Sunday, February 22, 2009

February Blahs, Blues, Books

I have just finished reading Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende. It was a good read, as the saying goes. Perhaps its most important feature was to give me ideas and techniques to incorporate into CUSHING. For instance, the cover page is a photograph of the main character. The event of having the photo taken was only referenced in the last chapter of the book. My own cover design is a photo taken in 1907 of the four main characters of my book. Who took the photograph? What was the occasion? What happened immediately before and after the event?

Another feature of Allende's writing is the way she weaves history, philosophy, geography, and medical practices of the time, into her storyline. She also frequently reiterates key events from another perspective, the way we all do with our own lives. It helps to keep the reader up to speed (especially useful if the book is put aside for a few days) and adds a dimension of psychological realism.

Books are the antidote to the blues or blahs for any seasons of our lives. They relax, invigorate, stimulate, challenge, entertain all at the same time. And, coupled with a glass of wine or cup of tea, become the best companion on a beach by the lake, in a leather chair by the fire, in a cosy bed propped with pillows, and especially on a cool February day in front of a sunny window.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


I am just reading (among my list of many other books for this month) "The Writing Life" by Annie Dillard. I remember reading an excerpt many years ago, and had forgotten how compelling her writing is. She writes:

The setting of our urgent lives is an intricate maze whose blind corridors we learn one by one...You travel, settle, move on, stay put, go...

I have added it to my list of books for January. (See earlier January post). And will begin a new post listing the February selections. I do invite you into my virtual library, and would love to know what imaginary friends you are interacting with these days. My mother tells me that as a very young child I would sit on the bottom rung of the hall stairs and chatter away, is if there were someone sitting with me. I am sure most of you had similar childhood "tea parties".

Now, as adults, it is not much different. I find myself making strange gutteral noises, sighs, head nods, responding to the very best writers, (like Annie Dillard), who draw us generously into their worlds, tease us into thinking how easy and fluid the writing, feeling, thinking flows. I could do that, I say, I just have to sound genuine. And then I try, and learn otherwise.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The National Film Board of Canada

Just had to get this information down as quickly as possible and will return with more editorializing about the genius of some of these films. The National Film Board of Canada has just made its archive of films available, ONLINE, to the public, free of charge.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Friday Fill-Ins

Friday, January 16, 2009 we go!

1. Enough with the misdirected chatter about global warming. All I know it that I am freezing these days, all 3 layers of me.....
2. _Hillary still causes me to be conflicted.
3. I've been craving peanut butter and chocolate and red wine
4. _Cathy makes me laugh.
5. I wish I could go to Florida next week.
6. My "first life" has been on
my mind lately.
7. And as for the weekend, tonight I'm looking forward to a lovely glass of wine with dinner tomorrow my plans include more reading and writing and Sunday, I want to go to the cottage!

Thank you to Janet for the template.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Lost Generation

The AARP, The American Association for Retired Persons, is an important group in our society,
This is a very heartfelt presentation and worth the time to
watch and listen through to the end to understand the
concept. Last week at The Society meeting held at AARP's
headquarters, they showed the winning video submissions in a
contest for 20 year olds called 'u @ 50'.

When they showed this one, everyone in the room was awe-struck and broke into spontaneous applause. Simple, yet brilliant, it speaks to the power of words, and the importance of context, purpose, and direction. It also underscores the greater importance of the next generation, the so-called Lost Generation. F. Scott Fitzgerald made that term famous, and the time was the roaring 20s just prior to the great depression. Literature is as much a teacher as history.

My Reading Project for 2009/JANUARY

In my Tread Softly blog I posted the 100 books for 2009 challenge. I have created yet a third blog devoted to the craft of writing, i.e. reading and writing. As any writer knows, and many have stated, in order to even presume to be a good writer, one must first be a good reader.

Well, I have been a reader all my live-long life. I can not remember ever not reading. My family moved to Thornhill when I was seven. One of the great delights, for my sisters and me was being allowed to visit the Library on our own, just a few steps from our home. By the age of eleven I had consumed every book of interest in the "children's section". Twelve was the appointed age to be able to withdraw from the "adult shelves". My mother, bless her non-reading heart, spoke with great charm and determination to the librarian asking for special dispensation for her three young daughters. This allowance meant that even my more audacious younger sisters could also gain access to any book they wanted. We were suddenly to explore at will. And so we did.

The teen years, romance, marriage, motherhood, career sometimes interfered with the intensity and quantity of my reading. Even as a Teacher of English Literature for almost thirty years, I had stopped being a prolific reader. It was like I was taking a sabbatical from reading, feeling that because I had read "the Canon", I was not prepared to put up with lesser works.

But now I have recovered from my silly, snobbish, stupid attitude. And I also have more time and energy to devote to the "joy of reading". So it is with great delight that I have joined the challenged of reading 100 books (at least) this year.

After all of that self-serving preamble I will begin to list those books that I have touched, read portions of, devoured, reread. Occasionally I will also add some commentaries, if the mood suits me.

Herewith, not necessarily in order of reading :
For January

1.The White Tiger, Aravind Adiga (winner of the 2008 Man Booker ...captured my attention from the first line...

2. The Shack, Wm. Paul Young (New York Times Bestseller)...What is wrong with me...I gave up after 50 pages...

3.The Gift of Years, Growing Old Gracefully, Joan Chittister...a spiritual book that I savoured one chapter at a time, before falling asleep. Lovely perhaps because age and stage appropriate.

4. My Natural History: the Evolutions of a Gardener, Liz Primeau...I was so eager to begin this book, first being a memoir, secondly being about gardening, both genre and topic of great appeal these days. And I was heartily disappointed at both. The memoir is meandering and maudlin. The gardening details lacked the "dirt" I was hoping for.

5. The Secret Scriptures, Sebastian Barry...Following immediately upon The White Tiger, it took about 50 pages to shift my focus. But once "hooked" into the rhythm of Barry's Irish lilt, the book is a fabulous read...

6. The Writing Life, Annie Dillard. A brief but powerful exploration of the writing life, personalized and objectified beautifully. very inspiring for a would-be like myself.

7. Daughter of Fortune, Isabel Allende. I had to find out why Allende's writing is so popular. While it is a good read, I am not so impressed with her style. I never quite felt like I was in the same room with the characters. And for someone like Annie Dillard that would be an important criterion of great writing. I am learning how the good, the bad and the ugly look and feel.

8. Marley and Me, John advance of seeing movie...silly memoir, skimmed quickly...don't even want to see the movie...

9. The Lover, Marguerite Duras. Well here is another blasphemous response. I found it to be a boring, tedious memoir. At least Anais Nin had some juicy bits in her diaries. This "brilliant work of art." just did not open up to me...It concludes with the line " ...he could never stop loving her, ...he'd love her until death." Well, unlike the lover, and certain notable critics, I don't.