Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Three Books

I spent yesterday reading the book club selection, Missing Isaac, by Valerie Fraser Luesse. I would give it three stars for a debut novel. This was a good read, except for the vast number of characters. I kept up with the four main characters, but only toward the end did I get a hold on who was who among the others. Isaac and his mother were the only ones I was sure were black.

When I finished that one, I took up The Hobbit where I had left off. All day I had not turned on the television or the computer. In the late afternoon I tried to get online and couldn't. The I found that the TV and the phones were out. Looking out the front door through the rain, I saw a big limb from the ivy-covered tree lying on the ground, and the cable line lying under it. So I went up to Ramey's house and called Charter, and they came this morning and fixed it.

Today I finished reading The Hobbit, which I love a lot. And now I'm free to read my new book that arrived last week, The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World, by Maya Jasanoff. John Le Carre called it superb, and Louis Menand described it as "history, biography, and adventure story."

I can't get rid of the spaces below.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Late Arrival

I had given up on a book I ordered through Amazon. They emailed me that it had shipped on May 7. I didn't worry too much, as it didn't cost anything except a bunch of earned "points." It finally did arrive today, a hard-cover book that looks new, The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World.

I can already tell that it's wonderful, with illustrations of Conrad's family and travels every few pages. I flipped through and read a couple of pages telling about his marriage. But I didn't really start reading from the beginning. I need to finish The Hobbit before I begin another book.

This is the first book I've been excited about in months. It includes parts about Stanley and Livingstone, and about King Leopold's atrocities mentioned in Vachel Lindsay's poem. Conrad lived from 1857 to 1924.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

This evening I counted 104 lightning-bug flashes in the back yard. There is a quiet joy in standing on the deck in the summer twilight, counting fireflies and contemplating sink holes.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

A Happy Mother's Day

India and Ramey went with Jed and me to lunch at Carrabba's. They serve such good food! I had tarragon grilled chicken, and a most fabulous minestrone.

Jed gave me these gorgeous flowers for mother's day, and a beautiful card, which I haven't photographed yet.

When we got home this afternoon, Jed and I watched "Thunderheart," and another movie, "Anna," which was odd.

I'm having another spell of the same old nausea and pain. I hope it's going away now, though. I haven't eaten anything I'm not supposed to, unless it was that delicious soup; it was full of different kinds of beans, peas and other vegetables.

One of the Most Beautiful Poems

La Figlia Che Piange

Stand on the highest pavement of the stair--
Lean on a garden urn--
Weave, weave the sunlight in your hair--
Clasp your flowers to you with a pained surprise--
Fling them to the ground and turn
With a fugitive resentment in your eyes:
But weave, weave the sunlight in your hair.

So I would have had him leave,
So I would have had her stand and grieve,
So he would have left
As the soul leaves the body torn and bruised,
As the mind deserts the body it has used.
I should find
Some way incomparably light and deft,
Some way we both should understand,
Simple and faithless as a smile and shake of the hand.

She turned away, but with the autumn weather
Compelled my imagination many days,
Many days and many hours:
Her hair over her arms and her arms full of flowers
And I wonder how they should have been together!
I should have lost a gesture and a pose.
Sometimes these cogitations still amaze
The troubled midnight and the noon's repose.

--T.S. Eliot

Friday, May 11, 2018

How to Stop Time, by Matt Haig****

We had book club meeting today (Thursday) at Ramey's; everyone was there except Nell who had an ophthalmology appointment. The book was How to Stop Time, by Matt Haig. I think everybody liked it as much as I did. I would call it science fiction, but that may be too simple an explanation.

About as soon as I got home after the meeting, I lay down and slept until 7:00 p.m. I woke up with nausea and abdominal pain, and from there it got worse. This event lasted until almost 11:00 p.m. I know it was because of the way I've been eating lately, raw fruit and vegetables, cornbread, stuff with lots of fiber, which I'm not supposed to eat. It had nothing to do with Ramey's delicious treats today--mainly pound cake and ice cream. I finally made myself a cup of tea, and that has restored me to some sort of humanity..

Jed is coming over tomorrow, and he wants us and Susan and Ramey to have lunch somewhere, either Saturday, or Sunday afternoon. I'm going to figure out what to eat beforehand; no more hamburgers and whole-kernel corn. It will be harder to surrender French fries.
10:08 a.m. - I'm hungry, and I don't know what to eat. I'm still having stomach pains.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night****

I read A Wrinkle in Time again. I don't understand why, in lists of "Wrinkle"- related books, The Arm of the Starfish is seldom listed. I don't remember much of the story, but at least one of the  "Starfish" characters, Polly O'Keefe, is plainly either a daughter or grand-daughter of Meg  and Calvin. I'm going to read that again, as soon as I find a copy.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Remember the Alamo

Three years ago this spring, I really thought my ticket had been punched and that it was only a matter of a few days. That's because I had my heart attack (the second one, they told me). During one of the procedures, I was drug-crazy and thought my surgical team were wearing funny hats. This is what I wrote about the experience later:

'Last Friday night I went to the hospital with the chest and back pain, and it turned out I had a real heart attack.  So on Sunday, I had a procedure where they placed a stent in my damaged heart artery. Man, this was weird. A team of about six or eight stout men and women, or similar creatures, all wore various hats, and the sound effects were deafening.

'Ker-Blam! Ka-Pow! It sounded like they were flinging hundred-pound sacks of grain around the room. Maybe slaughtering cattle. Loud laughter. Muffled screams. I never felt a thing, except freedom from pain. But at last someone came in and told them to put down their weapons, and they all looked sheepish and sort of dried up. As I was wheeled from the room, I called back, "I like y'alls' hats!"

 'The team applauded!'

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Thursday, but no Project Runway

I was feeling so much better today, I did go to book club with Pat. Our book was What Lies Beyond the Stars, which I read a couple of weeks ago. It was a good book, but very sad. Everyone attended, and there was a lot of conversation, but not very much about the book. The meeting was at Susan's house, and she spread such a festive board, it would make your mouth water--two kinds of cake, three kinds of drinks, a bunch of chips and dips, fruit and nuts and cheeses.

Speaking of books, I liked The Book of Strange New Things (February 7th blog) so much, I ordered a copy from Amazon.

Last Thursday the finale for this Project Runway season was shown. I was so pleased that the winner was young Anthony Williams. He had never made a design collection before, and all of the other contestants were much more experienced. But everything he made this season, with one exception, looked absolutely perfect. It seemed that the judges ignored him most of the time, and I was amazed when they chose him as one of the three finalists, and even more so when he won.

Susan gave me a copy of Caitlin's latest novel, which she left for me when they were at Susan's a few weeks ago. It looks interesting.

Yesterday I had an email from one of the officers of the Alabama State Poetry Society, saying there's "at least one very good reason" for me to attend the ASPS meeting this month at Gulf Shores, Alabama. That's really too far away for me. Jed said he didn't mind driving down there, but I think I'll just let them mail me anything pertinent.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018


Good Movie

I watched this movie Monday night. There were exciting moments, the computer TARS was a comedian, and one of my favorite actors blew himself up. Matthew McConaughey, Michael Caine, Matt Damon, John Lithgow, Anne Hathaway, Ellen Burstyn; good cast.

My cold or whatever is better. I didn't go to the poetry group meeting Monday night; didn't want to expose people to my germs.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

Time and Again, by Jack Finney****

I thought I had read this book before, because some of the character names looked familiar. It has been many years since the period when I read dozens, maybe hundreds, of science fiction books and stories. I 've forgot many of the authors' names, and remember others, among them Jack Finney. Anyway, Time and Again may be science fiction, or it may qualify as fantasy, since there aren't any flying saucers or little green men. It's about time travel, made so easy that it almost seems that you, I, or anyone else could do it. I enjoyed it enormously.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

What Lies Beyond the Stars, by Michael Goorjian***

This is our book for the April book club meeting. I enjoyed the second half of the book very much. The first part was slow getting started. I think the book is a modern study in imagination versus hard fact, and maybe good versus evil, and of course we could have guessed which would emerge triumphant.

The thing about this book that most dampened my enthusiasm was the "modern" off-color language. To me, it's distracting to read a story where I want to skip two or three words in almost every paragraph. Such writing, while trying to look current and smart, seems to me to be trying to degrade everything that went before it.

Anyway, it will be interesting to find what the other club members think about this book.

Monday, February 26, 2018

My Favorite Tiny Rock

That's a quarter and its shadow beside the rock. The rock is the correct size. I don't know what happened to the quarter.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Kindred, by Octavia E. Butler***

This is the selection for our next book club meeting. The protagonist and narrator is a light-colored black woman named Dana. Both she and her husband, an older white male, are writers. Dana is involuntarily drawn back in time to the early nineteenth century southern United States, where she learns hard lessons about slavery. This is a good book. The only things I noticed that I would quarrel with are three instances of using the pronoun "I" as the object of a verb.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Yesterday's Dream

I dreamed I was looking out the kitchen window, and there was Mama, pushing a great load of deep pink flowers up onto the deck. She was standing between the stairs and the wall, a distance of about 14 feet below the deck railing, but she succeeded in pushing the bunch of flowers over the railing. That suggests how big the bouquet was.

Then she walked away. She was wearing white ankle pants and a pink shirt, and her hair was short and curly.

Today I woke up in great pain and stiffness. My right hand was swollen and hurting like everything. I held it over the mug when I made coffee, and the heat helped. This happens often, so I've been trying to lift things and write with my left hand. My right leg also hurts a lot when I wake up. But I don't know how to practice walking left-legged.

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

The Book of Strange New Things, by Michel Faber****

This is a very good book, which edges over into science fiction. Still, it feels very real. I don't want to say much more about it, in case some members of the book club--or any others--haven't read it yet. It's a very big book, exactly 500 big pages, but worth reading every word.

I haven't done anything very interesting lately. I dreamed someone left two half-grown kittens at my house. One was a thin and dirty tabby cat, not very healthy looking. The other looked okay, except it was a skinny tabby cat, too. Matter of fact, since I've been petless, Mo is the only good-looking cat I remember dreaming of.

Sometimes I miss Mo so much, I talk to him, even though he's not here.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Random Harvest*****

In my opinion, this is one of the best novels ever written. I re-read it yesterday.

We're supposed to get some snow and ice and stuff today, but I haven't seen any yet. Rhiannon came yesterday and cleaned. She also put the trash cart on the street, and then she went to the store for me. So I don't have to get out today.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Catching Up Again

I really enjoyed the Holiday Season. Jed, mainly, cooked Christmas dinner, and Susan, Pat and India came over and shared it with us. New Year's eve and day were fairly subdued; even the fireworks around here were quiet, compared to previous years.

Jed gave me a book by Frederick Douglass, My Bondage and My Freedom. I finished reading it today, having delayed starting it in favor of, among other things, taking down the Christmas decorations. Now they're down, but where to store them is the question. Anyway, one thing that impressed me very much in Douglass's book was his discovery that the United States Constitution does not protect slavery, but protects us from slavery, when properly observed. It's a great book, and ought to be included among the group of that name.


Here's a picture of my Christmas tree. This is the first big tree I've put up in several years. I hated to take it down.

Also the dab of snow we had before Christmas.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Busy, Busy!

I've got a bunch of things to do, and maybe a week to do them in. Decorate the tree, clean out the refrigerator--

I can't think of anything else except putting the groceries away and cooking some stuff. It seemed like such a lot until I sat down and thought about it.

It's been so long since I put up a real Christmas tree--that Ramey had to do it. But I helped. But now I have to decorate it. It'll be fun once I get started. Yes, it will.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

More of the Same

The illness that I had earlier this year, or whenever it was, has returned, colitis or whatever it is. I feel pretty nauseated and have some pain, but I'm not going to make another trip to the ER in the middle of the night. When I went before, I lay on the hospital bed for a day or two before they ran any tests or discussed any treatment, so I might as well chill. Or try to. I'll call Dr. Gruman's office in the morning.

Maybe I'll be okay by morning. Later in the morning.

Over the weekend we had the excitement of the snow, and I couldn't get out of the house. Then yesterday I had the cleaning lady and her husband over working on the house. Today I slept until 1:00 p.m., then had to juggle a bath, being upright when the Publix lady brought my groceries, and then going to vote, and then to fill up the car's gas tank which was about empty. Then I breathed a sigh of relief, thinking now I can wrap a present or two and do some decorating and work on getting the books out of the office floor and into the bookcases. And make some dinner and eat something.

Dinner might have been a mistake, if raw vegetables can bring on an attack of this mess. I had a plate full of veggies and hummus, and enjoyed it very much. Then the pain in my right side started, and so.

To make matters worse today, I've had this old song running through my head all day and night: Stagger Lee and Billy.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Poem I Wrote Monday

La demence

They tell me I was a girl with light brown hair
and eyes so blue you couldn't look away
There's something else that I almost remember
about a boy too tall his mouth on fire
with words that trampled everything she was
But that was later after the white dress
and orchids on a prayer book and more words
I won't remember any of the . . . worms

So just shut up about it. This is my room,
and he can't reach it with his hair on fire.
Too much I still remember but it fades
I want a buttered biscuit with my tea
Because she lived to fight some other days
I can't recall, and now that man is gone 

By JRC 11/20/17

Friday, November 17, 2017

My Favorite Rod Stewart Recording

"I Don't Want To Talk About It"

I can tell by your eyes that you've prob'bly been cryin' forever,
And the stars in the sky don't mean nothin' to you, they're a mirror.
I don't want to talk about it, how you broke my heart.
If I stay here just a little bit longer,
If I stay here, won't you listen to my heart, whoa,  my heart?

If I stand all alone, will the shadow hide the color of my heart;
Blue for the tears, black for the night's fears.
The stars in the sky don't mean nothin' to you, they're a mirror.
I don't want to talk about it, how you broke my heart.
If I stay here just a little bit longer,
If I stay here, won't you listen to my heart, whoa, my heart?

I don't want to talk about it, how you broke my heart.
If I stay here just a little bit longer,
If I stay here, won't you listen to my heart, whoa, my heart?
My heart, whoa, my heart.


Just so I'll remember it.


Saturday, 11/18 - I first heard Rod Stewart sing this on my car radio. I was on 18th Street South going to work.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Absent Mindedness or Alzheimer's?

I won a prize in the ASPS fall contest. They sent me a check, but I don't know what I did with it. I'm not very good with checks; I lay them down, and they get mixed up with other papers. I haven't cashed an ASPS prize check in several years--after I can't find them for a month or so, I just write to the Treasurer and tell them the uncashed checks are a donation to the organization. (This is not bragging about a "good deed;" it's just an admission of carelessness, or something.)

In the Best Families is the final one of three of Rex Stout's novels about Nero Wolfe's efforts to deal with or avoid the dread genius-criminal Z. The first two were And Be a Villain and The Second Confession. My kids and I have read the Nero Wolfe books over and over. This is one of the best. Others of the best are Fer de Lance, Some Buried Caesar, and The Black Mountain. Anyway, I finished re-reading this one a couple of days ago.

Rhiannon cleaned up the house this morning and put the trash cart by the street. I try to deal with any real messes, and put things away, on days when she comes. I hate to be thought a total slob.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Catching Up: October Events

My head has become sort of tricky for short-term memory, but here are a few things that have happened this month:
Jed and I explored Tannehill State Park and iron works on Wednesday (Oct. 18, I think). My favorite was the mill. But the whole thing was fascinating. The mill's dam and stream were beautiful. Jed took a bunch of great photos and put them on my Facebook site. I transferred them to my pictures album, but had to save them as documents and can't get them to go anywhere else.

On Saturday (10/28) we went to the ASPS meeting at the Pell City library, and were glad to see old friends and make new acquaintances. I won a third place prize in one of the contests.
On Thursday of this week, the Leeds Arts Council will host Jim and Liz Reed's Birmingham Arts Journal staff.
Of course I've enjoyed at least two grass-mowing days and two house-cleaning days this month, one furnace/AC inspection, two or three grocery deliveries, and I don't know what-all. It has been a busy month. ---  Every time I hit the enter key for a new paragraph, something crazy happens. I have tried to correct it but can't.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Hero of the Empire, by Candice Millard*****

This is a very good book about part of Winston S. Churchill's life, the part during the Boer War. I had never quite understood about the Boers. Very tough hombres. They were originally Europeans who had settled in South Africa. There were actually two Boer Wars; Winston was a newspaper correspondent in the second one (1899-1902).One of the best books I've read about him.

America's First Daughter****

This is a well-written but disturbing book, especially for someone with a great-grandmother who was a Randolph. I read it during October, but don't remember the date.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Headmaster's Darlings

Sister Ramey brought me this book last night, and I sat down and read it because book club meets tomorrow. I was sure I wouldn't like it, but it was reviewed,  blurbed and foreworded by Pat Conroy, and I wanted to see why. Once started, I had to finish it. It wasn't at all bad, except for semantic and grammatical lapses. "He thrust his hands on the arms of his chair," et al. However, it was the author's first novel,  published in 2015, and reviews say that she has written three more since, with the same setting, and published by the same South Carolina firm of which Pat Conroy is editor. Maybe, in the brief intervals, she learned that the objective case of who is whom, and a few other details.

I hate to be snarky and sarcastic. But in my opinion, this is a semi-good book. I'm probably influenced by my attitude towards the city of its setting. Too good to be a part of my birth city, Birmingham, Alabama.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

 Gone But Never Forgotten

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Almost Sisters, by Joshilyn Jackson

Another Good Book***

It was much better than I expected. I read all 300-odd pages today. Our book club meets tomorrow.

I'm glad I finished the book. But my eyes feel like somebody threw gravel in them.

In the last month, I have paid off the two old credit cards, and kept my Amex current. I'm rather proud.

Monday, June 26, 2017

News of the World, by Paulette Jiles*****

"National Book Award Finalist—Fiction
It is 1870 and Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd travels through northern Texas, giving live readings to paying audiences hungry for news of the world. An elderly widower who has lived through three wars and fought in two of them, the captain enjoys his rootless, solitary existence.

"In Wichita Falls, he is offered a $50 gold piece to deliver a young orphan to her relatives in San Antonio. Four years earlier, a band of Kiowa raiders killed Johanna’s parents and sister; sparing the little girl, they raised her as one of their own. Recently rescued by the U.S. army, the ten-year-old has once again been torn away from the only home she knows." - Amazon review

This is one of the most beautiful volumes of prose that I've ever read. I was anxious to find out the ending, while wishing the book wouldn't end at all.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Goose Bumps

I've spent about an hour listening to some of the songs on You-tube, songs that make my hair stand up on the back of my neck. A lot of those I've listed in the left-hand column of the blog have been removed, but "Please Come to Boston" is still there. And "The Holy City" by the Irish tenors. I need to add some of Carole King's songs. I know You-tube isn't the best site to listen to music, but a lot of them are very good, and ones I don't have on CD's.

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Last Days of Night, by Graham Moore****

The Last Days of Night is our book club selection for this month. It is a novel based on actual events, many of which really occurred, though not necessarily in the time or setting of the originals. Although the reader might have been long aware of some unsavory accusations and assumptions toward Thomas Edison, it was his (fictionalized?) reaction to the takeover of his creation, Edison General Electric, that brought this reader to tears.

The book is fascinating, owing not only to its scenes of sickening horror and emotional excess, but to Moore's superb writing as well. I noticed, aside from split infinitives (which in these latter days have lost much of their offensiveness), only one grammatical error and no typographical ones. I read it in six hours today, minus an hour out for lunch break, reading the first few chapters, which I had read two days ago, over again.

I suppose the moral of the book, if there is one, is that you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.