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For Book Butterflies
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Fri, April 13 2007 - 2:58 pm


June 21, 2007

The Fractal Murders by Mark Cohen.  This is the second time I have read this book, thinking I might have found another book I read once before.  (There is a book out there with a really compelling ending that I would like to reread.)  For some reason I remembered very little!  (Make that nothing.)  Pepper Keane never becomes real for me.  I spent almost the whole time staring (with my eyes moving) seeing words words words, instead of entering the world they are supposed to become.

Failure of the author?  Failure of me?  Maybe Pepper Keane is just too much of a macho guy whose cultural(?) references are nothing I can relate to much.

But even his description of Mora, New Mexico, which I have seen at least twice, makes me doubt my own memory and sense of reality.  Mora, in the mountains?  I remember mostly rolling very-closely-cropped-green-after-a-rain vegetation (if any).  No mountain flora at all.  Foothills, maybe.  Perhaps, as my daughter suggested, he is talking about another part of Mora County.

This is a frigate that ain't takin' me anywhere inventive plot and interesting fractal stuff notwithstanding.

June 18, 2007

Rumi:  Past and Present, East and West:  The Life, Teachings and Poetry of Jalal al Din Rumi by Franklin D. Lewis, as I warned you before, is a very long book. 

I have read the first one hundred or so pages (Chapter One) and have read about Rumi's father's career and his death.  At this point Rumi is about 24 years old, has been married seven years, and has two sons!

Rumi's father was a mystic and really made his living by being a spiritual leader.  Not really famous in his own time, according to Lewis, he did have a following and students.

He lived to the ripe old age of eighty, and the family did have to move around some for at least partly political reasons, so Lewis spends quite a bit of time on the ebb and flow of the local governments, the looming threat of the Moguls, and other current events of that time, partly to try to establish a reliable chronology.

He also speaks of educational and spiritual institutions of the time, trying to construct what the actual responsibilities and activities of Rumi's father Baha were in the various towns in which the family lived.

Really complex times, those!  Quite an introduction to the history of 13th century Middle East!

But I was just going into Rumilluminations mode when my clumsy thumb censored me from doing that, and erased all my work!  So I had to start over, and the brief message is:  if you don't want any background for Rumi, you can skip chapter one.

Of course I'm glad I read it.  A first introduction to a fascinating world!  For some more commentary, read my Rumilluminations tomorrow!

June 15, 2007

Reader alert!  False attribution! Reader alert!  (Yes, and I think I mean literally one reader!)  Yesterday's article attributed an idea I considered modern to Rumi.

No wonder I considered it modern, I got my two yesterday's books confused.  The idea that I mentioned, that the gods always use human hands to do their will, must be attributed to Nury Vittachi!  Now I admit it might not be a completely new idea, but I have certainly never seen it expressed so succinctly and poetically.  Read Vittachi's book, Blade of Grass!  Funny, but wisdom in there also!

June 14, 2007

If you need a mystery for introduction to different cultural and belief sets, or humor, or escape, this is a good one!   Actually, it is a really hysterical description of the activities of a Feng Shui master and his Chinese-American-Australian young female (if only it were that simple!) intern and their psychic and astrological cohorts.  I would definitely prescribe it, unless you are scheduled for a visit to the dentist within two weeks of reading it.  In that case, Feng Shui Detective by Nury Vittachi, like the movie 'Little Shop of Horrors,' is definitely contra-indicated!  Loved this book.

On a more serious note, I have been getting into the Rumi biography I mentioned a week ago, Rumi:  Past and Present, East and West:  The Life, Teachings and Poetry of Jalal al Din Rumi by Franklin D. Lewis.  It is going to be a real challenge to me to read this, because it is so foreign to me.  I know very little of the medieval and ancient history of the middle east (make that none!) so almost all of the names are unknown to me - cities, rulers, wise men - except wait!  Every once in a while the name Jesus or Moses crops up!  It is like a ray of sunshine coming through a dark virgin forest!

That is, until we realize how little we know of these characters either.  But it is fascinating to see them in an unfamiliar context.  Unlike the Bible, which (at least as far as I know so far) does not mention Muslim prophets, the Koran tells a tale, for instance, about Moses.  Moses wants to learn from another 'servant of God' but is dismissed by him for questioning his behavior, which included theft, an inexplicable work of manual labor for nothing, and murder!  When he dismissed Moses he explained why his behavior was for the good and had been commanded to him by God.

Now I am not going to doubt the wisdom of this wise man.  What do I know?  Maybe his analysis of the situations that prompted his inexplicably outrageous behavior was all true and correct.  But after reading that anecdote, it is easy to see why Moses wrote down the ten commandments - in stone!  (Or, er, stood around while God did it for him.)  And boy am I glad that I come from a Judeao-Christian background, if it protects me from that kind of God within others! (Of course, in reality it does not.  It only tries.)

Actually, though, one of the interesting things about reading about 12th and 13th century religious beliefs and sects is seeing how many of their concerns reflect our own.  Is there such a thing as free will?  Can you be acting according to God's will if such action destroys your life and the live of others?  All those questions were seemingly as problematical to those people as they are to us, however variously we all, then and now, may answer them for ourselves.

 June 9, 2007

If I remember the Preface of Black Cadet in a White Bastion: Charles Young at West Point by Brian G. Shellum correctly, the author started to write a biography of Charles Young because of his interesting career, and got sidetracked somehow to his earlier years, especially his time at West Point.  (This may have been occasioned by Young's contrary statements about the value of the I-hesitate-to-say-school.)

Why do I hesitate?  It obviously is a school, and a tough one.  But it also seems, at least in Young's day, more like a prison.  The cadets were not allowed to leave the grounds for months at a time.

I'm glad I read this book.  Probably the only reason I picked it up (besides biographical reading for my mom, who didn't finish it) was that, having read The Prince of Tides I felt that I had a little ingress into a world that, quite frankly, holds little interest for me.  The military?  Please!  I come from a Quaker background!  But that is partly why I felt I should read it. 

It made me aware of some of the more 'civilized' and 'civilizing' (for better and worse) functions of the officers' training.  I had no idea they studied so much mathematics and engineering.  And drawing - mapmaking!  Charles Young was one of the lowest ranked in his class in drawing, and to my eye he was pretty darn good!

But of course the major part of the work is concerned with the racism Charles Young had to endure in his post-civil war academy experience.  West Point is a major drag (yes, I know, a flippant way of saying it) at best, but to be a black guy there... I can't imagine.

If I remembered all I read, I would certainly know more about his class at the academy than I know about my own college classes.  But I won't.  Snore....

So, if I were more intuitive, I would probably have skipped or scanned more.  But there is no doubt that Charles Young had grit and determination to succeed in a highly difficult environment. 

The author intends to write more about Charles Young's actual career - what this schooling prepared him for -  and maybe it is a good thing he wrote this initial biography.  It makes us sympathetic to Young, and I for one will 'gird my loins' to read more about him, if only to learn more about the world, which as an adult he ranged widely in.

Want to know more?  Read the book - I'm on my way back to Rumi-land, the occupations of whom are more congenial to me!

(I apologize for that ridiculous sentence.)

Oh, and there is a literary connection in this book.  Evidently Mark Twain was quite a fan of West Point, which he visited while Charles Young was there.  According to the author, Twain used his visits to aid him in writing  A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court.

June 7, 2007

I am still in the throes of reading the two books I talked about last time, but thought I would write a little book-related interjection.

I bought a book from a book sale that is a discarded library book.  It seems like the kind of book a library should have on hand forever.  It is called Why You Say It by Webb B. Garrison.

Why was it discarded from the library?  Well, I admit that it is very grubby.  Maybe that is reason enough.

But I have had a lot of useful books disappear from libraries in my life, whether through theft or being discarded.  There is a wonderful book about M.C. Escher (by someone named Dorothy Satterthwait, if I remember correctly) at our local library and I am terrified it will be discarded.  I'm told that won't happen unless it hasn't been checked out for a long while.  But in my experience, when a book not a best-seller is gone from the library is gone...,

Come to think of it, yesterday I tried to get Marshall McLuhan's book The Medium is the Message and it wasn't there.  It was a best-seller, wasn't it?  No, I don't mean the relatively new The Medium is the Massage by McLuhan and ....

(Am I the only one who's confused?  Yes, as it turns out.  Evidently the book was a 'Massage' not a Message.  I guess I only heard the saying, not the book title.  Oh well, at least now I can read it.  But where was I?) 

Oh yes, I was going to say, go to all your local library book sales while you can still rescue that book of major interest that otherwise may disappear forever!

The book you buy on the internet, no matter what a bargain, is going to cost you more than $2.

June 3, 2007

Yesterday I started two incredible books.  The first is Rumi:  Past and Present, East and West:  The Life, Teachings and Poetry of Jalal al Din Rumi by Franklin D. Lewis.  I am all the way up to page 13 of the introduction, and am already awestruck by the difficulties presented by dealing with Persian, Arabic, Turkish languages let alone tracking down information about a person who is called by about eight different names!  (That isn't literal - counting some of his titles there are probably many more!)  Amazing to learn that the name Rumi, which conjured up India for me, really refers to Rum - that is, Rome!  Jalal wasn't from the city Rome of Italy, but the edge of ancient Roman territory conquered by the Romans which was still known as Rum when he was born. The poet himself was Persian.

I am also struck, but by embarrassment, that Rumi was the best-selling poet in the U.S. for a year around the mid-nineties and I didn't even recognize his name ten years later.  Oh well, that is what I get for working 40 - 50 hour weeks at crummy jobs and reading mysteries for escape!

Another source of amazement is how far Rumi has made into our culture.  All this education in the first thirteen pages!  This is a very long book, so I am sure I will be mentioning it for weeks.

The other book I began which promises to be an incredible learning experience is Black Cadet in a White Bastion:  Charles Young at West Point by Brian G. Shellum.  This is the story of the early life of a black man born into slavery in 1964.  I don't know how much younger people than I learn in school about slavery these days, but they sure must have glossed over it in my school!  The first thirty-six pages tells me more about slavery, laws enacted in Congress WAY before the Civil War trying to ensure that slavery could die a natural death (at least that's the way I interpret them) and the complexities of the border states than I had ever dreamed of!  Yes, I read Uncle Tom's Cabin but that was a loooong time ago, and I think there is more wealth of information in the first quarter of this book, maybe, than Harriet Beecher Stowe ever knew.  (I plead guilty to possible hyperbole!)

This book is due at the library first, so I will probably finish it first.  (For that reason and that it is only a couple hundred pages long.)

Both of these books promise much.  So far, so great!

June 2, 2007

Steeplechase by Jane Langton is not really a mystery either.  More like historical pychological suspense without much psychology in it.  The characters are primitive in the style of novels set in the time of this mystery - novels for girls, that is (or pardon me, don't want to be sexist - especially against my own sex!) for young people.

The title threw me off.  I thought it would be about the horse world, which I love to read about.  But I did love it, thinking it very clever when I saw what the book was about.  A tree is central to the story - a big chestnut, so in a way maybe the book is a murder story after all.... But really, I'm trying to whet your curiosity when I don't care whether you read this book or not!  It is mildly entertaining, and I love it that Homer Kelly, Langton's  'detective', observes that when nobody does something that means everybody didn't do it (I figured that out on my own a few years before this book was published nyah nyah nyah.) 

I don't think it is Langton's finest.  I thought her at-least-six-times description of a waitress as "the bitchy girl" lame, and her great-granddaughter damn well better not use a photograph of me with some horrible novel character's name underneath it or I'll have my great-grandchildren sue hers for defamation!

(Just so you know I don't always give superlative praise.)

As escape reading?  It worked pretty well....

May 31, 2007

Finished with Dust by Martha Grimes and it did not disappoint.  As far as I'm concerned she's got it all: enough cosiness to keep it warm, enough romance (or whatever - more sex than usual in this one) to keep your heart beating, enough humor to make you smile and admire people (children and dogs, too, though that's a little harder for me, (sorry animal lovers of the world, I prefer my animals in the wild)).  There are references to art and ideas for the old brain, and - oh - of course - what it is all supposed to be about!  The mystery!  No shortage of red herrings in this one.

One thing about this book I forgot to mention yesterday is its emphasis if not obsession with Henry James.  My first exposure to him was a television performance of The Turn of the Screw which I saw during my early teens. This very powerful performance had me wishing I was a lad named Miles and talking dramatically in an inept English accent to myself (or all the ghosts I encountered) when I walked alone in the dark in my home town.  I'm glad to read now that it is ambiguous because I wasn't sure what had "happened" in the play.  But boy was it haunting!  (no pun intended - consciously, at least.)

Later I read three of his later works, The Wings of the Dove, The Golden Bowl, and The Ambassadors, all of which I found fascinating.  I'm sure I did not realize at the time that they were by the author of The Turn of the Screw.  Reading Dust will inspire me to find some of James' short stories mentioned in the novel and read them also.  They sound very intriguing.

May 30, 2007

I'm well into Martha Grimes' Dust today (my, doesn't that make me sound like her housekeeper!)  It is kind of giving me the same kind of epiphany as I had with Thomas Mann.

How many years have I been reading her books now?  At first the name Grimes put me off.  I really do not love the seamy, as a rule.  I think one of her titles was what really intrigued me:  I Am the Only Running Footman.  But having read that one, I still didn't make a run for her books, grabbing everything in sight.

I feel like doing that now.  I have a memory of a particular scene involving Jury, and I would love to read the book again, but I can't remember the title ... no matter, a good excuse to read them again and analyze, maybe reminisce a little, about how she has influenced me.

Grimes has so much love for the imagination, the life of the mind.  She has so much wonderful ironic wit.  Some of her forays into the United States (in her fiction) lose much of this, and while passionate are really not as charming. (Positively dangerous, in fact - I mean especially the works that don't involve Jury.)  But even these grim works are worth reading, and I would like to see more of some of her resourceful (albeit scary) teen-age girls.

Her characters take a while to grab you, but grab you they do.  Thank you, Martha Grimes!   

May 28, 2007

I finished my voyage through My Old Man and the Sea by David and Daniel Hays just now.  Really a delight, please do yourself a favor and read it, if you have a mother or a father, or especially if you have no intentions of ever taking such a voyage (like me, though life does have a way of making a liar out of me, I never know!) or especially if you do intend to make a voyage like theirs because it is hard to believe anyone could ever be better prepared or smarter about it, or if you simply enjoy laughing and can still handle the feeling of tears springing to your eyes, or....

I read this book as a selection for our library book club so maybe I'll have a thing or two more to say about it in the middle of June.  Phyllis, who selects these books, claims she would move back to land-locked Nebraska (is it?) in a heart-beat, but I don't believe her for a minute.  Look at the reading she selects for us!  She has a major obsession with boats and the sea these days, and that is a wonderful thing for me, who managed to live not only land-locked but extremely dry for thirty years in New Mexico without too many feelings of ocean deprivation.

Long after our presence at the monthly book club is past, I expect we will run into each other in the British West Indies or Jamaica!  And if that happens, it will be partly because of books like this one.

(Once I read a book called London Labor and the London Poor written in the mid-nineteenth century.  Many of the poor people in London did not even know they were living on an island!  (Just another little plug for reading.))

Oh, yeah, frigate, yacht, whatever, I'll go for the ride! As long as it's via book! 

May 26, 2007

Started reading My Old Man and the Sea by David and Daniel Hays the other day.  So far (about half way through) I love it.  So far it has inspired in me one idea for a novel (or rather, considering it's me, an idea for one of my mini-mysterylettes - I'll start posting them on the website someday-), and the temptation to get into a discussion of my paranoia as opposed to the type of paranoia he (Dan) refers to. 

If you want to write a novel I'll give you this much of a hint:  the motive would be anger at someone who is trying to convince someone else during a disaster or personal loss that fate really is okay - even kind of beautiful.  Now that is definitely the kind of philosophical consolation a person should only give himself - aloud - during his own times of tribulation so as to act as an example for others.

Instead of the reply Dan elicited in his audience, which was "screw that!" (or "screw you!" I forget which) in this potential novel the victim of such 'consolation' would respond - essentially - "I'll kill you! How do you like that fate!"  The timing and methods I leave up to you.  I already have a plan for my storylet.

And if you think I have gone into 'Rumilluminations' mode, so what?  What are you going to do about it?  If you want me to stick to the book like sumkinda worm, go find sumkinda critic.  Why do you think I started this article, 'Book Butterflies', anyway?  All this discussion (one-sided, but hey, that's not my fault, I ask for your opinion, (being polite and serious!))

The point is a book started it!

Isn't that wonderful?

I'm on that frigate, and I'm out of here!

May 24, 2007

Just finished Date with Death by Elizabeth Linington.  When I first picked it up, I had kind of a ho-hum response.  But as I continued with it, I began to appreciate it more.  It is about a police station and its dealings for a week or two with crimes from murder to practical joking - 'malicious mischief.'  Pretty good entertainment, if low key.  And who can knock escape literature that also hands out information like the fact that low-level anemia can cause depression and quotes the Talmud?  (The Talmud quote hit home for me because of my recent mullings about other worlds (see my Rumilluminations for the last few days.))

Oh, yeah, the book?  I liked it.

May 23, 2007

Since I had occasion to mention Clifford Anderson's book The Stages of Man: A Groundbreaking Discovery: The Steps to Psychological Maturity in my Rumilluminations today, I thought I'd drop in to give it a plug here.  It was a difficult book for me to get into - I had to reread at least a paragraph or two, and just ignore the fact that I didn't fully understand what he meant for a while, in order to begin to comprehend what he was saying.

I do think, though, that the ideas he presents are really helpful and well worth getting a little swamped for the liferaft they provide.  Not only does he offer possible help for you in terms of your own development, but he puts us, by our present life-expectancy, into a different category of maturation than those peoples and eras who only typically made it to age 45.  In a few years, who knows, maybe he will give us yet another maturational level to exult in!

Anyway, I know nothing about this author or his training.  I read this book about five or six years ago and have thought about it many times since.  I recommend it to anyone interested in understanding the self and the nature of us humans.  Let me know what you think! 

May 21, 2007

I did finish Elizabeth George's  What Came Before He Shot Her.  My goodness, how an imaginary world can open up!  Even before the last part I kept wondering if it was all imaginary - the line between fiction and non- seem to be getting more and more blurred these days and it makes me suspicious.  But what Elizabeth George does with this work is (if you have read her past books) sheer genius.  I've never seen it done before.

Now, re being a book critic:  I know, I know, I'm not qualified.  In my attempts at writing poetry I could see the different reactions to my various poems from people of different educational levels, and  I am sure the more highly educated would not even dignify them with the name "poetry" at all!

Even in my Corvallis book club there were people coming in tut-tutting about the bad quality of the writing of certain works,  and I really had noticed nothing particularly inferior about them.  So come on, you newspapers and magazines, keep your reviewers on!  You can't let the libraries do all our choosing - they answer to voters and will probably be too stodgy!

Meanwhile, I'm going to keep on blahging here about books just because I like them!

(And that George book, which its cover calls 'psychological suspense' but also is a real novel, is not my favorite of her books I have read, either.  My favorite so far is Deception on his Mind. )

May 19, 2007

Well, I'm still sloughing through What Came Before He Shot Her by Elizabeth George.  I'm finding it a difficult read, not because it is so hard to read, but because it is so hard to take!  Reminds me of when my husband read The Long Winter of Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series.  It was interminable to sit through the reading of it, let alone the dreariness of the experience those pioneers went through.

The same goes for this novel.  Towards the beginning I already felt she could have tightened it up.  There is, however, a lot of good stuff in here.  It makes me realize much more completely what at-risk kids are up against.  The idea that teen-agers can not be expected to handle stuff that adults are not so good at handling is definitely hammered home.

Maybe it is just me being disgruntled that this is basically a thriller written at a pace too slow to be tautly suspenseful all the time.  Which is a good thing for me.  I don't like thrillers much.  But this isn't really just a thriller, either.  I feel misled!  This isn't escape literature, as a good mystery should be!  It's a goldurn novel!

And, I might add, a worthwhile one, although troubling.

May 17, 2007

Reading Elizabeth George's novel What Came Before He Shot Her which is going to take awhile!  One of her characters institutes a great idea for a poetry competition, Walk the Word, in which he gives a bunch of poets some words which they each include in a poem written on the spot!  A panel picked (randomly?) from the audience judges them.  What fun!  I wonder if the public library would be willing to sponsor something like that! Maybe as part of a regular poetry gathering.

May 16, 2007

Here's a novel idea which I will probably never get around to writing myself (if I have the capability, which I have reason to doubt.)  If it grabs you, write the novel and give me .01% of the royalties, if that amounts to over $5.  How about it?  Deal?

It is set in a society based on what Jung would probably say are women's values as opposed to men's.  Relationships are of primary importance.  Sex is the highest form of worship of the Goddess of Life (this is supposed to be a contemporary society, so perhaps this will not be a literal Goddess - on the other hand, a lot of the world is living 2,000 years ago, so why not this particular matriarchal culture?)  Men beg on their knees for the privilege of worshipping Her through Her human representatives.  The heart is of utmost importance, and promises are taken very seriously.  (I mean, if they are made by men!  (Just kidding.))

Possessions, on the other hand, are not.  All possessions are shared and called 'toys'.  Anyone who gets too upset about a missing 'toy' is ridiculed and anyone complaining of a toy being 'stolen' (if there is even such a concept in this society) is laughed off.  Collecting toys is considered not a sign of intelligence but a sign of unhealthy obsession and isolation from the common bond of humanity.  And so on.

Like the idea?  Sound like fun?  Go for it, then!  Sound like hell?  Go for it, then!  And if you want someone to bounce around ideas with, call me!

May 15, 2007

Orp!  Oops!  The Rumi poem for today was not heart-lightening for me.  Actually worried me a little.  Guess I'll do more studying about Rumi before I talk about him anymore.  Maybe he's talking to a spiritual student.  I hope. 

Since I haven't finished a book lately I'll write about a book I read earlier this year - Strange Pilgrims, a book of short stories of Gabriel Garcia Marquez translated by Edith Grossman.  I really have not kept current with Marquez since reading One Hundred Years of Solitude (which is wonderful, magical and deeply psychologically educating at the same time) decades ago, but he seems not to have lost his marvelous touch at all.

There are twelve stories in this book, including one about an erstwhile dictator, a happy couple torn apart by what seemed at the time like a minor decision, a man who dedicates his life to establishing the sainthood of his daughter, and more!  Lots of pathos in this book, but I suspect Marquez of getting some laughs out of it also.   

I did read another book of short stories by a South American author which included one about a huge traffic jam that lasted several weeks.  Can anybody enlighten me as to who wrote that one?  If so, please get in touch!

Very recently (I think last night!) I saw on tv two programs deploring the fact that some newspapers are dropping their book critics.  This I don't understand.  Isn't the written word kind of paramount to newspapers?  Um, who is publishing them these days?

Long seen by many as a necessary evil, critcs are now being recognized for their positive nurturing of writers and the nobility of their sloshing through countless books in order to present the ones at least deserving of our attention.  It is finally being understood that any attention is better than no attention - a fact that I hope people other than the criminal classes and Paris Hilton (oh wait a minute, those categories overlap now, don't they?) can comprehend!  (Yeah, I can be mean, but ask her if she cares!)

So, blahggers and bloggers, maybe we are going to have to read more unkown authors and do our own sloughing through mediocre first chapters!  Any publishing companies willing to send me books to review?  (God knows I can't afford to buy them!)  Send me some stuff and I'll get to work!  It was through one such book sent to an alternative newspaper in Albuquerque, New Mexico that I was introduced to Carlos Castaneda's The Teachings of Don Juan.  Look how big that became!  (True confessions, I never reviewed it - felt way too out of my depth to deal with that kind of work then.  (Didn't review any other books for the paper, either.))

May 14, 2007

Well, of course I thought of more to say about Nobody Dies in a Casino and Anonymous Rex.  The main character in the former sure throws up alot.  Kind of hard to take when you are reading while you eat, as I often do.  And the main character in the latter, in addition to being a dinosaur (and we know what the ratio of brains to brawn of those are) is a scofflaw and spends hours on surveillance of the wrong house.  (Or gets conned by the resident that he has.  Either way.... well, come to think of it, now I'm curious.  Maybe I'll pick it up again in twenty years or so!  Maybe different things will strike me as funny then.)

May 13, 2007

Well, this isn't exactly about a book, but about Rumi.  Since I started my Rumilluminations I have been introduced to this amazing character (rudimentarily, anyway) and if you like ecstasy and poetry you might want to visit, which has a daily poem of Rumi.  The ecstasy of his poetry is heart-lightening, and the daily dose is just about right for me.  On the same website are also some reflections, only one of which was prose when I read them.  The prose essay whetted my appetite to learn more about Rumi, and I have to say the last poems by Duane Tucker really seem to have a lot in common with a few poems I have written: that is, a real lively view of the communications of nature.  Go visit!

May 12, 2007

Finally finished Nobody Dies in a Casino yesterday.  I did begin to enjoy the character by the end of the book.  I can't begin to guess what all the fuss was about, but I admit to being distracted and out of it.  Anybody else have a problem with too many characters being introduced too soon?  May be part of the problem here (or with me) but that combined with too many interruptions and ... well, maybe I'll read another of her books on a cold nasty winter's day when I need some cheering up...maybe.

So still in an officially escapist mood I picked up another cute-titled work, Anonymous Rex by Eric Garcia.  Maybe I'm not in an escapist mood after all.  Maybe the spring weather is just too beautiful, and I'm just too excited by all my creative projects I have going on.  But a hard-boiled detective literally dinosaur?  Now if this is supposed to be a joke, well I was internally bemused a couple of times.  If this is supposed to be some kind of allegory I don't even want to know.  But I am only twenty pages into this book and I just...don'

Maybe I'm more intuitive (or grouchier!) than I think.  I'm returning this one to the library unread.

May 10, 2007

Been very busy lately, but still struggling through Marlys Millhiser's Nobody Dies in a Casino.  If I were an intuitive type I would have quit reading by now.  This makes me feel bad, because it is really quite funny at times.  For what it is, I think it is probably very good ... I'm just suffering from mood coloration by the heavy or at least more serious stuff I was reading before... I think...

But then, she's had days - how come I'm not completely won over by Las Vegas cheap thrills and really cool perceptions about writers and Hollywood movie makers by now?   Huh?  Is it all me? 

May 8, 2007

Had a great discussion today in the Book Club about Kite Runner.  Try to start attending one, or maybe start your own!  Not only do you get new insights into the work, but also insights into other members of the community you live in.  Did you notice what others notice?  Do you have the same response not only to the values in the work, but even to the setting?

One member of the group, in talking about how alien the world of Afghanistan seemed to him, how hard it was for him to get involved and enter into that world, reminded me of my reactions to the in-crowd tone of a Las Vegas-set mystery mentioned below.  For years now I have been reading more about Asia than I did in my youth.  I tend to assume everyone interested in literature has done so.  But I really see how way-out my viewpoint may have become when I attend a book club!  It is fascinating and wonderful to bounce so many ideas back and forth in such a safe and civilized environment!

So I want to rave some more, not only about book clubs, but about the Your Town Reads a Book idea.  I am under no illusion as to the percentage of our community that reads the book.  I'm sure it is very low.  In two years of reading a book in Valparaiso, however, I have had occasion to go into the County Courthouse courtroom, meet the mayor (he led a discussion), go to a lecture by one novel's author, and meet with people involved with the juvenile detention program.  This is an incredible, rare opportunity to have group discussions about community concerns and to meet people of all ages and viewpoints.  Think of starting one of these programs in your town!

May 7, 2007

Forgot to mention that The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald was translated by Michael Hulse.  Sometimes the translator gets overlooked, which is a major crime, because the translation can make or break the book - before or after publication.  People who have experience with only one language often do not realize how creative a process translation is, and how difficult (if not impossible) it can be.

But as long as I am on the subject of this book, I would like to say that the author's technique of changing the antecedent of "I" - often in mid-paragraph - I found very confusing.  The book warrants another reading just to get all the voices straight in my mind, let alone to count how often the word 'grey' is used - not to mention grey imagery - but I almost never reread a book within ten years, even if I know I should.  There's too much good stuff beckoning!

May 6, 2007

My recent constellation of readings and my reaction to them makes me wonder about book critics.  How much of their reaction to a book depends on their reading context?

Like the optical illusion of the same color looking like two different colors depending on the shades and values surrounding it.  This illusion even works in shades of grey, and different colors would only exacerbate the phenomenon.

We all know criticism is subjective anyway, but maybe it is more temporally and experientially so than I thought.  Whew!

But three books I have read lately really illustrate that possibility to me.  When I started reading The Kite Runner (described earlier in time) I had already started The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald.  Its grey (I just have to use that spelling because the translator does) misty world just sucks you right in.  At first I thought it was a stylish detachment and I found it quite frankly a little off-putting.  But I was really getting involved in its greyness (is that possible?  The color grey means noninvolvement (or is that 'gray'?  That would make an interesting subject for study - the different meanings of 'grey' and 'gray', psychologically speaking.  Somehow 'gray' seems more comfortable ('a' links to gravy and earth?  (Ha!  I have piled up four sets of parentheses - no lack of involvement here!)))) when I had to put it down for the book club book.  Got to read it quickly and give others a chance at it!

After reading the passionate, colorful and dangerous Kite Runner it was a little hard picking up a piece of cloud, even a cumulous one.  But I did, and it was certainly worth it.  The greyness is not a stylish detachment, but a reflection of the deep depression and psychological disturbance of the subjects of the book, which is a 'fictional' work about real people who have been separated from their childhood homes.  Nothing else, not Spielberg's 'Schindler's List', nor the verbal reminiscenses of survivors' children, has shown me more vividly the psychological damage done by a forced ejection or even a more gentle exile from one's childhood home.

Maybe it isn't just the exile.  Maybe the author was drawn to these people because of their own psychological disposition to melancholy.  But the author put them together in this book because of their common experience of dislocation, so I must think he considered it important.

My most recent attempt at reading?  To lighten up, I picked a mystery by an author I have not previously read, Nobody Dies in a Casino by Marlys Millhiser.  I'm on page 44 and I still haven't gotten into it.  From the sublime to the ridiculous, and I can't make the transition?  Is there not enough reference to the natural world - no, that would be part of the point.  It is set in Las Vegas.  Or is it not that good?  I just can't get into it.  Is it me, or is it the book?  Tell me - my colors are all mixed up. 

May 4, 2007

I find there is more I must say about The Kite Runner (see May 2 blahg.)  ('blah' as in 'blahblahblah,' that is.  When I saw that a real blog is supposed to be a web log combo of diary and links to other websites that is mostly about one subject, I decided my articles don't constitute a 'blog'. Rumilluminations and Book Butterflies are really blahgs.  

I didn't mean to say there were oversimplistic characters in this wonderful book.  In fact, the combination of the main character's high-flown booklist and absolutely despicable behavior as a juvenile (I know - judgment - well we each have our weaknesses.  Cowardice I can understand, but the other stuff - well, I don't want to spoil the book for you, end, beginning, or middle!  I'm very American that way!) is partly what inspired my Rumilluminatory comments yesterday.

Nor did I mean to ignore or underemphasize the huge roles of social caste and religious affiliation in this book.  These are essential to the book's drama, as is the question of whether to flee what seems to be a hopeless mess, or to stay and almost undoubtedly be overwhelmed by it.

These comments come from within myself, not in response to criticisms from afar.  I wish I were getting more feedback!  Tell me your responses to the book so that I can really wow my book club Tuesday!  Heh.

But really.  Do other book club attenders find that they have interesting ideas re their and others' reactions an hour, day, or week after the sole formal discussion?  Kind of frustrating!    


May 2, 2007

So onward to the discussion of the virtual life.  The American so-often virtual life, in terms of a couple of books.  I can't help believing that even Americans relatively close to the outdoors (landscapers, people who camp in tents, hikers, bikers, gardeners - people like that) are living in virtual reality compared to people like those on the Lewis and Clark expedition and farmers of one hundred and more years ago.  Anyone feel that life has become almost too... well comfortable?  Many argue that in making our lives easier we have also made them much less emotionally compelling.

If you are one of these folks, The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini is for you.  It has all the elements of a classic great novel - vivid descriptions of a natural world different from ours (gee, if anyone knows of a place here with pomegranate trees, I'd like to come visit!) guilt, bad guys, good guys, love, hate.  It evokes tears more than laughter (not surprising, since it is about Afghanistan and its people).  It deals with the political consequences of overthrowing a corrupt government in a society that has seemingly otherwise irreconcilable factions within it.  (Remind anyone of another recent overthrow?) That is joined, of course, (since this book has everything) by a highly gripping personal tale.  I'm kind of embarrassed I'm recommending so many books so highly, but hey.  We are just so lucky to have these wonderful writers available for our reading.

(Just remember, even books are a kind of virtual reality.  Get outdoors!  Get out of town!  Out there it's so...   real!  Oops.  I think I just went in to 'Rumilluminations' mode.)

May 1, 2007

How's the virtual life?

When I read Undaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose, I was struck by the incredible wildlife the Lewis and Clark expedition encountered in what is now basically farmland.  They talked of routinely experiencing encounters along the Missouri River region with birds and mammals that I have never encountered in all my life, in spite of all my hiking and bike-riding.  Well, I did catch the tail-end of a spat between two badgers at the Palisade State Park along the Mississippi once.  Unforgettable.  And I have done some bird watching in my day.  But the sheer numbers of animals the expedition experienced made me feel that in terms of the natural world, we are living in only a virtual reality of what existed before we transformed the landscape.

Some of the changes - most of them maybe - make us more comfortable.  But bird-watching in a mosquito-infested swamp, while uncomfortable, makes you intensely aware that you are alive!  And that there are alot of other critters that really appreciate that fact!  (One time I counted 17 mosquito bites on the top of one foot (only the part exposed by my sandal!!))  Mosquitos also are food for many - you got it - birds.  I hoped we haven't gotten so fat and lazy (as Jay Leno loves to say) that we prefer TV nature shows to the real thing, or worse yet, confuse them.

Reminds me of the anecdote some relative or lecturer told:  His grandfather showed a child a picture of a cow, and said, "What's that?"  The child answered, "It's a cow."  The older man responded, "No, it's a picture of a cow."  Ah well, maybe he was inspired by Magritte's non-cigar.

To tell the truth, I read this book last year.  I started to talk about it as an intro to writing about another book that I just finished.  But let's leave it with Undaunted Courage.  It is an incredible book about an incredible trip, chock-full of adventure and nature the explorers experienced (really) along the way, not to mention a few harsh truths about their lives that were never alluded to in our grade school history books!


April 27, 2007

Well, I've finished my latest literary marathon.  This is the final installment of my official commentary on I, Wabenzi by Rafi Zabor.  This particular 'review' began on April 22 and has, I admit, lacking the perspective of hindsight, degenerated into rants and jokes on occasion.

All inspired by the author, of course!

Admittedly, I fell off the roller coaster once or twice, but I got back on, dusted myself off and continued to enjoy the ride, which got markedly gentler in England.  (Is the pace related to his different living situations, I wonder?  Or the spiritual nature of his quest?)

At any rate, it was very interesting reading, and an illuminating peek at yet another spiritual group that I really knew nothing about.  The spiritual quest, although I was exposed to Ecancar, the speaking in tongues (got it! - pentecostal) movement of the Christian Churches and various other influences which I can't summon up right now, was not a major focus of my life at the time.  I met no gurus that I was inspired to follow. Sure, I read Richard Alpert's (I mean Baba Ram Das') Be Here Now and other spiritual works like the Bhagavad Gita  and a book or two by Alan Watts.  But my quest was managing to support myself and finding LOVE, of course.  There was no way I was going to subject myself to 24-hour-a-day involvement in anything!  

Wonderful to see those days through Zabor's much more 'hip' eyes.

Great book.  Glad I stumbled across it in the library.  I'm looking forward to the next part of his autobiography, which I guess is in progress.  Now to read his novel (if there are several, all the better!)

'Nuff said.  Read it!

April 26, 2007

Now I'm beginning to get a little pissed off.  Envious?  maybe.  Not because that blankety-blank Rafi blank blank Zabor uses words I have to look up in the dictionary.  Not even because he uses two such words in one line - two in one line! - (and I bet I can guess where he decides it's time to separate the sheep from the goats.)  He knows too, I bet - the brat.

No, the thing that really has me stewing in a puddle of inferiority and envy is that he knew in his twenties how to chop an onion without tears.

Over my onion-chopping years people tried to be helpful.  I've tried singing or whistling while I chopped (thank you Debra Tyler) but that was about 50% effective, even with my oboist lungs. ( Flutist-lungs would probably work better.)

I tried storing the onions in the refrigerator (thank you Howard Shulman) but out of sight is out of mind and they got moldy faster there.

I've tried using milder varieties of onions, and that works, but they are often more expensive.

And that guy Zabor knew all this time that all you have to do is sit down while chopping!  The fumes will rise in front of you instead of into you. That solution was way too un-masochistic for me to think of. Talk about needless suffering!  And I had a husband who liked his onions chopped fine!

Well, if you have read my several days ranting about I, Wabenzi you will understand why I am practically saloming (well, that prostrating thing).  This guy goes from the sublime to the ridiculous and hits every note in between, too.  I hope I finish this book soon because reading and writing about it is exhausting me.  Luckily for me I'm not often this enthusiastic about a book. 


April 25, 2007

Just embarked upon Part 3 of I, Wabenzi by Rafi Zabor and if there has been any more talk of Mercedes Benz, I'm not sure I didn't dream it.  (If you are looking for a review of this book, start with several days ago.)  I don't really care so much about the car, it is more the fun of trying to spot it, like the objects hidden in pictures or Wally (was it?)

No, my latest excitement about the book is insight into a phenomenon I have been wondering about.

Now one reason I often love books is that the author manages to universalize my own experience or confirm my own perceptions.  Describing a friend as using alcohol as a "key" to his pyschosis, for instance.  I have long felt that people use alchohol as a key to having fun.  If they could only give themselves permission to have fun without using a substance that will take them too far!  Zabor has taken it a step further with the key unlocking the door of psychosis, but his friend's comment that life is this wonderful party and his friends refuse to enjoy it makes me think that initially, at least, he felt that booze was a ticket to enjoyment.

More rarely and wonderfully a book deals with something that I'm struggling with at the time I read it.  This book does that, too.  Zabor talks about an incident wherein his elderly mother falls out of their car in a graveyard, and how it seemed like an omen - to her, if no one else, and she started to become grayer.

These omens, signifiers of fate, or things your consciousness gives significance, or whatever they are:  are they synchronicity, are they "memories" of the future or forgotten parts of a long-since chosen role?  Or are they just your unconscious trying to tell you something?  Zabors friend Sid would say the latter, if I understand correctly.

Just another of the gems in this book!  You will find others, I'm sure.

April 24, 2007

Over half-way through I, Wabenzi by Rafi Zabor (see also two previous entries) and still no purchase of a Mercedes Benz!  There have been sightings, but whether these are merely red herrings or a prescient vision of 'the one' which will bear Rafi to Turkey is still a mystery.

At some point he ironically insults writers who write autobiographies.  (Me, I'm full of admiration that he has the persistence.  Once, when I was twenty-four or so, lacking anything better to do, I decided to write my autobiography, to be entitled Autobiography of a Failure.  Modeling it after Tristram Shandy, I got only about a page written before I dropped the project.  My life bored even me!  (Then.))

I'm slowing down a little in the reading. It is Spring and I have neglected outdoor tasks for too long, but I'm still enjoying Zabor's book.  (Sample clause: "As we approached the stablehouse I saw an increasingly thoughtful sky in which some ideas of cloud had begun to build and gather...." but lest you be readers who (having been spoiled rotten by photographs and movies and videos) cannot bear to risk boredom by reading a verbal description of nature, don't worry.  Zabor doesn't do too much of that.

April 23, 2007

After I wrote in here yesterday about the first part of Zabor's book I realized I hadn't really told about the fact that he was dealing mostly with the decline and death of his parents and the emotions that these experiences evoked - both for the present and the past.  I failed to mention how gutsy he is.

Yesterday I finished the official Part One and embarked upon Part Two.  So far everything I talked about before applies, but this part seems to be funnier.  Some of it laugh-out-loud funny!

And still, almost halfway through the book, still no Mercedes Benz!  Now, I have no great love for the automobile.  I prefer to live most of my life without crawling into one.  But this postponement of content about a major reference of the title is beginning to invest the car with the numinosity of some mythical beast like the unicorn!  I'm beginning to think that the purchase of this car will mark the end of the book!

No matter.  If it does, that will just be part of the wit of the work.

April 22, 2007

Well, I am only one-fourth of the way through my latest reading project and I am so excited about it that I cannot wait until I finish to talk about it.

I will say in my defense that this book is no walk in the woods; nor is it a day's hike in the foothills. Rafi Zabor's I, Wabenzi: a Souvenir, is (so far) more like a trek into a dense rain-forest with no trail.  (Don't forget your machete!)  Of course I, the Queen of Introspection, LOVE it!

Even a (i.e., relatively light reading) Robert Parker mystery is subject to twists and turns that make you forget some of the wonders early on (and I did when I reviewed it-sorry).  Since Zabor's work purports to be about a trip he took driving a Mercedes Benz in Europe and he has yet (see above) to get to the purchase point, his story promises to have drastically different stages. I really don't want his first stage to go unremarked upon.

Where did we (his writings remind me of some of mine (admittedly more pallid and provincial)) get this approach to writing?  (I'm not talking quality, here I'm talking style.)  I'm so ignorant I don't know.  Was the inspiration Tristram Shandy?  Alice in Wonderland?  Or is it more modern?  The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test?  Is it the beat generation?  Allan Ginsberg's rants?  Or is it just a generational thing we all picked up by osmosis?

Or is Zabor's writing (and mine) more unusual than I know?  His amalgam of family history, friendships, jokes, dreams (and how seriously (I think rightly) he takes dreams!) and literary reference (his mention of Thomas Mann's metaphor of the deep well of the past and Zabor's falling into it was what made me decide this book would not wait until its end to be talked about.)  Yes!  Imagination rules!

Come to think of it, his writing is much more complicated than mine.  His is the kind of mental world that reminds me (lest I get delusions of grandeur living in this backwater called Indiana) that I am no intellectual.

The writing is wild but wonderful.  No, I can't pretend that I faithfully parse out all of his convoluted sentence structure.  To slow down is to brake while bicycling too fast in the sand:  you wind up minus breath plus two cracked ribs.  No, I just keep thrashing through the sandy jungle (while mixing my metaphors and I wish a gin and tonic (joke)) and enjoying the trip.  It is brilliant and beautiful.  Sooo beautiful.

Read it! 

April 20, 2007

Just finished Double Deuce yesterday, and what I say about it makes me realize how ridiculous I am (April fool! - me, that is) talking about Robert B. Parker.  He must have a readership of millions.  But hey, maybe if I talk about how right on he so often is about human nature (in my foolish, humble opinion) maybe he might get two more!  I love that he goes against the conventional wisdom in so many ways, but remains in so many ways an optimist!

I agree with him that you should make eye contact with people.  Eye contact is only dangerous if you are afraid, and to be automatically afraid of just some people is profiling on a one-to-one level that is insulting and probably dangerous in itself.  I grew up in a small town where people rarely passed you on the street without a greeting.  Hell, they rarely passed you on the street at all (it was a really small town!)  But those that passed you usually looked you in the eye and said hello.

His free-form do-it-yourself definition of what it takes for a relationship to be 'successful' is so liberating that even though I get occasionally bored with his and Susan's (it is so ponderous, at times) it makes me very glad.

Otherwise (his books are more or less 'mysteries' after all) he sure knows how to paint vivid characters and tell a good yarn.  I know I haven't read them all yet, and that makes me happy.

April 19, 2007

When I was in college I was introduced to Dr. Faustus by Thomas Mann.  I was very taken with him, so when I ran across Joseph and His Brothers at the public library, I checked it out, even though it was an awe-inspiring great big long book and I was an exhausted mother with toddlers.  Well, reading it every night, it still took me two renewals to finish it.  Other than bringing to life that old, old story which always fascinated me (partly because of Joseph's coat of many colors, I'll admit, but also because of the incredible reversals of fortune in it) it contained a world-view I had begun to espouse as my own.

How much Thomas Mann had influenced my thinking!  How many fun theories and ideas I have had based on some of his!  And how my view of an individual's responsibility for what happens to him - far beyond his conscious intent - was instilled in me by that one author!

But if anyone had asked me, "How did you arrive at that idea?" I certainly could not have told him or her.  So, my caveat when I talk to you about ideas that could possibly have come from books that I read decades ago applies to this section and Rumilluminations:  I try to give credit where it is due, but sometimes my own 'bright ideas' may have come from someone else.  Sorry, I don't always remember or recognize them.

Oh, some more thought-provoking books by Thomas Mann:  The Transposed Heads, Felix, Confessions of a Con-Man (or something very similar) The Magic Mountain (which pissed me off royally because the last few pages were written in French!  What snobbery on the part of the translator!  After all, the original was translated out of German, for God's sake!  Well, if some erudite person gets beyond the word 'pissed' above and wants to explain this to me, I'm listening!) and his published essays.

All great reading for anyone willing to go on a hike instead of a walk in the woods! 

April 18, 2007

Within the last few months I read Peter Brook: A Biography by Michael Kustow.  It's been awhile since I read it, but it really took me back to the sixties!  Brook was really innovative -the reader can just feel his world expanding and exploding (in a good way).  He mostly did stage productions which I never saw, but one of his films was 'Marat/Sade' - and who lucky enough to see that would ever forget it?

He took a largely improvisational play 'The Conference of the Birds' on tour here in the U.S., and I imagine I might have seen it in some small ill-attended place, but maybe that was another movie and I'm confused.  Brook's tours through third-world countries where his troupes performed on-the-spot improvisation trying to draw in the participation of non-English-speaking audiences were really amazing.  Those actors lived their acting lives on those tours 24 hours a day.

One family episode that Brooks experiences while putting on a production in the Soviet Union reminds me of Abboud’s in Australia.  A long-lost cousin gets in touch with him and turns out to be – coincidence? – a director!  The difference in their careers and lives is poignant.

Reading about a life lived so much beyond my purview is a lesson in humility, but I did recognize a few names.  Helen Mirren, who starred in the BBC series ‘Body of Evidence’ had been in one of Brook's companies, and if she lived her job the way his actors often seemed to, she really had a basis for understanding Queen Elizabeth, who also has to live her job!  (Of course, this year Helen Mirren took home the Oscar for her role in 'The Queen'.)  

April 17, 2007

Just finished reading Threads:  My Life Behind the Seams in the High Stakes Fashion Industry  by Joseph Abboud with Ellen Stern.  I found it fascinating reading, maybe because I work with fabrics and share his joy in handling them and working with them.  I even spent time as a member of the Hand-Stitched Co-op in Albuquerque in the early seventies!  It didn't last long, because we started a family, but for a while I too was obsessed with clothes (in a provincial kind of way).  Reading an account of his work and his struggles by an acclaimed professional was an eye-opener!  What a gift for a professional to give the young'uns!

Perhaps more teachers should emphasize the reading of biographies in their students' areas of interest.  I read a biography of J.P. Morgan when I was young, and I have never forgotten it, but I had no ambitions at the time to go into business!  If I had read more biographies maybe I would have found a possible vocation instead of remaining without direction for so long.  (Truth to tell, I still haven't decided what I want to be when I grow up!)

Abboud recounts many personal anecdotes.  Some of these relate to the difficulties of being of Lebanese extraction even though he was born in the United States.  Others are amusing and revealing vignettes of other famous people (including, coincidentally enough, Don Imus!)  But one of my favorites was about his search for family!

When he went to Australia on business his sister suggested he look up a long-lost branch of the family with another name - Latoof.  When he finds a second cousin, he discovers that his great grandfather had owned the largest men's tailored-clothing company in Australia!

This experience is eerily similar to one that director Peter Brook had when he visited Russia.  Maybe I'll talk about his biography tomorrow.  



April 16, 2007

Ever heard of the I Ching?  I am amazed at how many people haven't.  If you have, are you confused by all the different editions and forms it takes?  I have recommended a couple in my Rumilluminations for today. 

April 15, 2007

We recently had a book club meeting at the Public Library here in Valparaiso about A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson.  We had a whole discussion about his walking companion, the conditions, the possible motivation for someone wanting to do such a thing as hike the Appalachian Trail, and more.  It was only after  I got home after the discussion that I realized how much I had just accepted the book on its own terms.  But the more I thought about how much Bryson must have failed to see while he was walking that I began really to be disappointed in him.  He is all for knowledge:  He wrote A Short History of Nearly Everything, for Pete's sake.  He did research about the Appalachian Trail and the National Park Service before writing the book.

But now that I think about it, my ecology class saw more flora on one two-hour hike in the Midwest than Bryson talks about in his whole book!  Where are the thousands of fungi, the ferns, the slime molds?  He experienced all sorts of weather, so he must have seen something flowering - or should I say, there must have been something 'seeable' flowering!  Not to mention birds and bugs.

Too bad he didn't have his companion for comedy and also one very fine, energetic naturalist type. 

Too bad he didn't take me!

April 14, 2007

Since I'm going to be writing about books in this section, I guess I ought to say that lately I'm reading alot of biographies (auto- and otherwise, although does that term now bother anyone else?  I keep wondering if it should refer to 'life'-stories of famous auto cross-country race winners - the cars, that is.)  I'm a long-time mystery fan, but I like to read stuff for book clubs just to keep me from being too narrowly addicted to them.

Valparaiso, Indiana has a community event each Spring called 'Valpo reads a book.'  It's pretty cool, and though it is too late this year to hear the author speak, there are still several events coming up.  The book for this year is Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelsen.  It is so obviously written for juveniles that I would not have read it if not for this event.  It does have some great tips which I already knew (like a lot of thought and emotion is just really bad habit!) but which can't be repeated too many times.  Psychologically, it is kind of scary because it gives a victim a vulnerability to his abuser in a way that I am not convinced could be helpful in real life.  But it is a thought-provoking work, and if you ever get a chance to hear the author speak, take it!  His is a very dramatic and eventful story.  Maybe he should write a book about that!

Think about getting your community to read a book together!  Since the books are assigned in school, it seems like it creates a great opportunity to open up dialogue among generations.  Just don't put me on the spot about what percentage of people in Valpo get involved. 

April 13, 2007

Hiya!  I read books and many of them don't make it to my section that should be called 'Rumilluminations.'  Maybe I'll do some juggling and switching of articles, now that I know how to create more.

The latest book that I have felt like commenting on is Efrem Zimbalist Jr.'s autobiography My Dinner of Herbs.  He has written a quite entertaining (although brief) account of his life.  He seems like a darling if you are family, although maybe his style in superficial encounters is not rude, just old-fashioned.

He bases his title on a quote from Proverbs, "Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith."  Efrem, Efrem, your life was not just a dinner with herbs and love.  You had a stalled ox (whatever that is) plus plus plus plus plus......!  Talk about seeing a half-full gallon jug as a half-empty cup!

I did enjoy the book, though.  Has anyone else read it?  Did you see the photo of Morgan Pittman with a much younger Efrem and get a weird anachronistic deja vu that you were looking at an older version of Jay Leno's intern, Ross?  Wonder if they are related....

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