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.

Monday, June 5, 2017

Hoosegow, anyone?

For days I have been wondering how the term "hoosegow" originated. This is what I found online:

"The word is from Mexican Spanish juzgao, a jail, which came from juzgado for a tribunal or courtroom. It shifted to mean a jail because the two were often in the same building (and the path from the one to the other was often swift and certain)." So it looks as if we even pronounce it Mexican-style.

For dinner I had roasted vegetables: Yellow squash, red potatoes, carrots, red bell pepper, tomato wedges, and lemon slices, with lots of spices. My weight is still dropping, which is strange because, except for my back giving out too fast, I feel better than I've felt in a long time. But I'm trying to eat more, and as healthily as I can. Trouble is, sometimes in the middle of a meal, I get so tired of chewing (especially meat) that I have to quit. I've been putting table scraps on an aluminum tray and leaving them out on the deck at night. They're always gone when I look out the next day, but I never see who is enjoying them. I suspect crows.

I spent most of this day waiting for people to show up. The insurance lady, concerning my broken car-bumper, never got here, but the painter made it in the afternoon.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood**

Aaargh!

Friday, May 5, 2017

Looking for Alaska, by John Green*****

It bothers me that I will probably forget this book, as I've forgotten so many books, and I didn't even like the girl. Alaska was a girl, not a place, and the author of this book attended Indian Springs school in Alabama. He used it, fictionalized, as a setting for Looking for Alaska. When I first started reading it, I was relieved that it did not involve another protracted journey of teenagers in a substandard automobile.

"We can't know better until knowing better is useless."

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Paper Towns, by John Green****

This book is fully as awesome as An Abundance of Katherines, if not a little bit more so. Quentin ("Q") is a nice Jewish boy whose two buddies are Radar of the colored persuasion, and Ben who is indescribable--all three are high school seniors. They go on an 1,100-mile search for a missing classmate, and by the end Quentin has grown up in a lot of ways. I guess this is one of your classic "coming of age" tales.

Some fascinating features of the book are the "paper towns" themselves, towns that almost got started, but never made it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford****

The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford, from Gutenberg Project online.

This is one of the best novels I have ever read. But it's written in the most infuriating English way, so that I can't give it five stars. Many places in it call for tears, but don't draw them forth because of the proper British presentation. Still, I persevered through it, straining my eyes to read it on the computer.

Ashburnham and Dowell, two highly sympathetic male personae, are confronted in life by an impressionable but rather stupid girl whom they both love, and one of the most intellectually cruel women (Leonora Ashburnham) in all of literature.

From hints in reviews of the book, I gather that it's supposed to be based on a true-life experience of Ford himself, or possibly of people he knew. If I had it in paper form, I would read it again.

Friday, April 21, 2017

An Abundance of Katherines****

"When it comes to relationships, Colin Singleton's type is girls named Katherine. And when it comes to girls named Katherine, Colin is always getting dumped. Nineteen times, to be exact. On a road trip miles from home, this anagram-happy, washed-up child prodigy has . . . an overweight, Judge Judy-loving best friend riding shotgun--but no Katherines." (Blurb from back cover.)

This is a delightful book, of the YA genre, I suppose. Yes, I'm sure kids do talk like that these days. Maybe they always did. Anyway, Colin is on a quest to fill the hole in his insides left by Katherine XIX. This entangles him with firearms, a feral pig, a Goliath-sized bully, and any number of less ominous adventures. I highly recommend it, even for OA's.


***
On Easter Sunday, Jed and I attended the Leeds Presbyterian Church, where I saw old friends and was welcomed by a lot of new ones. Sister Susan treated the family with a very fine Easter dinner at her house. A sumptuous feast.


During the recent hiatus in my blog posting, I've attended a poetry group meeting. Jed has visited from the great state of Georgia a couple of times, and I saw my doctor last week. He recommended reducing one of my medicines and adding still another. I'm "of two minds" about adding more drugs. But I'm usually of two minds about almost everything.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Maytime



Soon May will come, with all the flowers that bloom,
et cetera. Will I still sit in this room
awaiting inspiration for poetical creation,
but writing only sterile gloom and doom?

Oh, no! I shall go forth to Nature's world,
and walk beneath the trees, and see the squirrels
and the chipmunks on the ground, hear the birds' melodic sound,
and perhaps to spy a hawk with wings unfurled.


I'll enjoy the exercise and health I'm gaining,
kick a few dead soggy leaves from fall remaining;
I will jump and skip and run, and when all of this is done,
improvise a little dance—unless it's raining.


Too long I've hidden from the world of people—
men and women, dogs and children, church and steeple;
I'll no longer play the hermit, but I'll sing and dance like Kermit,
and inhale perfume of flowers, bud and sepal.


Heaven strengthen me to keep this resolution,
and to my sad complaints find the solution;
let me confidently hope I'll no longer sit and mope,
but reform my world without a revolution.


By JRC 04/19/17 

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Too Pooped to Pop, or Too Hot to Hoot

Today, Jed and I went to Birmingham to get my car tag, then found that the right place was in Bessemer, so there we went. Afterwards we ate lunch at the Irondale Café. But it was a lot more complicated than it sounds, and we are both worn to a frazzle. And Jed even has to drive back to Atlanta today.


"But fill me with the old familiar juice,
Methinks I might recover by and by. . ."




Last night the poetry group met at the Leeds Arts Council. Jed went with me, and I read my new poem, "This Rough Magic." It was a good meeting.

Friday, March 17, 2017

I'm Really Okay. I think.

Today I arrived for my dental appointment exactly four days and one hour early. Really, what happened is that I had dreaded it so much, I had changed the appointment a couple of times. I called myself checking my email confirmation this morning, but reckon I looked at the wrong one. A couple of other one o'clock appointments didn't show, so they took me anyway. I had a new technician, and she had some new fuzzy stuff to clean my posts, so my mouth isn't sore.

I did get my NFSPS entries postmarked on time Saturday. Or whenever the fifteenth was. If this is Friday, it must have been Wednesday. I entered 21 old and new poems that had never won much of anything, and had never been published. And probably never will, but you never know till you try.

Yesterday I cooked turnip greens and cornbread for lunch. Today I had corn, green beans and potato salad.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

No Book Today

Yesterday afternoon, Dave was dissatisfied. He thought the old beat-up mailbox spoiled the perfection of his artwork. So he went to Walmart and bought a spiffy new metal box and installed it. All this was surprisingly inexpensive: $14 for the mailbox, plus all the stuff he had on hand, and I paid him what I regularly pay him for a day's work. As long as the City of Valor doesn't bill me for a permit to replace a mailbox.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The Pecan Man, by Cassie Dandridge Selleck***

This is our selection for the next book club meeting. It's a very short novel, and good reading. I finished it a few minutes ago.


I think Ramey is going to host the next meeting of the book club. I'm going to try to help her, as I don't believe I could handle having the group at my house. Though I don't know why. I feel well lately, as long as I don't have to walk a long way. We shall see.


Dave and Jennifer came over this morning. Jenn cleaned up the house, while Dave fixed my mailbox. He straightened the post and the crooked box, then replaced the crumbling wooden base around the foot of the post, then painted the base and the post brown because he had some brown paint. He painted the numbers white. I guess it's up to me to plant something inside the frame. Me and my black thumb.


I went to the post office this morning to mail my entries in the National Federation of State Poetry Societies' contests. I entered 21 contests. Anyway, the post office's computer or something was down, and they couldn't do postage and mailing. There was a long line, and a couple of us were only there to mail packages. I decided that, instead of waiting, I would come back tomorrow. I asked the lady behind the counter if she thought it would be fixed by tomorrow, and she said, "It'd better!" If it isn't, I'll go to the P.O. on Montclair road, because tomorrow is the deadline for mailing the stuff.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Oh, me!

I slept too long, and now I've got to go to Walmart for medicines and typing paper. I've got all my submissions for the NFSPS contests on the computer, but ran out of paper last night.

Need to find out what's making me sleep so long. I suspect it's the increase in my meds. Anyway, when you gotta go--

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Lost City of the Monkey God, by Douglas Preston****

I've nearly finished reading this new book (Jan. 2017). It's the most fascinating archaeology book I've read since 1976's Maya, by Charles Gallencamp. Makes me wish I could have been an archaeologist and could have gone with them to Honduras.


This has been a good day, with a lot of thunder and lightning and spattering rain. Tomorrow is Women's Strike Day, and I'll wear my red shirt in support. Although it's doubtful anyone will see me.


Today my cousin phoned. I wish there were something I could do for her. She's living in her and her husband's original house which is falling down around her, ill, without a car, and her two children don't help her much. Her son occasionally takes her to buy groceries or to a medical appointment, and she gives him and her grandchildren money all the time. She hasn't seen her daughter, who lives in Atlanta, for six years, when she (my cousin) drove part of the family to New York for her grandson's wedding. I try to get her to buy a car while she still has some of C.'s insurance money, but she seems to be in a paralysis of nerves, says her son won't help her look for a car, and she can't do it on her own. I take some of it with a grain of salt; it seems to me she has just found a sort of comfort zone in a houseful of cats and dogs, where she's not in danger of having to nursemaid another family member as she did her father and her husband for years on end.


She thinks after the children get all her money, they'll put her in a nursing home on welfare and forget about her, which sounds sort of reasonable, considering how they've treated her so far. I want to help her, but I'm reluctant to, like helping her get a car. If she had an accident, or even if she didn't, the son and daughter would probably jump on me like ducks on a june bug. Besides, I'm several years older than she, and not in the best of shape myself. I'm afraid to drive on the highways to get over there.


I must admit that her personality is a very large part of her problem. Since she and C. lost all their property except the little house where she lives now, she seems to turn all of her hurt and resentment outward. If a thought comes into her head, it goes out her mouth in a tirade. Knowing her history and how her personality came to be, it's very hard for me to blame her or hold her responsible. But while she still has money, she simply must take hold and rescue herself. Sometimes it's necessary to let a child/grandchild (or in her case, a bunch of them) fend for itself and take care of Numero Uno.


Maybe I shouldn't put this on my blog. But I can't vocally explain all this to other members of my family, and besides, I've got so many cousins, only a few will know whom I'm talking about.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

A Gothic First Novel, by Andrew Michael Hurley****

I enjoyed this book at the very beginning, because of the rainy, overcast seaside locale. It reminded me at first of the Cornish coast, Plymouth, Portsmouth, etc. But then the vegetation started sprouting and blooming too early, and other oddities happened. I had to keep going back to check things I thought I remembered but that didn't seem quite comme il faut.

I thoroughly agree with Stephen King that this is a whale of a first novel, worthy to be set up there beside some of Shirley Jackson's and Daphne duMaurier's tales. Those who complain of the many words they had to read before getting to the horror, most likely didn't catch the hints--nay, the events throughout--that I, too, understood only after the final explosion. The Loney really lives up to its name.

I think we should have this for a book club selection. Or maybe not. You don't get the full significance until after the end, and maybe not even then, that could have whispered, "You might better think twice about reading this!"

I bet "Tonto's" real name was Michael.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Polar Star by Martin Cruz Smith****



This is a very good crime novel, set in Siberia in the 1980's. It's a sequel to Gorky Park, another Russian novel by Martin Cruz Smith. The investigator is Arkady Renko, a very unhappy man. I've read a bunch of novels by this author, and these two are my favorites.

Today I received The Loney from Amazon. Sounds spooky.


Saturday, February 18, 2017

Mercury Mariner



Jed came over Tuesday of this week, and on Wednesday a nice lady from Atlanta delivered my car. So I have to get used to having wheels again. It's a very dark blue, almost black. 2008 vintage, but it looks and feels like a new car.
*
To Be or Not To Be, by Ryan North***



I finished jumping around in this amusing and interesting book, probably about Feb. tenth.





Saturday, February 11, 2017

Lifesaver

Every once in a while, my sister Ramey visits the Daylight Donut shop and brings me a selection of the goodies.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

The Whole Town's Talking, by Fannie Flagg***


Highlights:


The name of a town, Elmwood Springs. Being Fannie Flagg, she probably named it after Elmwood Cemetery in Birmingham. Which, in an odd way, was appropriate.

A bored Indian who heard people talking. He thought they were birds squawking, and he went back to sleep.

A very evil pig named Sweet Potato, whose ultimate fate was never revealed.

An exploding bathroom commode.


The Heroine:

To me, a girl/woman/other named Elner was the real hero of this book. She was present, almost from the beginning of the story until 'way past the end, and she reminded me in some ways of my sister Susan.

I give this book four stars out of five. **** There.

***

"Fannie Flagg" was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1944, and grew up in Irondale. Her birth name was Patricia Neal. She changed it to Fannie Flagg as author- and stage-name because the actress Patricia Neal was already famous. -- Wikipedia

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Little Moses

Away by the waters so blue,
The ladies were winding their way,
When Pharaoh's little daughter stepped down in the water
To bathe in the cool of the day.
Before it was dark, she opened the ark
And found the sweet infant was there.

And away by the waters so blue,
The infant was lonely and sad.
She took him in pity and thought him so pretty,
It made little Moses feel glad.
She called him her own, her beautiful son,
And she sent for a nurse who was near.

And away by the waters so blue,
They carried this beautiful child
To his own tender mother, to his sisters and brothers.
Little Moses looked happy and smiled.
His mother so good did all that she could
To rear him and teach him with care.

And away by the sea that's called Red,
Little Moses the servant of God,
While in Him confided, the sea was divided
As upward he lifted his rod.
The Jews made it across, while Pharaoh's hosts
Were drowned in the waters and lost.


Carter family

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

E.E. Cummings, by Susan Cheever (2014)***


This is a good biography of Cummings, finished reading today. It includes many photographs from his life and acquaintances. Something I didn't know, Cummings was also an artist. His name was Edward Estlin Cummings, and he was called Estlin. This is my favorite poem by him:

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn... et seq.



Sunday, January 15, 2017

Roosevelt's Beast, by Louis Bayard, 2014*****

I started reading this book last night after watching "The Hunger Games" (2012) on TV. Its 299 pages took about 3 wee hours to read. Another one that I couldn't put down.

Roosevelt's Beast is a novel imagining what might have happened to Theodore Roosevelt and his son Kermit on an actual expedition into the Brazilian forest in 1914.

"Roosevelt's Beast is a story of the impossible things that become possible when civilization is miles away, when the mind plays tricks on itself, and when old family secrets refuse to stay buried. With his characteristically rich storytelling and a touch of old-fashioned horror, the bestselling and critically acclaimed Louis Bayard turns the story of the well-known Roosevelt-Rondon expedition on its head and dares to ask: Are the beasts among us more frightening than the beasts within?" - Goodreads




Kermit Roosevelt, a sketch by John Singer Sargent from his book
*
I read a book by Louis Bayard several years ago, Mr. Timothy, which was pretty good but not as interesting as this later book. It was a novel of Dickens's Tiny Tim grown up.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Some Recent Notes

Last night I watched (again) the saddest movie I have ever seen, and certainly one of the best--"Legends of the Fall," 1994.

Putting Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins in the same film conjures up magic. The same thing happens in "Meet Joe Black."
*
Here's a poem I wrote on Jan. 10:

Water Sign

Water-colored, my eyes are
turquoise, blue-green
I crave the rain, clear aquamarine
water-bearer to earth, air and fire

Clouds cheer me, wet, weighty
with jeweled drops airborne
to anoint dry lips that mourn
for moisture in sea, sand, humanity

Drought alters all that lives and thrives
My eyes reflect the face
of earth in sere and sun-burnt poise

When silver rain revives
this parched and withered place  
my eyes turn back from amber to turquoise

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Fireworks?

In all my years in this neighborhood, yesterday was the most quiet New Year's Eve I have ever heard. Sounded like a few kids with firecrackers, and just a couple of booms but no shooting stars, etc. Always before, at any major holiday, I've watched fireworks from my deck or high front windows. Nothing to watch this NYE. I can understand it as far as Democrats are concerned, but what's wrong with all the victorious voters who look forward to the rewards of 2017?

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The better to see you with.



On the last day of 2016, I've decided to pick up my blog again. The Christmas and birthday holidays have been wonderful, with Jed, the sisters and nieces and nephews. Susan invited us to her house for Christmas Eve soup supper, and Jed treated us to birthday luncheon at Carrabba's. Dave and his daughter have been very good, checking on me and helping me out since I've been without a car.


A week or so ago, I had an eye exam and got a prescription for new glasses. They dilated my eyes. Up until then, I was seeing okay, but over the past few days my vision has got so blurry, it's very hard to read. And I have a stack of good books that "won't read themselves," as they say. I went to Walmart--they have a better selection of frames, and better prices on glasses than I expected. My glasses should be ready sometime this week. The doctor at UAB Eye Hospital said I've got cataracts and should have the surgery sometime in the future, so I've got that to look forward to.


I hope all my friends and loved ones have a very Happy New Year.