Wednesday, March 1, 2017

It's March -- Time to Catch Up

Yes, please READ BOOKS! Really, it is our only hope. Enough said.

Sitting here at the computer, thinking about how to begin blogging again, I decided to just do it and to mark the beginning of March with a new post. The first day of March has been sweet as a lamb around here. How about where you are?

Where I Left You:

In August I had read some of Thoreau's The Concord and the Merrimack and shared a bit of that with you. I will get back to this one and we will catch up on it soon. It was about this time that I had a health setback and decided to take a break from blogging. I am still dealing with some things and will have surgery in late April. Nothing life threatening, just a nuisance. After a winter of laying low, I am back. Am still not sure how the blog will develop, perhaps it will find its own way. I feel the need to write so we will see how it goes.

BBC Radio 4:

A sweet little thing happened yesterday. I was cooking and listening to "A Good Read" on BBC Radio 4. Each 30 minute program has two guests and the interviewer. They discuss three books, one chosen by each person. It is kind of like belonging to a book club in a very passive way. This is one of my favorite programs on BBC Radio 4. My very favorite is "The Archers", but I will save that for another post. Most of the time the books discussed are ones I have heard about before, sometimes have read, most of the time not. Well, I listened to two programs while making dinner and it turns out I own three of the featured books! Here they are along with links to the programs. If you have not listened to "A Good Read" before, you are in for a treat.

Memoirs of Hadrian, Good-Bye to All That, Song of Solomon 

All three are now in my To Be Read (TBR) stack. I have started the Morrison before, but cannot remember why I did not finish it. As I read these, I will let you know how they go.

BBC Radio 4 "A Good Read" Links:

Graves and Morrison, Goodbye to All That, Song of Solomon

Yourcenar, Memoirs of Hadrian

My Italian Year:

2017 is my "Italy" year. This is why:

Frances Mayes Bramasole Olive Oil

We gave our family and friends cans of this oil for Christmas gifts this year. It is really quite good. Actually, it is pure nectar! One of our friends said she has to keep it hidden from her husband because he will drink it. It is surprising the difference between the "real deal" and oils available here; even the "good" ones do not come close. Here is what we did when our shipment arrived:

Oh My...

We have had it on practically everything except Sunday morning waffles.

To pay homage to Frances Mayes and her excellent oil, I decided to read about Italy in 2017 and to learn to cook the real Italian way.  I will share some of my reading and cooking with you as time goes by. The Vegetable Lasagne recipe in Frances Mayes' "Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life" is superb.

2017 Reading So Far...

Sweetwater Creek, Anne Rivers Siddon
The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield
The Patience of the Spider, Andrea Camilleri
Divisadero, Michael Ondaatje
The Girl of My Dreams, Donna Leon
Barchester Towers, Anthony Trollope
The Fall of Troy, Peter Acroyd
Rumpole and the Primrose Path, John Mortimer
The Song of Achilles, Madeline Miller (5 stars, the best so far!)
The Thirty-Nine Steps, John Buchan
The Birth of Venus, Sarah Dunant
Every Day in Tuscany: Seasons of an Italian Life, Frances Mayes

Most of these have been audio books. I have needed to zone out a bit this winter. Quiet days, resting, knitting, and listening.

That's it for now, see you soon.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Break Time

Thank you all for visiting my blog. I have had a strange summer, and as we go into fall, it looks like I will need some quiet time to hibernate.

As John Lennon said, "Life is what happens while you are busy making plans". Well, life is happening. Hopefully, I will get a lot of reading done as I hibernate and come spring will be energized and ready to move forward with my blog.

See you around the corner!

Friday, August 12, 2016

The Concord and the Merrimack, Part I: The White Water-Lily

Keeping in the spirit of nature and adventure writing, I decided to read this after Desert Solitaire. Written in 1849, ten years after the river cruise he took with his brother John, it is an account of their journey along the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. Leaving on a Saturday afternoon in late August, Thoreau describes the end of summer flowers along the river bank and in the meadows nearby, and then recalls the "queen of the river flowers":

"In short, Nature seemed to have adorned herself for our departure with a profusion of fringes and curls, mingled with the bright tints of flowers reflected in the water. But we missed the white water-lily, which is the queen of river flowers, its reign being over for this season. He makes his voyage too late, perhaps, by a true water clock who delays so long. Many of this species inhabit our Concord water. I have passed down the river before sunrise on a summer morning between fields of lilies still shut in sleep; and when, at length, the flakes of sunlight from over the bank fell on the surface of the water, whole fields of white blossoms seemed to flash open before me, as I floated along, like the unfolding of a banner, so sensible is this flower to the influence of the sun's rays."

Can't you just see it?

I am just beginning this book, but could not wait to share this lovely passage with you.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Thoreau of the Desert

It is not the answer that enlightens,
but the question.
---Eugene Ionesco

Desert Solitaire, a 2016 Reading Challenge book, has been in my mental To Be Read (TBR) stack for many years. The title beguiles me and has kept me from reading the book because I was afraid it would disappoint, as if the title was too beautiful for what may follow. I have not been disappointed.

Desert Solitaire epigraph:

Give me silence, water, hope
Give me struggle, iron, volcanoes
-- Neruda

Delicate Arch

Edward Abbey worked as a seasonal Park Ranger at what was then called Arches National Monument in Utah, in the late 1950s. He lived twenty miles away from the nearest house in a "little tin government house trailer". Mice-ridden, (an adopted gopher snake took care of them), freezing cold in April, stifling hot in July, equipped with the bare necessities for living, the trailer became a place to store food and belongings. When the weather turned warmish, he built a lean-to "ramada" and a fire pit and moved outdoors, where he slept under the stars. Desert Solitaire was written ten years later from the journals Abbey kept during his seasonal work at the Arches.

From Abbey's Introduction:

This is not primarily a book about the desert. In recording my impressions of the natural scene I have striven above all for accuracy, since I believe that there is a kind of poetry, even a kind of truth, in simple fact. But the desert is a vast world, an oceanic world, as deep in its way and complex and various as the sea...If a man knew enough he could write a whole book about the juniper tree. Not juniper trees in general but that one particular juniper tree which grows from a ledge of naked sandstone near the old entrance to Arches National Monument. What I have tried to do then is something a bit different. Since you cannot get the desert into a book any more than a fisherman can haul up the sea with his nets, I have tried to create a world of words in which the desert figures more as medium than as material. Not imitation but evocation has been the goal.

Edward Abbey held strong views about modern America's attitude to wilderness. He could not abide the superficial way most tourists visited the Arches. His "word of caution" regarding "industrial tourism":

Do not jump into your automobile next June and rush out to the Canyon country hoping to see some of that which I have attempted to evoke in these pages. In the first place you can't see anything from a car; you've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk, better yet crawl, on hands and knees over the sandstone and through the thornbush and cactus. When traces of blood begin to mark your trail you'll see something, maybe...

Some have attributed Abbey with the beginning of the Earth First! movement and ecoterrorism. His book The Monkey Wrench Gang is about sabotaging a dam construction project in the Southwest, so it is kind of understandable that he would be seen as a proponent of drastic means to stop man's destruction of the natural environment. Abbey strenuously denied that he supported ecoterrorism. However, in Desert Solitaire, he admits to tearing out several miles worth of new road survey markers near his trailer house. A very naughty protest, but not ecoterrorism.

Rattlesnakes, wildflowers, poisonous water springs, fresh water springs, cliff seeps and hidden grottoes, flash floods, quicksand, range cattle, and uranium are described in beautiful prose in this masterpiece of nature writing. One of the most interesting things to me is that according to Abbey, the beautiful land forms in the Arches are not the result of wind erosion, but of the slow drip of water and the effects of contraction and expansion of cold and heat over eons of geologic time.

Lake Powell, Glen Canyon

Abbey describes not only his surrounds in the Arches, but a river raft trip down the Colorado through Glen Canyon, as the dam was being built. It is heartbreaking to know that the beauty he describes is now deep under water and silt, buried forever. Even if the dam is not permanent, the silt is. His solitary foray up the side canyon where the Escalante River enters the Colorado is my favorite part of the book. He finds the ruins of a cliff dwelling perched high up the canyon wall. It is all now buried forever. And sadly, Glen Canyon Dam was built not for irrigation but for electricity so that hordes of people could live in the desert southwest.

Mt. Tukuhnikivats in the La Sal range

We accompany Abbey on a camping trip and solitary climb up one of the highest mountains overlooking the Arches, Mt. Tukuhnikivats. And, we go to the bottom of Grand Canyon where Abbey spent 35 days camped near the Native American village of Havasu. While there he nearly trapped himself on a ledge while exploring the area around his camp. He worked his way down a cliff side and was stranded. Piling rocks and then centering his walking stick in the pile, he climbed up to the tip of his stick and used it as a launch to jump up to a handhold in the rock above. Risky.

Havasu Falls, Grand Canyon

The Maze

This same fearless attitude sent him and a friend to The Maze, a no-man's-land of canyons (now part of Canyonlands National Park). At the time, they were barely able to get into the area with a Land Rover. They repelled down a cliff face to the maze itself, not knowing if they would find a way to climb back up. Yes, risky but Abbey described himself as "not an atheist but an earthiest". He believed one should "be true to the earth". He was not afraid because he did not separate himself from the environment.

He believed in the desert.

"The finest quality of this stone, these plants and animals, this desert landscape is the indifference manifest to our presence, our absence, our coming, our staying or our going. Whether we live or die is a matter of absolutely no concern whatsoever to the desert."

The title Desert Solitaire is perfect for this book. It is beautiful. The book is beautiful. I will read it again.

P.S. While recuperating from hand surgery, I could hardly hold a book in my hands for more than a few minutes. This is what I did as I inched my way through Desert Solitaire:


Monday, July 11, 2016

Tunnel Redux

I am recovering from my second carpal tunnel surgery, doing well, but not ready to take up where I left off before this medical flurry.

One thing I am going to do in the next week or so is re-visit the purpose of this blog so I can focus on getting along with some serious reading. Using LibraryThing's Legacy Libraries, find authors I like, and read the books I have in common with those authors. Simple.

See you around the corner.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Still in the Tunnel and Mystery Bookmark

Sorry for the abrupt interregnum here. I should have let you know that I had carpal tunnel surgery on my right hand so would be absent for a bit. The surgery was not scheduled to happen until this coming Monday but there was an opening so they whisked me in on Friday, May 13th (yikes!!!) so it was all a big whirlwind. Anyway...three weeks into recovery and I am nearly back.  Very satisfied with the procedure and expect to be fully recovered in another week or two. Left hand is scheduled for June 28, so fair warning, another pause to come!

Enough about that.

With lots of time to dawdle, I finished two 2016 Reading Challenge books. I will post on the Lopez book soon, and the Farrell book later as it is part of trilogy I need to finish.

Also, I have listened to many audio books while playing one-handed Churchill Solitaire on my iPad. As usual, my genre choice is British mystery but I also listened to a short history of Greece and a mystery with a knitting theme. Random, but I do tend to choose my reading matter based on the most shiny thing I see at the moment.

Here is what I am currently reading in the physical book world:

Provence by Ford Madox Ford

Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey

In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje

I have "dipped into" Plutarch's Lives, The Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett, and The Singapore Grip by J.G. Farrell. I will save those for later. The Dunnett is quite dense. So much so, I have a companion volume to refer to when I do not understand her historical references. I love the challenge but am not quite ready for it right now. Plutarch is part of my mental "must read the classics" obsession and the Farrell is part three of a trilogy so I will wait to post about it when I can speak to all three books. I need to re-read Troubles, the second book in the trilogy because for who knows what reason I began reading them out of order and it was several years ago and I cannot remember much about Troubles. The first book, Siege of Krishnapur, winner of the Booker Prize, is shown above. I am still thinking about that one so am looking forward to the next two.

Here is a teaser for you ~~

Side Two of a Bookmark

I found this in one of the books I am now reading...more to come. Now, I have to grab some ice and rest my hand.