Wednesday, May 30, 2012

design copyright Chris Fow Cohen

On Mondays

On Mondays when the museums are closed
and a handful of guards
look the other way
or read their newspapers
all of the figures
step out of golden frames
to stroll the quiet halls
or visit among old friends.
Picasso's twisted ladies
rearrange themselves
to trade secrets
with the languid odalisques of Matisse
while sturdy Rembrandt men
shake the dust
from their velvet tams
and talk shop.
Voluptuous Renoir women
take their rosy children by the hand
to the water fountains
where they gossip
while eating Cezanne's luscious red apples.
Even Van Gogh
in his tattered yellow straw hat
seems almost happy
on Mondays when the museums are closed.

from Coda. © Autumn House Press, 2010.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Will the Real Jenny Lawson Please Stand Up?

Why did no one tell me this video existed? It proves, once and for all, that Let's Pretend This Never Happened is one of the funniest memoirs on the market today.

For the love of the Bible, just read it. I did, and I'll never be the same. Once I'm recovered, I may be able to write a quick review. I might have to re-read it first...

Anyway, read the book. Just read it.

Do it for the mouse.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day: Dating Back to the Blue and Gray

Memorial Day was designated at holiday after the American Civil War, celebrated on May 30 because there was no momentous battle on that day for either side. After World War I, the holiday was changed to recognize all American military personnel who fell in battle.

Below is a poem written by someone who lived through the Civil War, who reminds us that no matter what side the soldier may be on, a soldier has fallen.

The Blue And The Gray

By the flow of the inland river,
    Whence the fleets of iron have fled,
Where the blades of the grave-grass quiver,
    Asleep are the ranks of the dead:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Under the one, the Blue,
            Under the other, the Gray

These in the robings of glory,
    Those in the gloom of defeat,
All with the battle-blood gory,
    In the dusk of eternity meet:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgement-day
        Under the laurel, the Blue,
            Under the willow, the Gray.

From the silence of sorrowful hours
    The desolate mourners go,
Lovingly laden with flowers
    Alike for the friend and the foe;
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgement-day;
        Under the roses, the Blue,
            Under the lilies, the Gray.

So with an equal splendor,
    The morning sun-rays fall,
With a touch impartially tender,
    On the blossoms blooming for all:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Broidered with gold, the Blue,
            Mellowed with gold, the Gray.

So, when the summer calleth,
    On forest and field of grain,
With an equal murmur falleth
    The cooling drip of the rain:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment -day,
        Wet with the rain, the Blue
            Wet with the rain, the Gray.

Sadly, but not with upbraiding,
    The generous deed was done,
In the storm of the years that are fading
    No braver battle was won:
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day;
        Under the blossoms, the Blue,
            Under the garlands, the Gray

No more shall the war cry sever,
    Or the winding rivers be red;
They banish our anger forever
    When they laurel the graves of our dead!
        Under the sod and the dew,
            Waiting the judgment-day,
        Love and tears for the Blue,
            Tears and love for the Gray.

by Francis Miles Finch
Courtesy Poems and Songs of the American Civil War

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank

Nathan Englander's new collection of short stories, What We Talk About When We Talk About Anne Frank, first entered my consciousness when I read the title story in The New Yorker. For days, I read parts of it aloud to anyone within earshot and vowed to read the book when it was published.

I enjoyed the stories immensely and hope other readers will take up this tome as soon as they can.

The title story involves two friends whose lives went separate ways and brings them back together to ask the question one of them has asked herself, and others, since childhood. Long-term friends whose relationship gelled during crazy, cattywhompus youth know each other best, this story reveals. The story weaves between the friends, the friends' husbands, the couples, never flinching, refusing to let go no matter how much it burns.

Each of Englander's stories in this collection does that very thing: hang on for dear life until your time is up and the peep-show door closes. There are laugh-out-loud moments and others that leave readers quietly asking themselves questions they never considered. No one can walk away from this collection unaffected.

My favorite story was, of course, the title story, followed by "Free Fruit for Young Widows," in which a fruit seller Shimmy explains to his son about a professor who receives his fruits and vegetables for free at his stand, as do war widows.  Englander doesn't just blurt out the story, but allows Shimmy to unfold it in increments, as our maturity matches that of Shimmy's son Etgar, to whom he tells the tale.

Every time I try to attach an adverb to a story, such as "disturbing," "amusing" or "startling," I realize it fits more than one story — but never in the same way. "Camp Sundown" was disturbing, but so was "Peep Show," and not for anywhere near the same reasons. (I mean, only a limited number of naked rabbis can be included in a single volume, even in the age of Fifty Shades of Gray.) Witnessing the unveiling, and unraveling, of the narrator's family history in "Everything I Know About My Family on My Mother's Side" was startling, but not in the same way as "What We Talk About..." Some stories ended with a bang, others ended with a revelation that was hoped for, but never guaranteed.

Read this book, but take your time. Absorb the stories, mull them over for a while, before starting the next one. They deserve that level of thought and attention.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Whatever It Is, Keep Your Word

Well, you did.

So just do it. This weekend is a perfect time to start. Just do it.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Logo property of blog editor, not for public use

The Day Disco Died

It is 12:15 in Washington D.C., a Monday,
the day after an earthquake in Italy, and I'm listening
to "I Feel Love," the song Bryan Ferry said would change
music for good. In Afghanistan a Marine
sergeant tweets about boredom and generators
from a gritty keyboard in Combat Outpost Marjah.
I conjure up the unrelenting sand he describes
in 140 characters while a new Barnard BA strategizes her type
of rekindling and a poli-sci grad at Liberty types up an op/ed
on Romney and values,
and stories get made this way, then taken down.
Just as quickly, the imprint of one a ghost
in the other, the way Harvard links two opponents,
the way a fracture is also a seam.
Songs about rivers inflect an Italian art revolution
against austerity,
or we're forces multiplied both in the streets
of Chicago or in the alliances of nations.
Or we once listened to a soundtrack in falsetto
that sounded like the end of the past
and also the future as our parents waited hours for gas,
but still danced to these new thumps in the analog network
we made of our lives then,
except that time or history whispered their own songs
along the keyboard
and pushed us into the tangle of before,
and the web of last
where everyone and I are still that held breath,
made sharp and vital harmony.

by Carmen Gimenez Smith, NPR news poet

All Things Considered's NewsPoet is produced and edited by Ellen Silva with production assistance from Rose Friedman.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Unbelievable Book Art

While some of us can see the art in a book, how many can make art out of a book?

Check out these amazing sculptures created from books.

Thanks to Book Riot for the tip.

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Desk, A Home, A Place to Write

I was a graduate student, just moved cross-country with second-hand furniture and plank-and-cinderblock bookshelves. I knew that as my studies grew, so would my book collection (and my bookshelves). I managed to get a "den," a few bookshelves from Ikea — but I was stumped about a desk.

Then I read about someone who grabbed a nice, thick board, stained and shellacked the heck out of it and attached it to two filing cabinets. I was intrigued: I could make a desk as big as I wanted.

Computers were new at the time, so I needed something big. (Well, bigger than what I had used for my typewriter.) I also had a cat who liked to sit between me and whatever I was working on, so it had to be wide. (Mao, God love her, was wide. Furry. Think Maine Coon, but a moggy.)

The board was beautiful, rich reds and browns under enough shellac that you could cut vegetables on it and not a mark would appear. Between the bolts on the filing cabinets and the walls, that desk was going nowhere.

But I was — after graduation, I purchased a townhouse. A new one. Brand spankin' new, with pristine white walls. I could not drill a desk to those walls (well, and not faint). My dad bought me the biggest desk on the market, with a four-foot flat-top retractable shelf and a place for my computer tower, keyboard, thick monitor and lots and lots of disk storage.

I didn't want to part with my beautiful board, so I leaned it up against the wall in the guest closet, behind the door, and waited.

A decade and a half later, the desk was given a new home. As computers evolved into laptops and the space of the room in which it had sat for 16 years needed to be "sold" to a fickle home-buying market, it was deemed "too big." It had served me well, but now it needed to belong to someone else.

Fast-forward a year: as packers emptied the storage units that held my family's belongings for the better part of a year, one of them struggled out with a huge board swathed in bubble wrap.

My desk.

A trip to Home Depot provided a set of table legs and, after only one incident involving cat paws and dark brown stain, the new-old desk sat in the middle of my dream library, with my comfy chair tucked under the window.

It's a work in progress — lighting, pencil holders, where to put supplies and how to position power cords so I don't kill myself, whether the legs are too dark — but for now, I have the desk that saw me through grad school and waited patiently for me to return to continue writing on it. We're both home.

Bookselves on every wall, a glass of iced tea; life is good.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Going E — But Just for the Articles

Kindle Fire, courtesy Amazon
It wasn't my idea.

Okay, it was my idea, but there was some peer pressure.

Well, not "peer" pressure, but a suggestion on how they could come in handy.

"They" are e-readers — specifically, Kindles. My bookish friend and fellow print-lover, Carole, received one right around Christmas, and she mentioned that she could access her favorite magazines (and recipes) without having to keep the magazines. Nothing, she noted, can replace rifling thorough a magazine rich with color and texture — but the e-mag sure is convenient.

So, I pondered. What magazines did I like to read but didn't want to cart about? The New Yorker, my guilty pleasure. They show up every week and I read as much as I can until I have to abandon the mostly-read and sadly-unread copies to the thrift store (if, of course, I haven't chopped them up to save the cartoons). I'm always surprised by what I choose to read, and delighted at what I find.

I also love Smithsonian, but recently gave away an entire year's subscription, unread. I was too sad: it was Smithsonian that provided me with information about Christo and Jeanne-Claude's The Gates in Central Park and a magical, snowy weekend on the Upper West Side of Manhattan in February 2005. Alas, I never sat in my own living room and read them. (The Gates article? Read on the elliptical machine at the gym.)

Magazines are like movies: too decadent to enjoy as part of my day. I used to go across the hall to Alicia's house and read her People. Somehow, that wasn't "wasting time." (After all, my laundry wasn't wrinkling in the basket at her house.)

But e-readers are evil. They're destroying the publishing industry — right? First, readers lose bookstores because people "stop buying books," or just stop buying books at ridiculous MSRP — $35 for a hardback, my, er, ear. My use of Amazon was not at the expense of My Borders, which I rewarded with frequent purchases because they shelved Marge Piercy and other delectables. 

Then there's the question of owning a book. With e-readers, we purchase use of the book — but the publisher can remove the book from a device. I want to own the books I buy.

But can I reconcile my e-reader with my love of paper? Will I go to the e-side for everything, leasing a book rather than holding it in my hands? We will have to see. For the time being, I'll see how magazines read on it. (Don't worry, I'll continue to subscribe to print — I may be experimenting, but I'm not totally insane.)

Share with me: how do you use your e-reader? Has it changed the way you read, and is that change for the better?

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dennis Hopper, Poetry

I love the sound of his voice, so I give you: Dennis Hopper reading from Letters from a Young Poet by Ranier Maria Rilke. Enjoy!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Haiku and a Pup Close Out Children's Book Week

Dogku by Andrew Clements
Only poetry and cute dog illustrations could end Children's Book Week on a high note.

Have you met the stray dog in Dogku?

Here, let the author describe his book:

A tale in haiku
of one adorable dog.
Let's find him a home.

 With a face like that, what would you do: close the door or make a new friend?

I made more than just a new friend. I made a poetry contest and sold multiple copies of the book — none of them to "juvenile" readers. Classifications serve strictly as guidelines.

As the late Maurice Sendak once said, he never wrote books for children. He wrote books. His publishers marketed them to children. However, it's a wise reader who jumps genres and age categories to find the next best book. Let your inner child guide you around the library to introduce you to Mr. Putter, Mr. Larson or Mrs. Teaberry.

Who knows: you may find plenty of new friends along the way.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Fill in the Gaps, the 2012 edition

I've gone particularly slow on this task....  Shame on me. However, in my defense, I've had a lot happening in life in the past year, and many good "new(er)" books have passed through my hands. Plus: National Poetry Month.

Also, to my credit, I have finished a few recently (including The Land That Time Forgot, which was a disappointment, and I wish I had chosen Princess of Mars instead). 

At any rate, I've adjusted the list — again. I think I'm one short, but I started out with seven extra, so it all balances out in the end. (The books on the list I have read are marked with √ — and I warned you!)

Are any of these on your list? Can you recommend any to add (or subtract) from this list? Feel free to share your comments, either in the comments section below or via e-mail.

Fill in the Gaps, the 2012 version

1.  1001 Nights / Arabian Nights            
2.  Things Fall Apart, Chinua Achebe
3.  Highsmoor, Peter Ackroyd
4.  Foundation, Isaac      Asimov
5.  Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen
6.  Sense and Sensibility, Jane Austen
7.  √ Sundays With Vlad, Paul Bibeau
8.  The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown
9.  The Early Fears, Robert Bloch
10.The Good Earth, Pearl S. Buck
11.A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson      Burnett
12.Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann      Burns
13.√ The Land that Time Forgot, Edgar Rice      Burroughs
14.Tobacco Road, Erskine Caldwell
15.The Plague, Albert Camus
16.Ender's Game, Orson Scott      Card
17.Death Comes for the Archbishop, Willa Cather
18.O Pioneers!, Willa      Cather
19.Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
20.The Big Sleep, Raymond Chandler
21.The Stories of John Cheever,  John Cheever
22.Girl with the Pearl Earring,      Tracy      Chevalier
23.Remarkable Creatures,      Tracy      Chevalier
24.The Woman in White, Wilkie Collins
25.Moll Flanders, Daniel DeFoe
26.The Brief Wondrous Life  of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
27.A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens
28.Little Dorrit, Charles Dickens
29.Oliver Twist, Charles Dickens
30.The Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas
31.The Man in the Iron Mask, Alexandre Dumas
32.The Last Cavalier, Alexandre Dumas
33.A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Dave Eggers
34.Middlemarch, George Eliot
35.So Big, Edna Ferber
36.Madame Bovary, Gustave Flaubert
37.Where Angels Fear to Tread, E.M. Forster
38.The Corrections, Jonathan Franzen
39.The Quiet American, Graham Greene
40.The Talented Mr. Ripley Patricia Highsmith
41.√ "Goodbye, Mr. Chips", James Hilton
42.Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
43.Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston
44.The      Lost Weekend, Charles R. Jackson
45.√ The      Haunting of Hill House, Shirley Jackson
46.The      Portrait of a Lady, Henry      James
47.Three Men in a Boat, Jerome K      Jerome
48.Up the Down Staircase, Bel Kaufman
49.On the Road, Jack      Kerouac
50.Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Jean      Kerr
51.Under the Dome, Stephen King
52.The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
53.The Jungle Books,      Rudyard Kipling
54.The Man Who Would Be King, Rudyard Kipling
55.A Separate Peace, John Knowles
56.Little Drummer Girl, John LeCarre
57.The Spy Who Came in From the Cold, John LeCarre
58.The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing
59.Sliver, Ira Levin
60.Elmer Gantry, Sinclair Lewis
61.The Monk, Matthew Gregory Lewis
62.What the Dead Know, Laura Lippman
63.The Call of the Wild, Jack London
64.√ The Best of H.P. Lovecraft, H.P. Lovecraft
65.One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
66.Love in the Time of Cholera, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
67.The Road, Cormac McCarthy
68.The Member of the Wedding, Carson McCullers
69.√ Atonement, Ian McEwan
70.Lonesome Dove, Larry McMurty
71.Peyton Place, Grace Metalious
72.Beloved, Toni Morrison
73.Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
74.Suite Française, Irene Nemirovsky
75.A Confederacy of Dunces, John Kennedy O'Toole
76.Doctor Zhivago, Boris Pasternak
77.Bel Canto      Ann Patchett
78.Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig
79.Anubis Gates, Tim Powers
80.Gravity’s Rainbow      , Thomas Pynchon
81.All Quiet on the Western Front, Erich Maria Remarque
82.Home, Marylynne Robinson
83.The Human Stain, Philip Roth
84.The God of Small Things, Arundathi Roy
85.Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie
86.Sarum, Edward Rutherford
87.√ A Town Like Alice, Nevil Shute
88.Prayers to Broken Stones, Dan Simmons
89."Enemies, A Love "Story, Isaac Bashevis Singer
90.Angle of Repose, Wallace Steigner
91.Dracula, Bram      Stoker
92.The Valley of the Dolls, Jacqueline Suzanne
93.The Magnificent Ambersons, Booth Tarkington
94.The Man Who Fell to Earth, Walter Tevis
95.Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Hunter S. Thompson
96.Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
97.War and Peace, Leo Tolstoy
98.All the King's Men, Robert Penn Warren
99.Brideshead Revisited, Evelyn Waugh
100.        Night, Elie Weisel
101.        Journey to the Center of the Earth      , H.G. Wells
102.        Trainspotting, Irvine Welsh
103.        The Inimitable Jeeves, P.G. Wodehouse
104.        In the Woods, Tana French
105.        Unbroken, Lauren Hildenbrand
106.        Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Poetry Wednesday logo

The Child Without a Christmas 
by Martin Buxbaum

Welcome to a new feature here on From One Book Lover: Poetry Wednesday. I hope it will stir your love of language and poetry. If you have suggestions for future Wednesdays, let me know!  Special thanks to Dede Robinson for sharing her favorite poet (and poetry book) — and for helping inaugurate Poetry Wednesday!

The Child Without a Christmas

     When all the world is silent . . . 
on this holiest of nights . . 
In a million beds, the small ones dream . . . 
of Christmasy delights.
     But some awaken sadly . . 
and their tiny hearts are numb . . . 
when they realize through tear-filled eyes . . . 
that Santa didn’t come.

     A bit of cold or hunger . . . 
are things they understand . . . 
but a Christmas without toys . . . 
to hold in heart and hand . 
means that someone has forgotten . . . 
that someone didn’t care 
that someone failed to listen . . . 
to a very special prayer.

     It’s, oh, so very hard to tell . . . 
a disappointed tot . . . 
just why she had to be the one . . . 
that Santa Claus forgot.

by Martin Buxbaum
from Rivers of Thought

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Discovering Wild Things Are, Thanks to Sendak

Maurice Sendak, the writer who gave us a most honest view of childhood, died today at the age of 83.  Click here for the lovely write-up of his life by AP reporter Hillel Italie: 'Where Wild Things Are' author Maurice Sendak dies.

I have to admit, I skipped over his books when I was a child and didn't visit them until much later in life. Sendak's work was very much like what already was in my head: gray lines, dun colors, fear and fascination for what I alone seemed to see. I should have been drawn to the contrast of round, soft bodies and heads with sharp claws and horns, but I wasn't, not at that age. I was the kind of kid who read Very Special People when I was in grade school (and looking up some of the words I didn't recognize taught me more than the words themselves did). I knew about poltergeists before I knew about princesses.  I wasn't a morose child, but early loss made me less Disney and more Tollbooth.

However, I made a special trip to Manhattan during the summer of 2005 to spend most of a day in the Jewish Museum, peering into the life-size world of Wild Things and more. I left with a few books (imagine that) — but not the ones everyone else seemed to favor (imagine that, too).  I didn't want his round, soft monsters, but his dark, illustrated folks tales and fables. What I was most glad to take with me from the museum was a new appreciation of an author I finally took the time to meet. I thought much about him as I meandered through the city, munching on an H&H bagel and wondering if the night sky would be the same color now that I had been in his world.

I am grateful for his vision and respect for children, to trust them enough to tell them what he really thought. I wish him, his family and his fans peace. May we continue to appreciate his vision and how he gallantly recorded it — but most of all, how he generously shared it.

Monday, May 7, 2012

How Are You Celebrating Children's Book Week?

It doesn't take much to stoke my interest in a book.  If I read a note in a magazine or see a title that amuses me, I'll read it. I don't care who the intended audience may be.

So when I read about a scientist discussing dinosaur feces in a book, I was excited.

I was even more excited to see it was written for children — especially with Children's Book Week being celebrated May 7-13.

Did you know that the science of studying fossilized dung was named long before the first dinosaur was?

Do you know how to tell what kind of dinosaur eliminated what waste?

Do you even know how to tell the difference between waste and other fossils?

Read this and find out those, and many more, answers.

Then choose your next favorite children's book and read that, too. You have all week to read it up. I think I'll find my new (to me!) copy of Ginger Pye, in honor of another Ginger:

Ginger Galore!

Now we can return to our regularly scheduled blog.

I also will check out Diary of a Wimpy Kid from my local library so I can discuss it with my godson, who also read it recently.

Don't forget to thank your librarian(s) for their excellent service: without libraries, I shudder to think where we might be. (Even though National Library Week was last month, I celebrate it year-round.)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stacked on My Nightstand: Today's Edition

I have so many great books to read, I can't figure out what I want to start next.  Here is what is on my nightstand today:

I've been advised to start with The Hunger Games (especially since I hope to see the movie soon). Do you agree?

Here is what was recently removed from this stack:
  • The Broken Mirror, a lovely novella. (Well, as lovely as a book involving the Holocaust can be.) Look for a review soon.
  • Let's Pretend This Never Happened, which made me laugh out loud (and startle the cat more than once). Have you read it? What did you think? (I will tell you soon!)
  • Dino Dung, and I learned more than I expected to. Never underestimate a Level 5 Chapter book!

I am in a book reading group, but my next book, The Tiger's Wife, is on order at the library.

Additionally, I have copies of a Stewart O'Nan novel and the third in Karen Marie Moning's Fever series making their way to me, thanks to Amazon and AbeBooks.

What's on your nightstand to read?

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Review: Lamb

Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal. The title alone begs the question: how can one resist?

Well, this one did — and for much, much too long. Don't make the same mistake I did: start reading now. In fact, skip the review, read the book, then come back and see if you agree.

Now that it's just us smart people who already read the book... wasn't Christopher Moore's book cool?

Plus, it answers the question of where Jeffrey Small got his ideas.

Everyone wonders how Jesus Christ spent his youth, where he got his middle name, how he became such a Lamb of God. Also, did he learn judo? Could he teach an elephant yoga? And why did he walk straight into the lion's den?

This book is Christopher Moore at his best — but it's not typical Moore. Usually he has me rolling on the floor in side-splitting laughter — and with this book, from time to time, I had to pick myself up off the floor. But not as often as I expected. Thank heavens. (So to speak.)

I liked all of the characters. Joshua needed a friend like Biff, and Biff needed friends like Maggie, Bartholomew, Joy... all likeable, all plausible. I still don't get how Joshua learned everything he learned, but I think Moore put together the book for a couple of lines. (You'll know them when you see them.)

The story was interesting, compelling and surprising. Even those who are familiar with the Gospels will find a few surprises here. I never will think of Mary's washing of Jesus' feet with oils the same way. Meeting each of the disciples as individuals with his own quirks, seeing how women fit into Joshua's original program, made me want to do what Newsweek suggested (and Thomas Jefferson already did): listen to the words of the Son.

I enjoyed this book, and I recommend it to anyone inclined to read.