Friday, April 18, 2014

Listen, my children and you shall hear


            It’s Poetry Month! All the month of April—as if I don’t every month—I’m reveling (maybe even wallowing) in poetry. Here are some poetry resolutions.
1.      Read more poetry!
2.      Find poets I haven’t read before.
a.       John Koethe
b.      Harryette Mullen


c.       Larry Levis
d.      Rosemary Catacalos
3.      Read old friends
a.       Billy Collins
b.      Maxine Kumin
c.       Shakespeare (!)
d.      Sharon Olds
e.       Rita Dove
My little reading table is getting
overloaded! So many books. . .

Here I’ve got to stop to tell what happened yesterday as I thought about reading old friends. One of my oldest poet friends (I’ve written about this before) is Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Now a poet friend of mine has told me Longfellow is “out” in these day. Not to this girl. I have lots of his lines tattooed into my brain during my grade school days. Never know when they’ll come in handy; like this morning. When I glanced at the morning paper the date sprang out—April 17. Hmmm. Then, tomorrow is April 18. And the words popped not just into my head but out of my mouth—
Listen, my children, and you shall hear
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere,
On the eighteen of April in Seventy–five
Listen my children


Minutes later, the book was in my hands and I read the tale aloud right to the final words.
Through all our history, to the last,
The people will waken and listen to hear
The hurrying hoof-beats of that steed,
And the midnight message of Paul Revere.

There I was, in the fifth grade wearing my new spring dress in the center of the stage at the Wolflin School spring program. I gave it all I had. Did everything but bring a horse on stage with me and wear a three cornered hat. Now that I think about it, maybe I did wear a hat. My whistling, stomping dad led the ovation that followed. Thank you, HWL for a great poem, a bit of history, and a fine memory.

Now back to my list:

4.      Write some poetry—I write lots of haiku (check me out on Facebook, occasionally I’ll post one.) This month I’m stretching. Maybe a longer poem about the cats, or the kids at the museum, or the big oak tree. Maybe, one about what’s going on in the news—does history repeat itself?
Poet Laureate of Texas
Rosemary Catacalos
5.      Hear some poets read in person. My wonderful indie bookstore Brazos Books has almost weekly readings. I’ve made one. Last night I met a new poet friend—in person. Off I hied to the Museum of Fine Arts Houston to hear Rosemary Catacalos, the Poet Laureate of Texas, read her poems and to top it off to a party where I’ll met her. What a treat! You saw her name in my new-to-me poets list. Not anymore. I’ve read (more than once) her recently reissued 30-year-old book “Again for the First Time.” They ran out of her new one, “Begin Here” before I could buy one. Not to worry. I ordered it first thing this morning.
and her book.



Thursday, April 10, 2014

Art Fun

 I love Wednesday. It’s my museum day. Yes, I go to look and appreciate, but I do more. I share.
            I’m a docent with the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Once a week, sometimes more often I share the glory of art through the ages—with third and fourth graders. Always I assure them that they are going to have fun, fun, FUN. And they do—so do I.
A museum docent shares her joy in art
with Houston third graders and their
chaperons.

            For some, it’s a return visit. They do have fun, see new things they can share with their families on the next visit. But for many in this most diverse city in the nation, it’s a brand new experience. Now there’s the real fun! For them, and for their docents. I hear gasps, I see eyes open wide. Best is the laughter! The fun.
            Part of the fun is learning. Learning how art—and I’m talking all forms here—can help us learn in other subjects from math (Who sees the triangle?) to science to literature. That’s what makes this book lover have extra fun.
A fun way to learn for kids and for
the slightly older.

            I usually tote around at least one book, sometimes more, so that we can find how reading makes us appreciate learning about art. Maybe it’s a ferocious picture about the Hercules myth or a poem about “The Winding Road.” Most appropriate since books and art are, indeed, the road to learning.
            My scholars are not the only ones having fun and learning. I am. Anyone who took a look at my Amazon shipping records would know that, or think that I have a house full of third graders. I’m enjoying the art picture books so much I want them in my own library. These books are more than just for kids. It’s a great way to explore art for grownups. The fun book When Pigasso met Mootisse taught me more about the competition between this duo than many a learned lecture.  And speaking of Pigasso, I mean Picasso, Cave Paintings to Picasso: the Inside Scoop on 50 Art Masterpieces gave this art history novice enough knowledge that I could follow along in another learned lecture.
            If you want to learn lots about art—go volunteer at your art museum. Talk about having fun. Yes, let’s talk about having fun, fun with picture books. Fun with kids. Fun with art. Fun, fun, fun!


Tastes vary. Some students
adore the glorious Turrell
Tunnel of Light; other go for
the escalator!




( This entry also appears at https://storycirclenetwork.wordpress.com/ )

Monday, March 31, 2014

Serendipity



 
 “You can’t read all day unless you start in the morning,” a friend recently advised. Many a day that’s advice I follow happily. I’m not a reader who takes a book and reads from start to finish before looking at another. No, what I’m reading depends on the time of day, my mood and even the weather.
            I read across the spectrum. I may escape in some light detective fiction just before bedtime, but daytime hours are likely to find me deep in biography, travel or serious fiction. Although I enjoy them all, I do have a favorite genre—memoir. That’s why I was more excited than usual a few weeks ago when a book package appeared by the front door. A new memoir to review for Story Circle Book Review! Saturday morning I braved the rain to head for the Black Hole Coffee House to sip a latte while I read The Secrets of the Notebook: A Woman’s Quest to Uncover Her Royal Family Secret by Eva Haas. Actually, it was three lattes. The book demanded to be read straight through.  Check at  http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/secretsofthenotebook.shtml  and see what I think.
I read all sorts of memoirs, not just for reviewing but for pleasure and learning.   I’ve just finished taking a personal writing class; we are used a book of essays (Book of Days) by Emily Fox Gordon as a source for our writing prompts. I became intrigued by the author’s style and bought one of her earlier books, Are You Happy? It addresses memories of her early childhood. I stepped right into her Mary Janes. Or mine. For as I read about her life in Williamstown, Massachusetts, I remembered the little girl in Amarillo, Texas half a continent away.
            While reading, I started a list of those suddenly-surfacing memories, a patchwork of little Trilla’s life. And, no surprise, the earliest memory I have is about a book. My sister is in the brown chair reading from an orange story book. I’m tucked between her and the arm of the overstuffed chair. I look at the pictures and wish I could read too. She starts to read the story about a chicken to me, but she’s only in the second grade; she gets tired of stumbling on the big words. Mother promises she’ll read it to both of us as soon as the ironing is finished and supper started.  I know she’ll keep her word, but I want to be able to read it to myself right now.
It's ours for sure--Sarah Nan
and Patricia Louise Nordyke!
A wonderful book--still!
A few days after I enjoyed this memory, serendipity struck. When I’m not reading or writing, I often spend some time trying to simplify our lives. Part of this involves going through boxes unopened for, sometimes, many years deciding what we can live without. That day I opened yet another box marked “miscellaneous papers” to find not papers but old books.  Near the top was a bright orange, well-worn book, The All About Story Book. The book! What was it doing here? When I’d remembered it, I assumed it was long gone, now I held it in my hands. I turned crumbly pages until I got to 37 and found “All About Miss Fluffy Chick.” I sank down to the concrete floor and read it.
Later, I went to the computer and did some detective work and found an affordable copy. Guess what my sister can look forward to for her birthday? If I can wait that long. She knows she’ll likely be getting a book, she almost always does, but this one will be a real surprise.

Now we’ll see if she reads my blog. Nan, give me a call and you won’t have to wait ‘til your birthday to get your All About Story Book!
Think she'll be surprised?


 Happy Reading! 
(This entry also appears at http://storycirclenetwork.wordpress.com/category/interviews-book-reviews/book-learning/ )

Thursday, August 08, 2013

S'il vous plait




S'il vous plait, lisez ce blog. Merci, beaucoup!
I’m just home from my Museum of Fine Arts Houston Book Club, and I’m feeling very French. We discussed Luncheon of the Boating Party, by Susan Vreeland, an account of the six weeks it took Auguste Renoir to capture a single moment in his famous painting.
While there are some Paris scenes the book is mostly set on the island of Chatou lying in the Seine west of Paris. On weekends, Parisians flocked to Fournaise family boatyard and restaurant to float on the river and eat, even by high Parisian standards, an excellent Sunday meal. Among the regulars were the men who developed Impressionism, Monet, Degas, Sisley and, of course, Renoir. At least, in this work of historical fiction, the whole idea hatched right here on this island.
So it was that when Renoir, smarting under a criticism from Zola who indicated that an Impressionist ‘masterpiece’ did not exist, decide to create one, he decided to place it on the terrace of Restaurant Fournaise. He recruited models from his Paris friends (some paid, some not) who agree to come for six Sundays when the afternoon light was perfect.
 The book is a blow-by-blow of the time. Who are the people? What did they eat? Where did they eat it? Who slept with whom? Why and how often? It spares no detail.
I like book clubs as I’ve said on the blog before. My experience with this book bears me out. I’m a great admirer of Impressionist paintings. Since my first trip, I’ve loved France. Still, it hadn’t occurred to be to read this book, although I was aware of it. And then here came the Book Club selection list. I headed for the Museum shop, bought the book and started reading.
It isn’t my favorite book, even yet. But I learned a lot, looked lots of things up (thanks to Google), and yes, by the end I was enjoying the reading. Then came the meeting. One member said she disliked it so much that she was not going to say a word. Another declared it to be one of the best books she’d ever read. You can imagine—lively discussion ensued. By end of our time, not only was my reluctant friend talking, she was in the middle of the conversation declaring that she guessed she “really liked it after all.”
A good many of us headed for lunch at a nearby French bistro, where else? We all felt quite Frenchified. The orders reflected it—coq au vin, boeuf Bourguinon, a soufflĂ©. I had Salade Landaise.
The fun of book clubs—the benefit of book clubs. First, I read books that otherwise I would have passed on or maybe never have heard of at all, and then, I think about the book in a whole new way when I hear others discussing it, pointing out something I’ve missed entirely, and, often agreeing with me.
Now, on to next month. We’re shifting gears, going back to nonfiction, going to Russia. Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman by Robert K. Massie is up next. Should be interesting—and long. It’s a mere 574 pages. Let’s see, if I read about 20 pages a day, I should be able to knock her off with a day or two to spare before our next confabulation.


Gathering members can't wait for the
conversation to begin.


A version of this post also appears at
http://storycirclenetwork.wordpress.com/2013/08/08/sil-vous-plait/

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Not totally serious--yet

Zing, zing, zing. Seems like this year, there goes my summer. That’s probably true every summer, but this one, times three. So, here goes on what I trust (cross my fingers) is the last update on the ongoing melodrama of Trilla’s personal life—in the next few months, it’ll be more about Trilla’s book life.
Foster is happy to be home with his
own food bowl. "Feed me!"
Ginger doesn't mind being an
only cat again. Not on bit.
            The doctor told Kate to stay with us two months. That lasted about two-and-a-half weeks.  She’s back at work, but still can’t put weight on left leg at all, and so this means we’re still helping out lots, but we’re all easier on our own turfs. Happiest of all with the arrangement? No surprise—Foster Cat.
So my “reading just for fun days” have slowed and I’m turning to other books, but still reading lots and lots and lots and lots. And I’m not totally serious yet. I had a great fling, and a good transition with Susan Wittag Albert’s Widow’s Tears.  (http://www.amazon.com/Widows-Tears-Bayles-Wittig-Albert/dp/0425255727/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1373379759&sr=1-1&keywords=widow%27s+tears+susan+wittig+albert).  A great story, particularly if you, like I am, a longtime friend of China and Ruby.  But it’s more than just a story. Albert packs lots in there.  Not really escapism, and it’s set in the beautiful countryside around Round Top, Texas—a place I love.  Indeed, I recommend it.
            Then being a reviewer for Story Circle Book brought me just what I needed! Home Front Girl: A Diary of Love, Literature, and Growing Up in Wartime America appeared at the front door as if on cue. I’ve been journaller about as long as I can remember. A one-year diary showed up under the Christmas tree every year with the same dependability as the doll at top of the red stocking, and continued even after the dolls went away. I made my most recent entry this morning. Part of my life. I was ready, ready for this book.
Joan Wehlen Morrison was a greater journaller than I. What’s more, while I assume “no one’s ever going to care about these” and store them helter-skelter and here-and-there, Joan wrote thinking that her journals would be read, stored them carefully, and made sure her writer daughter knew where they were.  That daughter, Susan Morrison has turned these journals into a story of both her mother’s life from when she turned 14 in December of 1936 to 1943 when she met her future husband of 66 years. But Morrison has done more. She’s captured a slice, a small slice but an important one, of American history. This is an important book.
Well read now, and I'll be reading it again.
            And inspirational to me. My next get-organized is not going to be the mess under the kitchen counter that’s on the schedule now. No. I’m going to take those boxes of disorganized mixed-up journals and diaries and get them in chronological order, and then, I’m going to read them.  It may be that some do indeed need discarding—I’ll do it now, and I’ll be the one to do it. But others I’ll keep and who know, while likely they will never be published, someday great or great-great grandchild may enjoy knowing what twentieth-century life was like in the Panhandle of Texas.
            Thank you Morrisons.
            More to the moment, I’m thinking about my weekend reading. Young Joan reported hearing and puzzling over the stance of Charles Lindburg in the time leading up to the war. I knew Kate  read and enjoyed the fictional account of Anne Morrow Lindburg’s life, Aviator’s Wife. I knew it was lying on her bedside table.  Yesterday when I visited Foster, I nabbed the book. Now it’s on my bedside table with the first two chapters consumed—and it is not the weekend yet.
Waiting for bedtime and Chapter 3, maybe 4.

(This entry is also posted at http://storycirclenetwork.wordpress.com)


Friday, June 14, 2013

Serious Reading

Last post, I was in a bit of a panic, and I owe you an update. Things have calmed down,  Katy’s still with us, and she’s thriving—well, maybe I should say getting along very well for someone who’s on crutches and  dwelling in a bedroom not her own.   
                Fortunately, we all have senses of humor so that the laughter sounds spill over several times a day. Here’s an example—first day—Katy waits politely until one of us appears and then requests a favor—“Would you please bring me my I-pad?” “Might I have a fresh water?”
                A few days later as I was making my bed, my phone gave its distinctive “Katy” ring.
                “Mom would you mind coming into my room.” Of course, I was happy to oblige.
                Now we’ve got it down to an art. My message signal chirps. I scarcely need to look knowing the message will be one word: “Fetch.”
Sparc-time fun. Every one a
different color 

                I’m delighted. Means she’s feeling so much better.  She managed to do some work from home within a week of the misstep. Yesterday, she got a new cast that gives her lots more mobility—still no weight on that foot though. Between crutches and a light-weight
Off to work for the first
time in a long time.
wheelchair, she’s getting frisky and is going to try going into her office this afternoon.
                Our other guest livens up the house almost as much as Katy does. Foster Cat considers himself an “only cat.” Guess what?  Up until about two weeks ago, so did Ginger Pando. The two have had some interesting, and noisy conversations, but they are moving toward mutual tolerance and even food-sharing.
It all keeps me busy, but I still have lots more reading time than has been my norm.  I knocked off two or three more Leann Sweeney’s, and then I decided the budget didn’t allow for these forays to the Kindle Store. I then began what I should have done first—if I’d had my wits about me—I went through my towering “to read” stack.  A friend had mentioned how her book club enjoyed Saving CeeCee Honeycutt.  And there was Cee Cee waiting under three “when you decide to get serious” volumes. CeeCee kept me out of trouble for a couple of days. Now I’m ready for a new author.
        Survivor: One Woman's Path Through Life, Love, and Uncharted Tragedy.  Check out the review at http://www.storycirclebookreviews.org/reviews/radicalsurvivor.shtml. You’ll see what I mean. 
Tolerating each other--only because
I'm reading in the nearby chair.
         Casting about for ideas, I visited the Story Circle Book Review page hoping to find another fun mystery for a great price. But the opening page stopped me. It told me that I’m ready to graduate from fun reading and get back to something serious. The editor’s pick leapt out.  I’ve been thinking the Pandos have troubles; well, maybe not as many as I thought.  Nancy Saltzman knows about troubles, and more she knows how to survive them. She recounts her experiences in Radical
                I thought I’d order on the Kindle, but now I’m thinking I need a hard copy. I have a feeling this is a book I’ll be passing along. I have a Father’s Day shopping trip planned with my 12-year-old grandson this afternoon. Where are we going? Where else in this family of readers? Why to Barnes and Noble. I’ll see if they have Radical Survivor. If not, you know what I’ll be ordering this evening.

Happy reading!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Things change

June 1 is almost here. It’s happened again. Half a year has slid by and what where did it go? Poof! I look at my tilting “to read” stack, taller than on January 1, but I notice something. I’ve read all the “fun” books—the cozy mysteries, the thick historicals, read and shelved, or in a few case, given away. The more serious book that sound so good in the book review section still wait.
                Get serious! I tell myself. For the summer let’s change direction.  Feeling a bit high-minded I make a half-year resolution: For the summer I’ll read poetry  (and maybe write a bit) and, since I’m spending lots of time volunteering at the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, maybe it’s time I learned more art history.  I set June 1 as my beginning date, cleared a couple of shelves and began organizing—not too surprising—I already own enough art and poetry books to fill more than one summer.
                Last Sunday we enjoyed a lovely brunch. It was a beautiful day, why wait until June 1? The minute I got home I’d grab Peter Gay’s Modernism, head for the shady park about a block away and start.  On the way home, the phone rang. Our daughter had dropped by; she’d wait ‘til we got home.  Okay, the park could wait a while. We came in the back door. “In here,” she called from the living room. I rounded the corner. I saw the crutches before I saw the daughter. Things changed.

                Did they ever! She’d badly broken her ankle. An emergency clinic had it stabilized, but she was to stay off of it until we could get to our orthopedist on Tuesday.  Memorial Day Monday, remember. Not much to do but sit by and be company and bring a pain pill every few hours. Serious reading—out of the question. But I could just sit, I needed to read—TV noise made it hurt worse she’d announced. Not a fun book around. But thank goodness for Kindle and e-mail. I remember Amazon had tempted me with an e-mail about a cat book, something about feral cats; I live in a nest of feral cats—feed them every morning. I searched my e-mail. Found it. Grabbed the Kindle and for the first time met cat-loving Jillean Hart a quilting artist in Mercy, South Carolina. Jillean’s deadly adventures (and a little romance) all from the pen of Leann Sweeney helped me through the rest of Sunday and all of the Pando family’s longest ever Memorial Day. 
     Finally Tuesday arrived just as Jillean left. But what’s this? I notice in Sweeney’s credits that she has a series set in Houston. Houston! Where I am. Quick as I can hit the “buy now” button, Pushing Up Bluebonnets is on my home page. Good timing. It’s a day of first one waiting room and then another.  I like Abby Rose; I think I could find her house here in Houston if I gave it a good hard try. 
     Come Wednesday, finally we’re getting some action on the foot. We head to the hospital in the morning; my daughter goes into surgery around noon. Nothing to do but . . . and, hey, this is even less of a time for serious reading than ever.
                Suddenly I recall my blogger friend Nancy’s most recent post. http://nancyoutofmind.blogspot.com/2013/05/books-3-is-there-anybody-out-there-who.html) Since many years ago when there was a PBS series based on the E.F. Benson books about her, Nancy has loved the Lucia books about a madcap English woman we ought to dislike but end up loving. Nancy lamented that not many people remember Lucia, but I did. I enjoyed the series and then read every book. But mine are long gone in that huge book sale we threw when we moved to Houston. But what great news! The whole collection is out in one Kindle volume. (Query—can a Kindle have a volume?) So through the surgery, through recovery, and through a long first night, I capered through an English village while I fretted about and over my daughter.


                Now we’re home, all of us. She’s staying with us until she can put weight on that leg.  This may not be the summer for heavy reading after all. I’m wide open for suggestions about where in the world I go for my next escape.

Note: This entry also appears at http://storycirclenetwork.wordpress.com/