Tag Archives: reading

Possible keys

Mary Oliver : “The best use of literature bends not toward the narrow and absolute but to the extravagant and the possible. Answers are no part of it; rather it is the opinions, rhapsodic persuasions, the engrafted logics, the clues that are to the mind of the reader the possible keys to his own self-quarrels, his own predicament.”

In class this week, we read Sunday’s NY Times Book Review interview with an author: Fran Lebowitz. These columns invariably make me feel stupid: the books on the author’s bedside are weighty; I’ve often never heard of their favorite writers, never mind read them; their pithy, intellectual observations about books I have read, don’t ring any bells. That’s part of why Fran Lebowitz’s responses were so refreshing. They were so NOT that. Also, she’s just hilarious. Read the interview for a wholly different take on the best use of literature.

Meanwhile, it snows. Time seems out of joint. REALITY seems out of joint. My sister is not well. In between tough personal conversations and the outrageous stories of intrigue coming from Pennsylvania Avenue, I sew, I clean, I walk the dog. And sometimes I edit. This was a good week. I may have put four chapters to bed.


And, there’s always food! Tonight: roast chicken with cornbread stuffing and a delicious salad. The bird’s sizzle and aroma say: home, comfort. Plus, it’s Friday.


Lastly, from a TED talk about belief and doubt that I listened on my way up to Salem yesterday, one person’s answer (I think it was Billy Graham) to the question: so what has surprised you the most in your many years? He said, “the swiftness with which life passes.”

“The swiftness with which life passes.”

That, too, is on my mind.

Prose and soup

“Read at the level at which you want to write.” Jennifer Egan (brainpickings.org)

I couldn’t read Roth until I was older and now he is one of my favorite writers. I hope he never dies! I may have read this Zuckerman novel before (or maybe it just seems familiar because it takes place in the Berkshires where I was born and lived a good many years?) No matter, it’s worth a re-read.

Here’s a sentence: “My guess was that it would take even the fiercest Hun the better part of a winter to cross the glacial waterfalls and wind-blasted woods of those mountain wilds before he was able to reach the open edge of Lonoff’s hayfields, rush the rear storm door of the house, crash through the study, and, with spiked bludgeon wheeling high in the air above the little Olivetti, cry out in a roaring voice to the writer tapping out his twenty-seventh draft, ‘You must change your life!'”


Beef with barley soup for lunch after another frigid walk with the dog. And since K won’t be here for dinner, I’m not even cooking: a bowl of fruit, yogurt and sunflower seeds topped with honey from Charleston.

*thank you Mo for link on FB to the article.

morning light and reading

sedum-deemallonThe air is cool today. Fresh. And mercifully, for now anyway, the clanging, metallic, thundering racket from behind the school is at a pause.
artemisia-deemallonI am going to finish “Go Down, Moses” today if it kills me. She Said. For the third day in a row.
But now I really, really mean it, because Harper Lee’s new (old) book is available today and a good friend ordered me a copy.   I used to read six books at a time, but right now I want to finish one, put it down, and then pick up the next. A sign of sanity, perhaps?

Guess the local picture*





20130825-095306.jpg20130825-095322.jpgAfter another excursion – this time to Canada – I am determined to get back into a blogging rhythm without letting weeks slide by. That’ll be tricky, however, as K. removed the video card that eliminated many of the summer’s computer glitches, in order to give it back to C. (whom he pilfered it from in the first place).

Can’t stop myself from typing this observation — The city of Montreal, right smack in the Latin Quarter, is more quiet on a Thursday in the middle of the day, than Newton Center (where I live) is at 7:08 on a Sunday morning.

I know they are rushing to finish to elementary school renovations (why exactly did they wait until mid-August to seriously get to work?!), and that it will be over soon — but it is tiresome, this invasion of noise. And it has been all summer long — between road repairs, Route 9 development, tree care, and the endless rounds of lawn crews.

After finishing “Freedom” and wondering, “Who WRITES a book like this?” I couldn’t help but order Franzen’s memoir from Amazon – “The Discomfort Zone“. In one passage he describes how much easier it is to tolerate noise in NYC, because you expect it, whereas the assault of sound in the suburbs rankles. I couldn’t agree more! I hate, too, having all the windows closed for whole swaths of a day, especially when the air is as fresh and cool as it is today — just to keep the noise down. (BTW, the memoir goes a long way to understanding “Freedom”).

Speaking of books, moments ago I finished Kevin Barry’s dystopian novel of West Ireland, “City of Bohane“. Fantastic! “Rip snorting” says one blurb, and I couldn’t agree more. For one thing, I absolutely loved his devotion to describing his characters’ outfits. Sprinkled throughout the book is the line “He wore:” followed by detailed descriptions of clothing in a new paragraph (fanciful, wild, colorful clothing). The book has a Clockwork Orange feel, but distinctly Irish.


Charleston-Free-BlacksFinished this book about a month ago:  “Forging Freedom“. First half read like a PhD thesis, but I really enjoyed the second half where the author highlights two particular women. As a scholarly treatise about freed black women in Charleston before the Civil War, it is informative. I am learning that in Charleston, one of the nation’s first cities and one with a huge population of African Americans in its early years, there existed a surprising variety of statuses for black people. Not that gaining manumission was easy, nor could it be counted on to be permanent in any way shape or form, but there was more fluidity than one might expect, and certainly more than one might find in other parts of the country at the same time. Myers notes that a Northerner landing on a Charleston Wharf in the antebellum years would have been surprised to see the black artisans, shopkeepers, hawkers, seamstresses, inn keepers, pastry chefs, etc., who were ‘free’ and going about their business.white-house-doorBack to fabric tomorrow. I’m adding pickets to the ‘Trayvon Martin quilt’. And more red. And more moons. I have pretty much decided it does not belong on the pieced rectangle made up of the ‘Middle Passage’ scraps.

* There are two local pix, actually — the quilts above; and the backside of the bleachers further up.