Showing posts from June, 2013

Fun Friday: Blind Date With a Book

Photo courtesy of The MetaPicture and mourne on

Poetry Wednesday: In Spite of Everything, the Stars

In Spite of Everything, the Stars
Like a stunned piano, like a bucket of fresh milk flung into the air
or a dozen fists of confetti
thrown hard at a bride
stepping down from the altar,
the stars surprise the sky.
Think of dazed stones
floating overhead, or an ocean
of starfish hung up to dry. Yes,
like a conductor's expectant arm
about to lift toward the chorus,
or a juggler's plates defying gravity,
or a hundred fastballs fired at once
and freezing in midair, the stars
startle the sky over the city.

And that's why drunks leaning up
against abandoned buildings, women
hurrying home on deserted side streets,
policemen turning blind corners, and
even thieves stepping from alleys
all stare up at once. Why else do
sleepwalkers move toward the windows,
or old men drag flimsy lawn chairs
onto fire escapes, or hardened criminals
press sad foreheads to steel bars?
Because the night is alive with lamps!
That's why in dark houses all over the city
dreams stir in the pillows, a mi…

Review: Life After Life

If you're off by one degree and don't correct your course, the gap between where you are and where you want to be grows wider with every step. Kate Atkinson measures each step of Ursula's existence in Life After Life, and we see what happens if she alters it by as little as a single step.

At first, the return to her birth appeared relentless, and I feared it would be the same story with a different ending each time. Thankfully, that was not the case. The plot complications begin to vary in very interesting ways.

Ursula is born on a snowy winter day in 1910. The weather prevents the midwife from arriving, and the doctor arrives too late: the cord was around the baby's neck and she did not live. Had the doctor been there with a pair or surgical scissors....

The scene changes. Snow is still falling but the doctor manages to hitch a ride through the snowy fields from a local farmer and, when delivering the baby, quickly removes the cord. The child lives. However, a …

Fun Friday: Required Summer Reading


Poetry Wednesday: Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri

For my husband David, in celebration of our fifth wedding anniversary.

Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri

The quake last night was nothing personal,
you told me this morning. I think one always wonders,
unless, of course, something is visible: tremors
that take us, private and willy-nilly, are usual.
But the earth said last night that what I feel,
you feel; what secretly moves you, moves me.
One small, sensuous catastrophe
makes inklings letters, spelled in a worldly tremble.
The earth, with others on it, turns in its course
as we turn toward each other, less than ourselves, gross,
mindless, more than we were. Pebbles, we swell
to planets, nearing the universal roll,
in our conceit even comprehending the sun,
whose bright ordeal leaves cool men woebegone. 

by Mona Van Duyn
Courtesy all poetry

Earth Tremors Felt in Missouri   by Mona Van Duyn
The quake last night was nothing personal, you told me this morning. I think one always wonders, unless, of course, some…

Review: Tiny Beautiful Things

Sometimes I meet the most interesting people in the pages of a book. Often, they are well-written characters. Lately, however, they're the authors themselves.

I first "met" Cheryl Strayed in the first chapters of her memoir, Wild. When she began howling in the hospital, I had to stop: her loss was too, too real.

It was with great delight I let Brain Pickings guide me to her book tiny beautiful things: Advice on love and life from Dear Sugar.

I enjoy reading advice columns, usually because I pretend my advice would be that erudite, witty and accurate. I could guide and cure legions of people. No, really, I could.

Then I met someone who really could. Strayed's advice was loving, kind and direct. She really cared about the people whose lives she entered by invitation. She had experiences that would fell a normal human being, and yet she managed to not only survive, but thrive — and retain her humanity and sympathy.

She chose a wide variety of letters for this book. The…

Fun Friday: Right On, Snoopy!


Poetry Wednesday: James Earl Jones Reads Walt Whitman

Click here to go to Brain Pickings, where, as Maria Popova writes:
In this exquisite reading from New York’s 92Y, the great James Earl Jones brings his formidable dramatic prowess to sections 6, 7, 17, 18, and 19, breathing explosive new life into Whitman’s timeless verses.
 "Song of Myself" begins grandly, sweepingly and famously:

I celebrate myself;
And what I assume you shall assume;
For every atom belonging to me, as good belongs to you.

I loafe and invite my Soul;
I lean and loafe at my ease, observing a spear of summer grass.

Houses and rooms are full of perfumes—the shelves are crowded with perfumes;
I breathe the fragrance myself, and know it and like it;
The distillation would intoxicate me also, but I shall not let it.

The atmosphere is not a perfume—it has no taste of the distillation—it is odorless;
It is for my mouth forever—I am in love with it;
I will go to the bank by the wood, and…

Library Loot: Crichton, Taoism, Idiots — Oh, My!

More often than not, my library use defines my interest of the moment. So, class, what am I checking out these days?

First, there's Michael Crichton. Karen and I are reading Next together, and I like Richard Preston.
Then there's Taoism, which I find fascinating. I've read most of the Tao Te Ching and all of TheTao of Pooh. Is it applicable to my way of life right about now? One way to find out.
Finally, weirdly enough, I'm less insulted by being called an "idiot" than "dummy," so I go for that line of instructional books. No, seriously, I like the way they're written and formatted (not to mention I'm more of a fan of orange than yellow). If you want a good overview, go to the Idiots, I always say.
I may not finish all of these books immediately (aside from Next). (I can handle only one Crichton at a time, and the novels have to be properly spaced to avoid author fatigue.)

However, they're not long for this reader. No need to keep any …

Summer Recommendations for Young Readers

My young friends Alex and Philip have begun their summer vacation — which, for me, always meant books. Scads and piles and armfuls of books. I'd go to the library a couple of times a week to return the ones I had inhaled and come home with more.

It was a gorgeous week in Los Angeles when, as a fourth grader, I holed myself up in my room and read the the entire Chronicles of Narnia. (It was five days, really.) I still remember shivering from the cold of the eternal winter and the White Witch.

But this is today. What do — no, should — the kids of today read? Well, I'm glad you asked. Here are a few suggestions. (People of an age may recognize a title or two.)

Up the Down Staircase — a New York City high school teacher new to the education system experiences life in a big-city high school.

The Graveyard Book — A toddler wanders into a graveyard one tumultuous night and is raised by its residents.

To Kill a Mockingbird — This classic page-turner is one of my personal favorites…

Fun Friday: Don't Turn That Page!

I am not done yet.

Poetry Wednesday: Body & Isn't


I have a hard time making my mind take place. Every input adjusts the chemistry—water, peppermint stick, analogue. Kisses are circles. With eyes closed, every taste buds almond orange. Ceiling defines the segment; door, the vector. Exits & entrances. My location’s ribcage is beneath the changing spectrum’s breast. Heft of a wet peony, white & pink, drips its honey south. Conducted back, your body accelerates—biology of a taxi ride. Kept kempt, migraines at bay, tidy nails, & sneezes away. Sex through collisions—bridges jumped & limbs tangled. Or the chromatic staff arranging the spheres’ accidental spills. Frets & intonations strung across a tempered series of knots, Strung through the loops of our virtual displacement. But it isn’t wings or hooks or hooves or horns or see-through or white. Whether afloat in a boat or aloft in a plane. The way maps affect time. For a second I think I feel the fleeting texture of your skin. Lumbar & sacral nerves descend to…

Send Your Haiku to Mars!

Got a haiku? Send it to Mars!

NPR is holding a contest, and the winning haiku is sent to Mars.

The only rules are:
You must be a resident of Planet Earth.You must be 18 years old to create a login profile at NPR to submit. (So kids, get help from your parents or teachers.)
Want to know more? Read the article on NPR!

But hurry: the deadline is July 1.