Amazon Books staff has compiled 2014 list of 100 must-reads into a list of “100 Books to Read in a Lifetime,”

Leyton Public Library, Leytonstone, London, UK 1944 WC
Leyton Public Library, Leytonstone, London, UK (1944, Wikimedia Commons)

 

Wednesday afternoon. Cloudy and warmer, 68 degrees.

I have Olivia today, so no time for a real post. I know I’ve been absent. What can I say?

Life . . .

                   

Click here to read the full article from CNN

Amazon released its newly curated list of 100 Books to Read in a Lifetime on Tuesday.

Books on the list include Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” (1813), F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” (1925) and Kate Atkinson’s “Life After Life” (2013).

The list spans 200 years of literature, along with a wide range of genres and intended audiences; authors include David Sedaris, Salman Rushdie, J.D. Salinger, Michael Pollan and Shel Silverstein.

Sara Nelson, editorial director of print and Kindle books at Amazon.com, said the list was created through taxing months of deliberation among her team, though no mathematical algorithms were used.

“One of our tasks was to have books that don’t feel like homework: ‘eat your vegetables’ books,” Nelson said. “There was nothing in there except ‘I loved this book when I was 12 for this reason.’ We lobbied each other.”

The books are not ranked but rather are listed alphabetically to represent that “no book is more important than another,” she added.

(To see the Goodreads Readers’ Picks, click here.)

  1. 1984 by George Orwell
  2. A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  3. A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers
  4. A Long Way Gone by Ishmael Beah
  5. A Series of Unfortunate Events #1: The Bad Beginning: The Short-Lived Edition by Lemony Snicket
  6. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  7. Alice Munro: Selected Stories by Alice Munro
  8. Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  9. All the President’s Men by Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein
  10. Angela’s Ashes: A Memoir by Frank McCourt
  11. Are You There, God? It’s me, Margaret by Judy Blume
  12. Bel Canto by Ann Patchett
  13. Beloved by Toni Morrison
  14. Born To Run – A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall
  15. Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Danticat
  16. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
  17. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl
  18. Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White
  19. Cutting For Stone by Abraham Verghese
  20. Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brene Brown
  21. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Book 1 by Jeff Kinney
  22. Dune by Frank Herbert
  23. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  24. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream by Hunter S. Thompson
  25. Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
  26. Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown
  27. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
  28. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared M. Diamond
  29. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
  30. In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
  31. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri
  32. Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
  33. Jimmy Corrigan: Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
  34. Kitchen Confidential by Anthony Bourdain
  35. Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
  36. Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder
  37. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
  38. Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  39. Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich
  40. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  41. Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris
  42. Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides
  43. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
  44. Moneyball by Michael Lewis
  45. Of Human Bondage by W. Somerset Maugham
  46. On the Road by Jack Kerouac
  47. Out of Africa by Isak Dinesen
  48. Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
  49. Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
  50. Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen
  51. Silent Spring by Rachel Carson
  52. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  53. Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin
  54. The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
  55. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon
  56. The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X and Alex Haley
  57. The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  58. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  59. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  60. The Color of Water by James McBride
  61. The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
  62. The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
  63. The Diary of Anne Frank by Anne Frank
  64. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  65. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  66. The Golden Compass: His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman
  67. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  68. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  69. The House At Pooh Corner by A. A. Milne
  70. The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  71. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
  72. The Liars’ Club: A Memoir by Mary Karr
  73. The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan
  74. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
  75. The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler
  76. The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 by Lawrence Wright
  77. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  78. The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat: And Other Clinical Tales by Oliver Sacks
  79. The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals by Michael Pollan
  80. The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster
  81. The Poisonwood Bible: A Novel by Barbara Kingsolver
  82. The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York by Robert A. Caro
  83. The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe
  84. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
  85. The Secret History by Donna Tartt
  86. The Shining by Stephen King
  87. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  88. The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
  89. The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
  90. The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
  91. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame
  92. The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle: A Novel by Haruki Murakami
  93. The World According to Garp by John Irving
  94. The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion
  95. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
  96. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  97. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand
  98. Valley of the Dolls by Jacqueline Susann
  99. Where the Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein
  100. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

“Gaze into the fire, into the clouds, and as soon as the inner voices begin to speak . . . surrender to them. Don’t ask first whether it’s permitted, or would please your teachers or father or some god. You will ruin yourself if you do that.” ~ Hermann Hesse

The Fairy Host
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law*


“I write only because
There is a voice within me
That will not be still” ~ Sylvia Plath

Tuesday afternoon. Cloudy, showers, much cooler, low 60’s.

Well, Corey is in the Ascension Island for a few days. He hasn’t seen any giant sea turtles, but he says that the island is beautiful, crystal blue waters, clean beaches, no touristy stuff. Apparently, the turtles nest at night, and the road to their nesting ground is actually closed to traffic at night so as not to disturb the turtles. Isn’t that cool? Unfortunately for him, his watch shifts haven’t allowed him to be off the boat at the time the turtles are on the move, but he has seen the tracks in the sand, and he says that they are huge.

A Dream of Grace
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

From there, the ship is supposed to head to Brooklyn to go into the yard, where it will be for a month or so. He sounds content, but tired. I haven’t heard that tone in his voice in quite a while, so it’s very nice. I can’t express how wonderful it is to know that he’s doing something that he loves and is very good at doing, especially after four years of a roller coaster ride.

Four years? Yep, since 2008. Wow. That really is a long, long, long time to be unemployed and underemployed, but I know that we are fortunate because many people who lost their jobs when the recession hit are still out of work. I truly fear for this country, its shortsighted leaders who continue to believe that the struggling lower classes are lesser citizens, and who continue to reward the elite.

What happened to equity? Democracy? The American Dream?

“What syllable are you seeking,
Vocalissimus,
In the distances of sleep?
Speak it.” ~ Wallace Stevens, from “To the Roaring Wind”

I don’t want to go off on a socio-political rant as it will just depress me, and I’m actually feeling a bit better emotionally. I haven’t been weepy in several days, so that’s a good thing.

White Knight of Bright Morning
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

We got a graduation announcement from Corey’s niece, his older brother’s daughter. Apparently Steve texted Corey twice for our address, which just stymies me as we send them a Christmas card every year, and have done so for over a decade. Anyway, his daughter is graduating, which is kind of weird as I remember when she was just a little girl who followed Eamonn around Corey’s parents’ house when we were visiting at Christmas.

They refuse to stay young.

In ten years they will all wish that they were just approaching their 20’s again. After ten years of the stresses of young adult life, they begin to see how easy life really was. I’m not at all saying that being a teenager is easy, because it’s not. The stressors are there, just of a different nature. And far too many young people come out of their teen years scarred and scared, with absolutely no idea of what the future might hold for them.

I never thought I’d be talking about today’s youth in that same tone of voice that I hated when I was younger, so I try to remember that all of those things that seemed terribly important, life-changing, heartbreaking, all of those things really did matter then. Only now am I able to place them in context.

“I closed my mouth and spoke to you in a hundred silent ways.” ~ Rumi

I ate a snack bag of Cheetos last night, really wanted them, but today I’m paying for it as I can feel the migraine creeping into my head. MSG. I don’t understand why food producers continue to use MSG when so many other things are available and so many people are sensitive to the additive. I try to tell myself that it won’t bother me, but 98 percent of the time when I ingest something with MSG I get a migraine. It’s that two percent that I’m hoping for.

Filling Up the Sea
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

Silly me.

Last night Richard Gere and Mari were in my dream. Very, very strange. Apparently, I knew Gere. In the dream I’m taking Mari to the airport, but we’re in the Underground in Crystal City, Arlington, and we keep making wrong turns. At some point, the cast from “Law & Order” makes an appearance, and Jack McCoy is standing outside of the courtroom talking to Abby. I think to myself that Abby really is just as beautiful in real life as she is on television. Then I notice that she has a scar running down the side of her legs, and I think that she’s had an operation to make her thighs smaller. Richard Gere is wearing a white dress shirt but no tie, and he’s going in the same direction as Mari and me. The newspaper is across the street. Mari tells me that she has chronic pain but wonders why she didn’t get my old job at GW. There is a yellow Volkswagen Beetle.

Make of that what you will.

“Whatever I looked at was alive, everything had a voice,
but I never found out were you a friend, an enemy,
was it winter, summer? Smoke, singing, midnight heat.
I wrote thousands of lines. Not one told me.” ~ Anna Akhmatova, from “Fragment, 1959,” (trans. Stephen Berg)

That creative spurt that I was going through a few weeks ago seems to have dried up. Gone. For a while, I had poems running through my brain constantly. Lines upon lines kept appearing. Now the only thing in my brain is pain and bad dreams. I knew that it wouldn’t last.

Tam Lin the Knight
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

I’ve started to request galleys of books again. I thought that I would try to get back into writing reviews, like I was doing a few years ago. I had stopped requesting galleys when I stopped reviewing the books I was being sent. Knowing the publishing process, it didn’t seem right to request an ARC (advanced reader’s copy) without writing a review.

I’m also trying to stay caught up on Goodreads. I hadn’t updated my profile in ages, so I set a reading goal for myself in 2012: 60 books. I’m a little behind, but I should be able to make my goal by the end of the year. I don’t really do the social part of Goodreads—chatting with other people about what they’re reading, making friends, all of that. I just don’t get into that whole social networking, even if it is a reading site.

I know. I’m a curmudgeon. But you can’t say that I’m not honest about it.

If you’re an avid reader, and you haven’t discovered Goodreads yet, you should click on the link on my sidebar. It really is a nice resource for readers; they do book giveaways each month, and people do write some good reviews of books. At the very least, it is a great site for keeping a record of your books and for finding literary quotes.

“‎When you do not speak, the thousand stars that lay upon your tongue slide back down your throat only to be swallowed one by one, jagged, pointed and weighing more than planets.” ~ Tama Kieves

Speaking of age, as I was earlier, the Doobie Brothers and the Beach Boys are touring. Aren’t they all 100 or so? I mean, even though Mick Jagger is ancient, I can kind of see him touring (not really sure why), but these guys? Whenever I think of the Beach Boys, unfortunately I think of Charles Manson. I know. It’s a weird association, but Manson’s desire to be taken seriously as a singer, his relationship with Dennis Wilson, are all part of what drove him to do the crazy things that he did.

Climbing the Dragon Gate
by Stephanie Pui-Mun Law

You know what’s really crazy? Manson’s music was actually used by some bands after he and his followers killed all of those people. Guns ‘n Roses and Marilyn Manson have covered his songs. Weird, huh?

If anyone does not deserve that kind of recognition, it’s Manson, but hey, we’re that kind of society: desirous of fame no matter what. Okay, maybe I’m generalizing, but I remember as a youth I wanted to be famous, wanted to sing on Broadway. Of course, my dreams of fame had nothing to do with being infamous, but I wanted that recognition, nonetheless.

The desire for fame is as old as time, though. As long as humans have been able to speak, someone has chosen to be the one to lead, and people have followed because of what they have heard. Even before speech, someone always stood out, took charge, and others went along. It’s a pack mentality that has evolved into the kinds of government that exist today. Think about it: Are our Congressional members really so different from the early hominids? In both cases, someone pounded their chest (literally or figuratively) and declared that he should be heeded because he, and only he knew what was right . . .

Yep.

More later. Peace.

*All images used with permission from the Fairy Tales and Mythology Gallery on Shadowscapes, the website of Stephanie Pui-Mun Law. I recommend clicking on each image to see full size.

Music by the Alialujah Choir, “A House, A Home”

                   

Of Distress Being Humiliated by the Classical Chinese Poets

Masters, the mock orange is blooming in Syracuse without
scent, having been bred by patient horticulturalists
To make this greater display at the expense of fragrance.
But I miss the jasmine of my back-country home.
Your language has no tenses, which is why your poems can
never be translated whole into English;
Your minds are the minds of men who feel and imagine
without time.
The serenity of the present, the repose of my eyes in the cool
whiteness of sterile flowers.
Even now the headsman with his great curved blade and rank
odor is stalking the byways for some of you.
When everything happens at once, no conflicts can occur.
Reality is an impasse. Tell me again
How the white heron rises from among the reeds and flies
forever across the nacreous river at twilight
Toward the distant islands.

~ Hayden Carruth

“To sit alone in the lamplight with a book spread out before you, and hold intimate converse with men of unseen generations—such is a pleasure beyond compare.” ~ Kenko Yoshida

“Fourth Avenue Bookstore,” by Andreas Feininger (ca 1940s)

  

“I’ve never known any trouble that an hour’s reading didn’t assuage.” ~ Charles de Secondat, Baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu, Pensées Diverses
"Comic Book Readers, New York City," by Ruth Orkin (1947)

I really do miss the days of reading at least one book every weekend, but as with everything else in my life, I go through phases. Luckily for me, I’ve been in the mood to read lately. So just this week, I read two books that were as different from each other as is possible. Last week I read a collection of short stories.

I thought that I might do brief reviews of these three books, spread the wealth, as it were.

“Reading is to the mind what exercise is to the body. It is wholesome and bracing for the mind to have its faculties kept on the stretch.” ~ August Hare

I was fortunate to win this first book in a Goodreads giveaway, and doub ly fortunate because it was one of the books for which I submitted my name that I really wanted to read. James Rollins writes what is called thriller/adventure novels. I am a junkie for these kinds of books as they are easy to read and can be read in one sitting. That and the fact that these books appeal to me in the same way that action movies appeal to me. I am fully aware that they are fluff, but fluff can be a great distraction.

I have read two or three other Rollins’ novels, can’t remember exactly, but this one, The Doomsday Key, is probably my favorite. One thing that I like about Rollins is that he always tries to base the plots of his books in some kind of historical fact. He also employs twists and devices that seem a bit far-fetched, only to reveal in the notes at the end that these things actually exist, take for example, WASP daggers.

The Doomsday Key is based on The Domesday Book, which was commissioned by William the Conqueror in 11th century England. King William sent royal commissioners to all parts of his kingdom to conduct a survey of the lands and properties, supposedly to measure the taxes owed to the crown. The completed book became an incredible source of information about Medieval life.

Rollins again uses his Sigma Force and recurring characters in an adventure that includes avalanches, polar bears, and honey bees. The book does not pretend to be anything but what it is—a romp through Rollins’s world of heroes and villains, and those who straddle the middle.

(526 pages, HarperCollins)

“When I read a book I seem to read it with my eyes only, but now and then I come across a passage, perhaps only a phrase, which has a meaning for me, and it becomes part of me.” ~ William Somerset Maugham
"Kisling's Atelier," André Kertész (1933)

On the other end of the spectrum is Proust’s Overcoat, a true story about one man’s obsession with all things Proust.

Written by Lorenza Foschini, this small biography (literally at 144 pages) is a captivating tale about Jacques Guérin, a Parisian heir to a perfume company. Guérin’s passion lay not in perfume but in collecting rare books, manuscripts, and papers. After spending the day in the factory, he would stroll through Paris in the evenings, frequenting small bookstores, looking for treasures. That is how he came to find a proprietor who happened to have corrected proofs of Marcel Proust.

Ultimately, the book tells Guérin’s tale, as well as that of Proust, his brother Robert, Robert’s wife Marthe who bore no love for her brother-in-law, and the family shame over Proust’s homosexuality. It was this shame that led Marthe to destroy many of Marcel’s papers after his death, only later to realize that these papers and notebooks were valuable.

Foschini’s retelling of Guérin’s search for and amassing of Proust’s papers, furniture, and his famous overcoat reads lyrically: “Proust’s homosexuality surrounded him like an invisible and insurmountable wall. His family’s unwillingness to understand led to a history of silences that mutated into rancor. This in turn was transformed into acts of vandalism—papers destroyed, furniture abandoned” (71).

Proust’s Overcoat is a lovely afternoon read, one that can be appreciated by bibliophiles and historians alike.

(144 pages, black and white photographs, Imprint of HarperCollins)

“It is not enough merely to love literature, if one wishes to spend one’s life as a writer. It is a dangerous undertaking on the most primitive level. For, it seems to me, the act of writing with serious intent involves enormous personal risk. It entails the ongoing courage for self-discovery. It means one will walk forever on the tightrope, with each new step presenting the possibility of learning a truth about oneself that is too terrible to bear.” ~ Harlan Ellison
"New York City," André Kertész (1950)

And finally, there is The Dark End of the Street, a collection of short stories featuring the work of Lee Child, Joyce Carol Oates, Amy Hempel, Michael Connelly, and many others.

Edited by Jonathan Santlofer and S. J. Rozan, this book includes nineteen stories that take a new look at the old themes of sex and crime, violence and darkness. The stories feature serial killers, characters who fancy themselves killers, wives who have been wronged, cruel sadists, and characters who are just plain pitiable.  A few stories read a bit like detective true crime stories from the old magazines, but for the most part, the stories are evocative and intriguing, a memorable collection crafted by an enviable group of writers.

Plot twists abound. For example, Lee Child’s “Me & Mr. Rafferty” features a serial killer and a cop and their fixation on each other. Then there is the revenge with a twist in Laura Lippman’s “Tricks.” The idea of sadism is the focus in Lynn Freed’s “Sunshine,” as well as S. J. Rozan’s “Daybreak.” But my favorite story out of the collection is Jonathan Letham’s story, “The Salon.” I love the premise of a hair salon being a serial killer’s milieu. Letham’s narrator is deftly drawn, just dripping with sarcasm and a sardonic wit.

(291 pages, black and white illustrations, Bloomsbury)

“A book must be an ice-axe to break the seas frozen inside our soul.” ~ Franz Kafka

I have three more books lined up for this weekend. Good times for me. Now go read a book.

More later. Peace.

Music by Chris Isaak, “Blue Moon”

“Life is a spell so exquisite, that everything conspires to break it.” ~ Emily Dickinson

 

Virginia Woolf’s Writing Table, Monk’s House, by Gisele Freund

“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.” ~ Rachel Carson

Poets' Walk, Central Park, NY

I woke up speaking French again. Very disconcerting. However, as Corey pointed out, what would be more disconcerting is if I did not actually know French, but I was speaking it in my dreams. Granted, my conversational abilities are very limited, but for some reason, I dream in French occasionally.

It’s absolutely beautiful here today, a perfect spring day. That is, everything would be perfect if not for one thing: yesterday was opening day at the park that our house abuts. Opening day is exactly what it sounds like: the baseball season opening, which means lots of cars beeping their horns, the loudspeaker blaring at 9 in the morning, car alarms, and litter.  Every year, people park illegally in front of our house. I say illegally because of the no-parking signs and the fire hydrant, not because I don’t want them to park there. I try to warn people if I see them parking that they will get a ticket if the police happen by, but they usually just look at me as if I am being the neighborhood bitch.

Hello. Fire hydrant. Blocking it is a bad thing, remember? Oh well.

I’m very excited because season 4 of The Tudors premieres tonight. This will be the last season for the Showtime series, starring Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Henry VIII. In this season, Henry will marry his last two wives (Katherine Howard and Catherine), get old and fat, and go to war. So far, season 2 has been my favorite.

“April is the cruelest month, breeding
lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
memory and desire, stirring
dull roots with spring rain.” ~ T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land

Poets' Walk, Clevedon, UK

The news is full of sad things: the death of the Polish president and his contingent while en route to Smolensk, Russia for a memorial. According to news reports, the visit to the Katyn forest was to mark the 70th anniversary of the killing of thousands of Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviet secret security during World War II, an action that led to a huge rift between Poles and Russians.

In Comfort, West Virginia, the bodies of the four missing miners were found, bringing the total number of those killed to 29. The Upper Big Branch mine disaster is the worst in U.S. history since the 1970 disaster in Kentucky. Apparently, the rescue crews walked past the four bodies that first day, but could not see them because the air was so smoky and dusty.

A Tennessee woman put her seven-year-old adopted Russian son on a plane by himself. The plane was going to Russia, and the ticket was one-way. The mother claims that the boy, renamed Justin, terrified her family by threatening to burn down the house with everyone inside. Now the woman’s family is claiming that the Russian orphanage lied to her about the boy’s behavior problems. So many things wrong with this story, not the least of which is the fact that the woman wasn’t returning a broken vacuum to Wal Mart. The adoptive grandmother bought the ticket, and the family arranged to pay a man in Russia $200 to take Justin from the airport and leave him at the Russian education ministry. A note was sent with the boy that read in part, “After giving my best to this child, I am sorry to say that for the safety of my family, friends, and myself, I no longer wish to parent this child.”

And on another sad note, Dixie Carter, star of television series “Designing Women” has died at the age of 70. I loved wise-cracking Julia Sugerbaker. Like the woman who portrayed her, she was smart, attractive, and took no guff from anyone. Funnily enough, some of my friends used to compare me to Julia Sugerbaker, can’t understand why. Carter was married to actor Hal Holbrook.

“your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully, mysteriously) her first rose” ~ e. e. cummings, “somewhere i have never travelled”

Poets' Walk, Red Hook (Hudson River Valley), NY

One of my blog friends is packing some books to ship to me. I cannot wait. For me, nothing is better than a box of books, not even a squishy black leather Kenneth Cole purse, if that gives you any idea as to how much I love books. Of course, I wouldn’t turn down a Kenneth Cole purse, but since no one is offering . . . Anyway, Kelly is a bibliophile like myself, so she understands just how dispiriting it is not to have books to read, hence her very generous offer to send me some books. In the future, I hope to participate in the Goodreads Book Swap, which is a wonderful idea.

If you love books but have yet to visit the Goodreads site, I suggest you do so soon. Goodreads is a great resource for readers in so many ways. Go to http://www.goodreads.com/. You’ll be glad that you did.

My ex called me last night, just to talk. Wow. I don’t remember seeing the news that hell had frozen over. No really, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a conversation that did not quickly escalate into an argument. He even sounded relatively sober, another first. I did suggest, very gently, that he might want to try to spend a bit more time with his mother as there is no way of knowing how much longer she will be around. I am one of the few people who can get away with saying something like that to him. His sister has tried, but he sees that as her way of trying to tell him how to live his life. I had heard that his girlfriend is moving here from Chicago. He confirmed that she will be here in July. That should be interesting. His last two serious relationships went up in flames. I hope this one works for him.

Now don’t be that way. I’m being sincere. As much as we have our problems—and boy, do we have our problems—I do wish him well. If for no other reason than the fact that when he’s happy, we get along better and can actually have adult conversations that don’t devolve into name-calling. Anyway, it will be interesting to see how Eamonn gets along with a new stepmom.

On that note, I think that I’ll close for today with an appropriate quote from Barbara Kingsolver:

“April is the cruelest month, T.S. Eliot wrote, by which I think he meant (among other things) that springtime makes people crazy. We expect too much, the world burgeons with promises it can’t keep, all passion is really a setup, and we’re doomed to get our hearts broken yet again. I agree, and would further add: Who cares? Every spring I go out there anyway, around the bend, unconditionally . . . Come the end of the dark days, I am more than joyful. I’m nuts. “

More later. Peace.

The one and only Ray Charles singing “Georgia on My Mind.” Classic.

And for those of you who loved “Designing Women,” here is a classic Julia Sugerbaker moment:

“Who could be so lucky? Who comes to a lake for water and sees the reflection of moon.” ~ Mawlana Jalal al Din Rum

    

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Advil Cold & Sinus is good, but Theraflu warming relief is better; however, since I only have Advil Cold & Sinus, that will have to do. With any luck, this is just a cold and not the onset of anything else. When I have serious body aches, it’s hard to say whether or not the aches are from my regular pain or whether they have anything to do with being sick, one of the perks (I don’t think so).   

Oh well.   

Last night I just didn’t have the energy for a regular post, and I’m not sure about my output for tonight, but let’s just follow along and see where this takes us . . .   

I have been meaning to comment on the moon, which was absolutely spectacular in its second full moon phase for December. My entire backyard was fully lit in the middle of the night. The frozen surface of the water in the pool glimmered and looked sort of Tolkien.   

I know that those of you who are old enough are familiar with the phrase once in a blue moon, which is a colloquialism for rarely and has nothing to do with the orb’s color.  The phrase blue moon refers to the second full moon in a calendar month, which is an infrequent occurrence, once every 2.5 years to be exact, and the next one is expected in 2012.   

But this year’s blue moon fell on New Year’s Eve, which makes it a generational blue moon; the last blue moon on New Year’s Eve was 19 years ago. Do you remember where you were on New Year’s Eve 1990? Me neither. The next New Year’s Eve blue moon is supposed to appear in the year 2028, after another metonic cycle (which equals 19 tropical years). I won’t even discuss how old I might be when that happens. Anyway, I was aware of this year’s, sorry, last year’s blue moon appearance, but then promptly forgot to mention it in any previous posts, but when I came across the Rumi quote about the reflection of the moon, it stirred my memory.    

“One must maintain a little bit of summer, even in the middle of winter.” ~ Henry David Thoreau 

Sunset Over Lake Dora, FL, by Janson Jones

My friend in Alaska, Janson Jones of Floridana Alaskiana, recently posted two beautiful pictures of the sunset, both of which I am featuring, as well as an older photo of moonrise. Janson and his family went to Florida for the winter break, and the sunset images are the first of his photographs from his latest sojourn down south.   

I know that I’ve been posting a lot of winter and snow pictures, but I thought that for a change of pace tonight I would mix a few beautiful sunsets from warmer area of the lower 49 along with some images of  the moon.   

Not until we are lost do we begin to understand ourselves.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

It’s a Thoreau kind of night, by that I mean a bit reflective, a bit peaceful. I return to Thoreau frequently as I have always found great beauty in his words. Thoreau’s ideas about nature, simplicity, friendship, reading, writing, and truth fill me with a sense of quietude far deeper than most other philosophers. One quote in particular, which I found years ago, has always stayed with me: “How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”   

I was much younger when I found that particular quote, and only in recent years have I begun to appreciate its true meaning. When I think back on all of the pained, vapid verse and prose that I wrote, ink-stained fingers from agonized pauses, searches for just the right phrase to declare my angst, my heartbreak, my despair. Thank god that I don’t know where most of that work is because I think that I would probably burn it if I ever came across it.   

Don’t misunderstand. I’m hardly declaring myself a genius with the written word. Rather I’m saying that now that I have lived much more of life—have stood up for things, have been knocked down by other things, have loved, lost, raged, crashed, gotten back up, fallen, gotten back up, retreated, gone back in—now that I have tasted some measure of life, I believe that I finally understand what Thoreau meant.   

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Years ago, before Google could return a search on subject quotes in a millisecond, people actually had to read a great deal to amass a collection of quotes. And before I ever had a computer, I had a quote journal. It’s still around here somewhere. I used to (still do, actually) cut things out of newspapers and magazines, copy passages I had read, write down the words to songs. Anytime I came across words that I found inspiring, or touching, or life-changing in their intent, I stole them openly and added them to my collection.   

Moonrise Over Long Key, FL by Janson Jones

Now, I still like to find my quotes from places other than quote sites. For example, several blogs that I read use a lot of quotes. Goodreads is also a wonderful source of quotes, and then of course, there are all of the books.   

I have written many times that I collect certain things—books, boots, purses, pens—admittedly to the point of clutter at times, but there is no doubt that what I collect more than anything else in the world, what I earnestly seek, unearth, amass, record, and return to again and again are words, in particular words from other people—writers, philosophers, poets, journalists, artists—those who have experienced life in a different way than my own experiences, or those whose insight I value, or those with whom I find great empathy.  

Words are phenomenal things. They have the power to soothe, to enrage, to instill, to oppress. Words used by a charismatic personality can take a group of people who are indifferent to a cause and ignite within them a desire to act. Give words and a forum to an aggressive individual who desires power without justice, and you can create a dictator. The right words spoken to a young person who is seeking reinforcement can instill the confidence to go on; just as hateful words spoken out of anger can be more injurious than a weapon. 

“Our truest life is when we are in dreams awake.” ~ Henry David Thoreau  

Sunset 2 Over Lake Dora, FL, by Janson Jones

I suppose my reflective mood may come from the school project that I typed recently for Brett, one in which he had to research one decade for each of four centuries in American history. The most interesting part of the project was that Brett had to identify an iconic quote, work of literature, piece of music, person and event for each decade. So much delving into history always makes me thoughtful about where we have been as a nation, as a people, as a community, as humanity.   

Brett chose the 1690s, the time of the Salem Witch trials; the 1780s, the post-Revolution and first Congress; the 1860s, the Civil War, and the 1960’s, a time of massive social change in America. There was so much information as each of those decades were times of social reform, cultural divisiveness, upheaval and unrest in society, and governmental change

I don’t know how one could help but be moved when reading the words of individuals such as Abraham Lincoln, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and of course, Thoreau, not to mention reading the words to songs of generations past.   

So I will close with this passage from one of Thoreau’s journals (1840):   

No day will have been wholly misspent, if one sincere, thoughtful page has been written. Let the daily tide leave some deposit on these pages, as it leaves sand and shells on the shore. So much increase of terra firma, this may be a calendar of the ebbs and flows of the soul; and on these sheets as a beach, the waves may cast up pearls and seaweed.    

More later. Peace.   

 Annie Lennox’s  beautiful “Fingernail Moon,” of course:   

    

   

                                                                                                           

From St. Nadie in Winter by Terrance Keenan    

One day, my dear,
you stop and look around you,
find yourself stuffing needs into a sack of thoughts,
realize you have talked your life to pieces,
scratched your self to bits,
that neither hope nor doubt
can protect you,
that you are not mistaken,
that you haven’t lost your grip –
it is dissolving.
Now you can speak about everything silently.

Stress: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

An Overworked Mind

This is called “An Overworked Mind.” I can definitely relate.

 

“Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build bridges even when there are no rivers.” ~ Nikita Khrushchev (just because)

Short post for tonight, more of an update. This has been my day:

  1. Visit to my wonderful pain doctor. Sixteen, count them sixteen trigger shots from my neck all the way down and across my back to my right butt cheek. Too much information? Tough. Try getting the shots.
  2. Picked out the perfect frame for Eamonn’s prom picture. He has been bugging me ever since he got his half of the pictures that he and Kelsie had taken at the prom. They are actually very nice. When I have time, I’ll scan and post it. Anyway, stopped in Target for a quick run to look for frames since they are within 2 minutes of the pain doctor’s office. Target, who used to have a wonderful selection of frames, no longer carries much of anything. I suggested T. J. Maxx. Corey, keeping the budget in mind, relented.
  3. Went to T. J. Maxx, looked longingly at flowing sun dresses that I would love to have. Looked but did not touch. Went to frames. Found one great frame for $3.50 for the 5×7 that Eamonn gave me to put in the living room, and a nice glass drop-in frame for his picture. Managed not to spend very much money at all, and both frames cost less than one frame would have cost at Target. Take my advice thrifty shoppers: The Maxx is still the awesomest for housewares (speaking of which, saw some towels I would kill to have. Our towels are sooo old and tired).
  4. On the ride home began to feel pain from shots that I tried to keep at bay by taking pain meds after office visit. Discussed the issue of closing car factories in the U.S. and what that means to American consumers. Seriously, would you buy a brand spanking new Chrysler with one of those great deals if you knew that getting parts down the road might be a problem? Something to consider.
  5. Got home. House was hotter than hell. Trying not to use living room A/C because it is dripping water onto brick. Water damage. Yuck. Temperature was 91° F. Tried to sit down in my desk chair. Spilled my Pepsi on the bedroom floor. Shakes ran in from outside soaking wet as he wanted to show me that he had jumped in the pool. Brett was in meltdown over presentation. I considered turning around and walking back out of the house.
  6. The glass frame that I bought for Eamonn’s picture for his room was too big. Needed to do something creative. Went into Photoshop to create a lovely background to paste onto the piece of white chip board that came with the frame. Found the perfect paper in my assorted collection of decorative papers. Played around for about half an hour until I got the sizing right. Gave it to Eamonn. Actually got a “Thanks, Mom” for the effort. Yay for me. Sweating like a pig.
  7. Checked e-mail to see if there was anything from Brett’s history teacher. No. But lots of updates from Goodreads. Always fun, when I find the time. Meanwhile, Brett is pouring over index cards I printed out for him and claiming that he does not have the right stuff. What’s the right stuff, I ask, trying very hard not to lose my temper because I’m tired and perspiring like a worker on a chain gang. I don’t know. That answer won’t help me. Moving right along.
  8. Suggest to Eamonn on his way out the door that it would be nice if he calls his grandmothers to ask them personally to attend his graduation. Mumbled answer. No idea what he said.
  9. Towel on floor that is sopping up the Pepsi is shifted slightly to the right to clean up wet paw prints from Shakes coming into the house straight from pool and bypassing towel.
  10. Some kind of strange little flying beasties, not big enough to be flies, not small enough to be gnats, have taken up residence in the bedroom. It is now cooler outside of the house than inside the house. So glad I bothered to put on makeup today. Resenble the Joker.
  11. Still haven’t gotten around to taking more pain medication for the 16, count them 16 shots that I got today. Going to get right on that.
  12. Eamonn has two days of school left. Hooray? Brett still has more days left. Any days left are too many for  me.
  13. Haven’t gotten around to working on Socratic method of analyzing Macbeth, and don’t really see how that’s going to work since the whole basis of the Socratic method is question and analysis . . . whatever
  14. Would kill for a big chocolate milkshake. From Sonic. Now.
  15. Time to depart to watch Enemy at the Gates so that Brett can bone up on his Russian accent. Of the movie choices that include Russian accents, this was his choice. Pretty good choice, too. Haven’t seen this movie in a while, and if I remember correctly, it’s a good one. Seems to me at the time that it first came out, Eamonn wanted to be a sniper. Obviously, that phase has long past.
  16. Tillie is in the living room having a conversation with Brett about her ball. How do I know this? What a silly question.
  17. I think that I’ll paint my fingernails while I watch the movie. Maybe I’ll have a glass of wine instead of a milkshake.
  18. I would kill for something chocolate, preferably by Lindor, preferably in the form of Lindor balls.
  19. Did I mention that I saw some towels that would be so beautiful in the bathroom, that is, as long as you just looked at the towels and not the bathroom.
  20. I would dearly love to be able to shop for clothes that fit. Someday. Maybe this year. That would be nice. Makes me salivate to think about it, that and chocolate, and the new towels.

Oh well. Quick update. My life as it is. Can you stand the level of excitement?

More later. Peace.