01 February 2011

What I'm reading...

I intended to blog more often this year but...  I'd planned to blog on my birthday a week and a half ago and woke up sick.  The next day my computer didn't wake up at all.  The following Monday my husband became very ill.  It will be a long time before I've put all the pieces back together but everyone and every thing at least seems to be up and functioning more or less normally.

What I've been reading:


The Prince of TidesConroy, Pat: The Prince of Tides. 1986Kindle.  I seldom read any best-selling book until it's been kicking around a few years.  "Popular" does not equal "time-tested" and there is so little time to read.  I also tend to avoid 20th Century male authors; their world view is often too depressing for me.  I knew I would love this book and I also knew I would hate it.  I loved the first half and hated the last half;  I prefer "elegy" to "nightmare."   Pat Conroy wrote a great novel in the tradition of the great Southern novel with the requisite beauty, quirky characters, and disfunction.  kindle location [kl] 859 "...you're southern to the bone, Savannah.  It don't wash out."  loc 1268 "The southern way?" she said.  "My mother's immortal phrase.  We laugh when the pain gets too much.  We laugh when the pity of human life gets too... pitiful. We laugh when there's nothing else to do."  "When do you weep... according to the southern way?" "After we laugh, Doctor.  Always.  Always after we laugh."  kl 3646 "...in the South.  Sorrow is admired only if it's done in silence."  kl 3748 "I've always found paranoia to be a perfectly defensible position."   It has some wonderful descriptions of childhood and some painful ones:   kl 169 "Later when we spoke of our childhood, it seemed part elegy, part nightmare."  kl 1504 "There are no verdicts to childhood, only consequences, and the bright freight of memory."  kl 3046 "There is no fixing a damaged childhood.  The best you can hope for is to make the sucker float."  It offers descriptions and commentary upon the 20th Century struggles against racism and those of feminism and environmentalism.   kl 201 "This has not been an easy century to endure."  Chapter 18 should be required reading.  I don't know that I've ever fully appreciated the role of a coach, despite having a couple in my family.  The descriptions of the North Carolina locale are heart-breakingly beautiful and made me want to go live on an island and fish. One of my favorite quotes is about reading:  kl 997 "You get a little moody sometimes but I think that's because you like to read.  People that like to read are always a little fucked up."  There is, of course, a movie and it's a good one but the book is better.  I've decided to read some more Conroy: My Reading Life.  Doubleday, 2010.  Kindle.

Victorian scholarship:

Shaggy Muses: The Dogs Who Inspired Virginia Woolf, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Edith Wharton, and Emily BronteAdams, Maureen: Shaggy Muses.  The dogs who inspired Virginia Woolfe, Emily Dickinson, Elizabeth Barrett Browing, Edith Wharton, and Emily Bronte. New York:  Ballantine Books, 2007. Kindle.  My friend, Cathey Roberts, recommended this book {she also mentioned a seminar on Creativity and Madness which riffs nicely with Conroy's book and brought a smile to DMP}and I immediately downloaded it and read it straight through without iterruption--one of the advantages of physical weakness and no computer is that one may read and read and read. kl 3361 Quoting Virginia Woolfe:  "Half the horrors of illness cease when one has a book or a dog or a cup of one's own at hand."   kl 4496 "Like many creative people, she [Emily Dickinson] depended on someone else to oversee the balance between having time alone against the need for connection with others to avoid being engulfed by the work."  Emily Dickinson and her friend Susan Gilbert, who married Emily's brother, "shared a hatred of housework, a love of literature, and an intense interest in religion."  Sounds a bit like me. 

My "intense interest in religion" groups six very different books:. 

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Harper Perrennial Modern Classics)I'm continuing the Annie Dillard Reader and have just finished the excerpts from Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, perhaps my favorite work of mysticism.  kl 4236 "that which isn't flint is tinder, and the whole world sparks and flames." kl 4270 "An infant who has just learned to hold his head up has a frank and forthright way of gazing about him in bewilderment.  He hasn't the faintest clue where he is, and he aims to learn.  In a couple of years, what he will have learned is how to fake it..."  kl 4567 "But although the pearl may be found, it may not be sought.  The literature of illumination reveals this above all:  although it comes to those who wait for it, it is always, even to the most practiced and adept, a gift and a total surprise...  I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam." 

Collected Longer PoemsI was asked to read an excerpt from For the Time Being during a Sunday worship--which I was too ill to read--and as a result I'm reading W. H. Auden's Collected Longer Poems which I haven't touched since my undergraduate course with Dr.  Monroe K Spears, Poetry of W.H. Auden: Disenchanted Island.  I have a much better appreciation of the modern poets now than I did in my youth. 
"Remembrance of the moment before last
Is like a yawning drug."

The Voyage of the DawntreaderSeveral weeks ago, DMP and I went to see the new Narnia movie which has given us an excuse to re-run the movies and re-read the books.  I first read C.S. Lewis's literary scholarship (the dreaded and still dispised Milton semester with Alan Grob) and happened upon Voyage of the Dawntreader so I started the series in the middle.  It's always been my favorite and  one reason is that dear swashbuckling mouse Reepicheep reminds me so very much of DMP.  This story is also a commentary upon "reading the right books" and celebrates imagination rather than information.  A lesson that our universities might well learn before they slash the funding for humanities and libraries.

I continue my slow progress through Robert Alter's The Book of Psalms which is masterful and magnificent.  From the 39th Psalm:  "Let me know, O LORD, my end and what is the measure of my days.  I would know how fleeting I am... a nothing... mere breath.... For I am a sojourner with You, a new settler like all my fathers.  Look away from me, that I may catch my breath before I depart and am not." 
These psalm readings work really well with the book that is the companion of the Open Door class study of Genesis.  Walter Brueggemann's Land kl 231 "...any society is likely to treat its land in the same way it treats its women."  kl 307 "...land is never simply physical dirt but is always physical dirt freighted with social meanings derived from historical experience."  kl 485 "Biblical faith begins with the radical announcment of discontinuity that intends to initiate us into a new history of anticipation.... rooted in the speech of God..."

Blog note:  I will continue using the Amazon associate links and images in the text of the blog because Amazon usually allows readers to take a look inside or download a sample.  I've switched the sidebars to LibraryThing which lets me maintain an on-line catalog and collection lists.  They have the advantage of being readable on the Kindle.   http://www.librarything.com/home/KCummingsPipes 
I first saw the LibraryThing used in Catherine Pope's Victorian Geek blog: http://blog.catherinepope.co.uk/2011/01/an-eye-for-an-eye-by-anthony-trollope/ and clicked the link in one of sidebars.  The first 200 books is a free membership if you want to give it a try.