July 21, 2024

Sunday Salon, Classics Club Spin 38, and Hitting Two Challenges With One Book

 


When I’m not swimming, I’m walking, and it is such a delight to be outside. This path is at Herrick Lake, which I have been walking since a little girl, and then seriously again after Covid. When we had to be isolated, I refused to be stuck indoors.

I’m home from church now, and eager to begin a post. Isn’t that funny about blogging, how it comes and goes? At least that is the way it is for me…I have added a new header because why not? And this one is so inviting, as if I could sit by that window and read forever.

The Classic Club has revealed the number for Spin 38, and the number is 17. So, I will eagerly embark on this reread:


I have been wanting to reread it for so long! My father was a cattleman with the Chicago Stockyards before it closed in 1971. I know the stories of cowboys well, and these resonate beautifully within my heart.

Did you participate in The Classics Club this time around? Are you taking lovely walks to clear your head? Have you opened a book you particularly enjoy? 

I’m finishing Down and Out in Paris and London by George Orwell, to wrap up Paris in July 2024 and get a book in for ReadingOrwell2024. It’s nice when it works out that way…

May your week be blessed,

Bellezza


July 19, 2024

Classic Club Spin Number 38…to be revealed this Sunday

Thanks to Sylvia, I (re)discovered the Classics Club. Long ago, I had such a list published somewhere…but it is all too vague to remember now. So I created a new Classics Club list, and now I will choose twenty which I’d really like to read for CCSpin #38. The number of the book we are to read will be revealed on Sunday, July 21, so, if you’re like me, you’re just in time!

My twenty books, from a list of fifty:

  1. A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle
  2. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
  3. 1984 by George Orwell
  4. Cat’s Eye by Margaret Atwood
  5. We The Living by Ayn Rand
  6. The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
  7. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  8. Walden by Thoreau
  9. Watership Down by Richard Adams
  10. A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving
  11. The Last Battle by C. S. Lewis
  12. The Day of the Jackal by Frederick Forsyth
  13. The Sea by Jon Banville
  14. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  15. Possession by A. S. Byatt
  16. The Pillars of The Earth by Ken Follett
  17. Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry
  18. It Can’t Happen Here by Sinclair Lewis
  19. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien
  20. The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster

The  challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List by Sunday, September, 22. I am eager to see which one it will be, as all of these are either great favorites, or books I’ve long been meaning to read. 

July 17, 2024

Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (Paris in July 2024)




Madame Bovary has come to me twice in my life. Both times were when my heart was ripped and torn by another. When I was seventeen, I sympathized with her; now I blame her.

She was the lovely daughter of a farmer, who caught Charles Bovary’s eye when he came to attend to her father. After repeatedly visiting their home, for Charles is enraptured, he asks her to marry him. And so, she becomes the wife of a well-meaning, but not very proficient, doctor.

This is not enough for her. When invited to a ball, she dances with a dashing viscount, and thereafter yearns for such romance. For someone who would carry a green leather cigarette case, with his initials monogrammed on the outside. Her life begins to bore, and eventually dissatisfy her, in small amounts at first. She makes eyes with a clerk, Leon, and he with her, until he leaves the town afraid of compromising them both.

And then, she meets Rodolphe. He is a master at enticing women, intending nothing more lasting than a momentary dalliance. But, to Emma Bovary, he becomes everything.

“Oh, I will have her,” he cried, striking a blow with his stick at a clod in front of him. And he at once began to consider the political part of the enterprise, “Where shall we meet?” 

She leaves her home at dawn, to walk to his, waking him in his bed with her tender kisses. They meet in the garden of her home, finding every opportunity to be together. She buys him beautiful things which she cannot afford, from Lheureux, who obsequiously gives her everything she desires. Until he does not.

Rodolphe sends her word, the night before they are to leave together, that he cannot come. She is too good for him, blah, blah, blah. Emma is thrown into despair, which only becomes worse when Lheureux demands the money for what she has so carelessly bought. He will not be assuaged any longer, and in utter panic Emma goes to the chemist shop next door, stuffing handfuls of arsenic into her mouth.



Hers is a death most horrific; I will never forget the black liquid flowing from her mouth when she is being dressed for burial. Charles mourns her with everything he is; she was too foolish to see what she had in his love.

Flaubert has described the hunger some women possess to be loved by someone who thrills them; the steadfast love of a husband does not suffice. Instead, they are drawn to danger, to romance, to fulfillment which is not possible from a lover. It cannot satisfy, it cannot last. We find this in Anna Karenina, and again in Emma Bovary. They are two of my favorite novels, reminding me not to put my love where it should not go. 

As Gustave Flaubert has written, “We must not touch our idols, the gilt sticks to our fingers.”

(I read this book specifically for Paris in July, the links for which can be found here.)

June 5, 2024

Knife by Salman Rushdie “Language was my knife.”

 
 

We would not be who we are today without the calamities of our yesterdays. (p.38) 

Knife, by Salman Rushdie, was surprisingly accessible to me because Midnight’s Children was somewhat of a challenge. I am neither a writer, nor a victim, but I have been greatly intrigued by his account of being stabbed on August 12, 2022, in Chautauqua, New York. Rushdie’s life was irrevocably changed; for one thing,  he has not been able to see out of his right eye since.

But, that doesn’t mean he has lost his insight. Using his fondness for free association, he draws connections that are not readily apparent. Take, for example, the description of his attacker:

My Assailant, my would-be Assassin, the Asinine man who made Assumptions about me, and with whom I had a near lethal Assignation…I have found myself thinking of him, perhaps unforgivably, as an Ass. However, for the purposes of this text, I will refer to him more decorously as “the A.” What I call him in the privacy of my home is my business. 

This is such beautiful alliteration, sentences that I would love to show the students in my class if I was still teaching. There are many more passages throughout this book which made me pause and stick a flag onto the page I was reading.

Taking us back in time, before the knife attack, but after the coronavirus onslaught in 2020, he and his new wife, Eliza, go to Italy.

Italy felt like a miracle, wrapping us in an old friend’s warm embrace. 

“Of course!” I say in my heart. “That’s exactly what Italy does!” 

And, I’m intrigued by the way he extrapolates on the usage of a knife. A wedding knife, he writes, is part of a ritual which joins people together. A kitchen knife is an essential part of cooking, and a Swiss Army Knife is a helper. 

Language, too, was a knife. It could cut open the world and reveal its meaning, its inner workings, its secrets, its truths. It could cut through from one reality to another. It could call bullshit, open people’s eyes, create beauty. Language was my knife.  

As he slowly begins to recover from the brutal stabbing, Salman Rushdie contemplates the meaning of freedom. 

I was in no state to talk about freedom. It was a word that had become a minefield. Ever since conservatives started laying claim to it (Freedom Tower, freedom fries), liberals and progressives had started backing away from it toward new definitions of the social good according to which people would no longer be entitled to dispute the new norms. Protecting the rights and sensibilities of groups perceived as vulnerable would take precedence over freedom of speech, which the Nobel laureate Elias Canetti had called “the tongue set free.” …The First Amendment was now what allowed conservatives to lie, abuse, to denigrate. 

It is hard for me not to take offense at Rushdie’s intense scorn for those who don’t adhere to his political persuasion. I have thought a lot about the paragraph above, gaining a fresh perspective towards what Rushdie calls the “perceived vulnerable,” and resentment that he believes conservatives “lie, abuse, and denigrate.” 

I cannot imagine a more appropriate city for Salman Rushdie to admire than New York. He described himself as a city boy, and where else, besides Los Angeles, could such a liberal person be content? He explains the joy of coming home, watching the World Cup on television, and finding the “news better in many ways. (Not the real news, which was full of insane gun violence and equally insane Trump and Trumpublicans, as usual.)”

He feels free to criticize conservatives, which he does liberally throughout the book, as any man without a strong faith would do. But, I don’t call him a Demonrat. I read his book, open to his ideas and compassionate about his suffering. Many of his observations I found powerful and brilliant. Yet I close the book knowing that I could never recommend it to my book club. There is too much political fodder to be thrown about, which is not nearly as interesting, to me, as recovering from an attempt on his life.

“Words are the only victors,” he writes. It is a lovely thought for writers and readers, alike. But, words are what Rushdie believes in, whereas I believe in the Lord. And therein lies our ideological difference, like a knife which divides.


June 2, 2024

Sunday Salon: Looking forward to Summer


Tomorrow is the first day of aquatics at Centennial Beach. It is my favorite day of Summer, because the water is never fresher, never cooler, than on this day. It is before the bus loads of campers come, jumping into the water with skin that has last been bathed who knows when. But, let’s not think of that…let’s think of the quarry-turned-pool that my brother and I have been swimming in since we were wee ones. It is glorious! 

Speaking of wee ones…that would not have been a normal part of my vocabulary had I not just finished Tana French’s book, The Hunter. Now I have an Irish dialect going pleasantly through my mind. I feel that I have been living in the small, fictional town in which her latest book is set, Ardnakelty; if it weren’t for the community of villagers, it would be great. Only a few are noble; the rest seem like small minded, malicious, gossipers. It is the perfect setting for a murder, and more complicated issues regarding relationships, written as only Tana French can. The Hunter is the second book set in Ardnakelty, with ex-policeman Cal Hooper, following The Searcher. It is the first book of my 20 Books of Summer. 

I am currently reading Salman Rushdie’s Knife, thoroughly transfixed by his tale of being stabbed in New York just before giving a speech on the safety of writers. In an America which is unlike any I have known before, I do not take our freedoms lightly. I do not even assume we have any of the rights we always did.

But, as Readerbuzz does in her own post, it is better to share three happy things of the week:

1. The low, steady thrum of the cicadas has a surprisingly calming effect on me.

2. My Canadian mother loved her Chicago-style hot dog which we ate on Memorial Day, which was an utter surprise to me. (She doesn’t like most American food.)

3. I have finally determined, once and for all, which journal system is the one I am most content with. More on that in an upcoming post.

May your new week be filled with joyous wonders, and Summer surprises.


 Sunday Salon posts are hosted by Readerbuzz here.

May 25, 2024

A House Like An Accordian by Audrey Burges “We all want to know where we came from.”


Keryth discovers one morning that her hand is disappearing. It is fading from sight completely, such that she finds a pair of green gloves, and puts them on before coming down to her husband, Max, and her two daughters. Only Keryth understands what is going on, and what she must do: she must find her father, the man who could draw things into existence. The man who told her not to use her own artistic skill, but instead taught her to be afraid of it. Keryth grew up believing that whenever she was creative, harm would come to those she loved.

Her brother, for example, tragically disappeared into a pond one horrible night when she was sixteen. Her boyfriend, Tobias, was left behind by Keryth, lest he too, become wounded by her.

Her husband, Max, uses Artificial Intelligence to “recreate” his father, Harold. Harold’s voice speaks to the family from the ceiling, or his nimbus appears on their phones, suddenly giving advice when it is needed. And, sometimes, when it is not. It seems that both Keryth and Max are trying to recover things that they have lost. Or, more importantly, the people they have lost.

In this book of fantasy, I found myself pierced by many of the things that Keryth feels. “I wanted to be perfect, and I wanted to be perfect right away, without any practice at all.” Of course this is a completely unrealistic expectation, but one I have experienced myself when I, too, was a child.

She draws a Stellar jay in her sketchbook, a bird who seems trapped within its pages. In many ways, this bird resembles Keryth herself. “There’s a bird in my book,” I wanted to say. “And I’m the bird, and I don’t know how to set myself free anymore.”

And so, Keryth leaves her family behind, to let herself move forward. To find out where her father was, and what he was doing, as her disappearing hand, then arm, was directly linked to him. “He was drawing me - I knew I had to find him.”

It is a strange and magical journey on which she embarks. In some ways, my imagination was greatly stretched. In others, I find that journey to be exactly what it entails to find the answers we want: to know who we are, and from where we came. 

(I thank Berkley for the opportunity to read and review A House Like An Accordian, and to participate in the blog tour for its publication on May 21, 2024.)

May 24, 2024

Memorial Day weekend begins, but first the cicadas…

Can you hear the cicadas where you live? When I’m cycling down the bike path, or walking along the river, there is a persistent thrum almost like alien spaceships on The Twilight Zone episodes we watch every New Year’s Eve. These aren’t locusts, I’m told, the insects of the eighth plague from which Pharaoh begged Moses to be free. These are specific broods of cicadas, and that is about all I want to know about them.



When I went to the public library to pick up a few books I had on hold, the children’s section had free coloring sheets from the Illinois Extension of the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. Always appeasing the child within, I picked up a few pages and happily spent the morning with it and my colored pencils.



But, there is a more serious aspect to this weekend. Memorial Day brings a somber mood to me. I grew up with the Vietnam War very up close. Our neighborhood suffered the loss of several young men, in what seems a cruel, and pointless war. (Aren’t they all?) Some of my dearest friends went to college so they would not be drafted. 



My father came home from the Korean War. My son escaped the war in Afghanistan when he was a Marine.  But, so many have not come home, have not escaped. I remember their sacrifice. This is not a weekend for only enjoying  picnics and parades. It is to remember that we are the country which is the land of the free, and the home of the brave, because of those who have fought to keep it that way. May we always remember.

May 18, 2024

Twenty Books of Summer. Or, Looking Forward To Fulfilling This Year’s Reading Events from the Blogging World.

 


One of the best things about blogging sporadically, as I have been doing, is coming back to the beloved events which continue on each year. I have spent the most joyous evening comprising my list for 20 Books of Summer, which happily include books for other challenges, as well as books promised to review for publishers, and books I’ve simply been longing to open.



For Paris in July 2024, I’ve chosen to read:


The Postcard by Anne Berest



The Paris Novel by Ruth Reichl

and


Paris to the Moon by Adam Gopnik, which is a reread for me.


For A Year With John Banville, I’ve chosen to read:


The Sea by John Banville



For Reading Orwell 2024, I’ve chosen to read:


1984 by George Orwell 



And for Moomin Week I’ve chosen to read:



Moominsummer Madness by Tove Jansson

And now we come to books I’ve promised to review for the publishers who sent them to me, including:


youthjuice by e.k. sathue




Tasmania by Paolo Giordano







Catalina by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio





Women And Children First by Alina Grabowski


And for these books which have caught my eye and I’ve purchased on my own:


Her Side of The Story by Alba De Cespedes (because I loved Forbidden Notebook)


Long Island by Colm Toibin


The Hunter by Tana French 




The New York Trilogy by Paul Auster, as I have never read it and was saddened to read of his death on May 7, 2024 at age 77.

If you’ve been counting, this is only 19 books. The 20th will be the book of Revelation, last book of the Bible, in preparation for Bible Study Fellowship International this Fall. We will be studying this book during the 2024-2025 year, for which I am so honored to lead a group of women. 

And so, as my grandfather would say after finishing a hearty meal, “That oughtta hold you!” Indeed, I think it shall. Except, how will I wait until June to begin?


May 1, 2024

Robert B. Parker and Spenser. Oh, that they still lived.


“Nothing makes a thriller look better than the International Booker Prize longlist this year.”


I found this thought, while flipping through my Hobonichi, written this March. While it may surprise you that I found the list of books chosen to contend for the International Booker Prize 2024 less than inspiring, it should not come as a surprise to learn of my passion for thrillers. Mysteries that are well written, that is. Mysteries like those written by Tana French, or Ken Follett, or most especially, Robert B. Parker.

I’d refer you to posts I’ve written about Robert B. Parker’s Spenser series, but they’re all deleted. So, I’ll have to tell you here, briefly, that Spenser is everything I love in a man.

He is brave and strong and courageous. He has integrity and compassion and excellence. He is witty and tender and tough all at the same time. Parker gives us a complete picture of this character, so real he seems born of flesh to me.

But, I also love that Parker speaks of things long gone, which I remember clearly. Like eating at a Hamburger Hamlet, or a kid turning on the television, and waiting for it to warm up before watching My Three Sons. I like being reminded of the styles in decades past, such as the horrible polyester suits with white leather belts, or mini skirts and jumpsuits. It’s such a wonderful, nostalgic gift to me.

I have read all of the Spenser books before, but this time, I am rereading them in order. Starting from the very first, The Godwulf Manuscript, (which, frankly, isn’t nearly as developed as the subsequent books in the series) and working my way to the very last Silent Night, which is the fortieth book.

Along the way we meet Hawk and Susan Silverman, Rachel Wallace and Paul Giacomin. Their relationships deepen and develop as we go along, and I am in my element, spending time as if with friends. As soon as I put down my iPad, I will pick up book number eight, A Savage Place. But, it will be hard to surpass what may be my favorite of all, which I have just finished: Early Autumn, in which Spenser assumes responsibility for a fifteen year old kid, rejected by his parents, to help him grow into a man of his own.

April 23, 2024

Ten Unread Books on My Shelves That I Want To…Plan To…WILL…Read.

If you are new here, you will discover that the books I am most passionate about are the ones which are in translation. The books that have been translated from their original language into English offer me perspectives and insights that I do not often find in books which are typical best sellers in the States. Books in translation give me a virtual trip, a true escape, and for all of these reasons, I reach for them over and over. Here are some of the ones I’ve most recently purchased, but laid aside as I read the longlist for the International Booker Prize 2024 longlist:












(Clicking on the image will take you to the publisher’s link for each title.)


Might I add that I am particularly eager for Her Side of The Story by Alba De Cespedes, above, as Forbidden Notebook by her “ticked all my boxes”. 

Have you read any of these? Have you even heard of any of these? You can be sure I’ll write about them at some point on my blog, if any seem to particularly catch your interest.

Find Top Ten Tuesday links for this topic here.

April 21, 2024

Sunday Salon for April 21, 2024



It is gorgeous here, in Illinois. So often, Spring is gone in an instant, overcome by rain or freezing temperatures. But, this year I am relishing the daffodils, the tulips, the Redbuds, and the Bradford Pear trees. Everything is a harbinger of hope, and fresh beginnings; no wonder April 1 was once the start of the New Year.

I have a new beginning myself, returning once again to Blogger. Wordpress said I was out of space, and so I came back to where it all began in 2006. This time, there are no old posts, only new ones yet to be written.

We had dinner with my son last night, in his new apartment. He cooked us Wild Caught Salmon, and grass-fed beef, with a side of stir fried vegetables. This son of mine, now age 33, brings to fruition this verse: “Train up a child in the way he shall go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”  ~Proverbs 22:6 I struggled to believe this when he was in High School.


I have so enjoyed the 1937 Club this week. There are many books I did not get to, such as Ali and Nino by Kurban Said, or The Nutmeg Tree by Margery Sharp. I wanted to reread The Hobbit, and On The Banks of Plum Creek. But finishing the longlist for the International Booker prize longlist has taken precedence, and I was lucky to squeeze in How Then Do You Live? by Genzaburo Yoshino.

I’m off to read the reviews written for books published in 1937, left on Kaggsy’s site, as well as other posts for the Sunday Salon. May your new week be as beautiful as it is here.