn’t anything. But I don’t believe anyone is a nothing. There has to be something inside, if only to keep the skin from collapsing. This vacant eye, listless hand, this damask cheek dusted like a doughnut with plastic powder, had to have a memory or a dream.

-John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley

The Miniaturist

The Miniaturist Cover

I finished reading The Miniaturist, Friday night on the train home. I’m still mulling it over and felt it might help to right my thoughts down…

The Art Historian in me loves that a web was spun around a real miniature house that lives in the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam. It belonged to the story’s heroine, Petronella Oortman, who did indeed marry Johannes Brandt. From this one thread of reality the tale spins it’s own cloth.

01-11-2001; rgb 19-02-2007

There were sections of it, that were so richly written:

The Old Church, Amsterdam: Tuesday, 14th January 1687

The funeral is supposed to be a quiet affair, for the deceased had no friends. But words are water in Amsterdam, they flood your ears and set the rot, and the church’s east corner is crowded. She watches the scene unfold from the safety of the choir stall, as guildsmen and their wives approach the gaping grave like ants toward the honey. Soon, they are joined by VOC clerks and ship’s captains, regentesses, pastry-makers – and him, still wearing that broad-brimmed hat. She tries to pity him. Pity, unlike hate, can be boxed and put away.

The church’s painted roof – the one thing the reformers didn’t pull down – rises above them like the tipped-up hull of a magnificent ship. It is a mirror to the city’s soul; inked on its ancient beams, Christ in judgement holds his sword and lily, a golden cargo breaks the waves, the Virgin rests on a crescent moon. Flipping up the old misericord beside her, her fingers flutter on the proverb of exposed wood. It is a relief of a man shitting a bag of coins, a leer of pain chipped across his face. What’s changed? she thinks.

I can’t deny that I wasn’t drawn into this world. Each sentence was rich and linguistically opulent.

But, I wanted more. The story fell short and I was left feeling as though I had missed something!? Does anyone else feel that way? Everyone else I have spoken to, who has read it, seems to have loved it. Is this an Emperor’s new clothes situation?

When I was done, I thought about it, I re-read the first chapter, I re-read the last chapter. I pieced those together and realised who the deceased was and who the three other women in attendance were. Now, I’ll admit, I’m a happy ending kinda gal. But, I can deal with with an ending where I draw my own conclusions. But, with this, I felt I had no definite threads from which a conclusion could be inferred.

It was almost as if I was reading two different stories. Nella’s newly unfolding life in Amsterdam, as an 18 year old bride to Johannes Brandt and Nella’s mysterious and odd interactions with the Miniaturist. The two stories never seemed to collide.

”There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed . . .“, the book states. Yet, I feel all and nothing was revealed.

I find it difficult to write this – to clearly express my views because I am still a bit dumbfounded – a bit bewildered. I feel like the maid, grasping for clues that are hidden behind keyholes, shrouded by the mist that has risen off the river…

And there it is. I’ve written these words and am still no better off. If you have an answer; if you can shed light where there is darkness, please let me know.

Gertie

Jennifer Michie Gertie

Today is my first day off from school! I’ve spent my morning drinking tea, reading a cozy prairie Christmas story, cleaning and hanging out with Gertie! She’s pretty good company. Although she prefers hot chocolate and marshmallows instead of tea, but that’s pretty easy to fix, I’ve even topped her little mug with whipped cream and a few green sprinkles, much to her delight! Happiness is…

Reading

Suzanne's Diary for Nicholas

I LOVE to read! Although my journey in the morning and home at night is a bit lengthy, reading keeps me busy. I go through at least one book a week! I finished a book yesterday morning (a truly delicious read that I will share with you in due course) and started a James Patterson book that I had stuck in my bag on my travels home last night. I finished it 5 minutes into my last train home tonight and just sat in my seat, silently watching the world go by in a blur of lights. This book touched my heart. It is called Suzanne’s Diary for Nicholas.

It is bittersweet, but filled with love and hope and kindness and wisdom and joy. For however brief the moments that we share with someone we are lucky to have shared them!

Suzanne writes in her diary the “lesson of the five balls”. While recuperating from a heart attack one of her doctor friends tells her this story and it goes like this:

Imagine life is a game in which you are juggling five balls. The balls are called work, family, health, friends, and integrity. And you’re keeping all of them in the air. But one day you finally come to understand that work is a rubber ball. If you drop it, it will bounce back. The other four balls…are made of glass. If you drop one of these, it will be irrevocably scuffed, nicked, perhaps even shattered. And once you truly understand the lesson of the five balls, you will have the beginnings of balance in your life.

Balance is something that I strive for. I am enjoying my new position, but work is not the be all and end all. Don’t work so hard to create a life that you can’t even stop to enjoy. Make sure you tell the one you love that you love them for time is precious and slips through our fingers like water.