In 2017, I participated in a book group that tackled War and Peace in seventeen weeks. This time, I’m reading with the Tolstoy Together 2021 participants.
The Prisma app filters can make a meh image pop, so I appreciate them, even if that’s not what the big kids are doing. And, by the way, how did I not already own The Power and the Glory?
When I last wrote about my music studies, I was working on the second of Petites Etudes Mélodiques by Ernesto Köhler, Op. 33, Book 1. I am now working on the second of 18 Studies for Flute by Joachim Anderson, Op. 1. Neat symmetry there. This means that I am about halfway through Robert Cavally’s Melodious and Progressive Studies from Andersen, Gariboldi, Koehler, and Terschak for Flute, Book 1.
I returned to in-person lessons with my private instructor in mid-May, but I have decided not to return to band. By the time I checked in for a few Zoom rehearsals with them this summer, the group had shrunk to seven members. In-person rehearsals resumed this month, but for now I will fulfill the “play well with others” aspect of my music education by working on duets with my husband. After some success on a few short selections from Rubank’s 78 Duets for Flute and Clarinet: Volume 1, we are tackling Nick Homes’ arrangement of George Gershwin’s “Summertime.” It is much harder than Homes and Charro Flores make it sound, but we’re enjoying the challenge. My teacher also continues to assign duet work; I am polishing the last two (of ten!) pages of Haydn’s Duetto No. VI, Op. 101 (Based on Quartet, Op. 17, No.6), which is the second selection in Selected Duets for Flute, Volume II (Advanced).
I prepared “Scherzino” (Joachim Anderson, Op. 55, No. 6) from Robert Cavally’s 24 Short Concert Pieces for the spring recital, but when the program moved from the recorded Zoom format to an in-person venue, I withdrew and simply supported my studiomates from the (live) audience. (I also attended two delightful senior recitals this summer.) My current solo is “Hungarian Sérénade” (Victorin Joncières), also from the Cavally edition, which I will present for the last time at next week’s lesson.
The flute organization I joined last year sponsors a vibrant and motivational program of online seminars with such artists and teachers as Paul Edmund-Davies, Gaspar Hoyos, and Raimundo Pineda. Some of their exercises, tips, and practical wisdom have made their way into my daily practice, which has expanded to include the additional duet:
— 20 minutes: long tones and scale work
— 20 minutes: Melodious and Progressive Studies
— 20 minutes: assigned duet
— 15 to 20 minutes: second duet
— 15 minutes: rhythmical articulation
— 15 to 20 minutes: solo
As someone who feels she achieves more if the day has reliable rhythms (unintentional pun), I have taken to rising by 5 a.m. each day to complete daily chores and walk three or four miles before my husband starts his work. Over the last few months, I’ve added thirty minutes on the exercise bike and some simple stretching and weight work. After showering and catching up on paperwork and whatnot, then, I now generally begin my music practice by 10 a.m. and finish in time to prepare lunch, which leaves me the remainder of the day for reading and other pursuits.
As I said last September, music ameliorates the isolating effects of the pandemic; I remain so grateful for the opportunity to continue my studies.
We arrived at the trail for our four-mile walk just after sunrise, and since returning home, we’ve knocked out the few outdoor chores on our list. The calendar may read September, but the weather indicates mid-July: Highs today and tomorrow may hit ninety or more. That sounds like my cue to lower the blinds and the thermostat and settle in with a stack of books after my music practice.
This weekend, I’m reading Marisel Vera’s The Taste of Sugar (2020) for an upcoming Chicago Humanities Festival event, and Laura Lippman’s most recent bestseller, Dream Girl, which is my “Farewell, summer!” selection.
Image captured at the conservation district on Labor Day.
From Book II, Chapter 15, of Middlemarch:
I at least have so much to do in unraveling certain human lots, and seeing how they were woven and interwoven, that all the light I can command must be concentrated on this particular web, and not dispersed over that tempting range of relevancies called the universe.
Although I missed the August meetings of book group, I did finish (re)reading Middlemarch and have returned in time for our three remaining meetings this month.
Book Five, Chapter 44
He distrusted her affection; and what loneliness is more lonely than distrust?
Book Five, Chapter 46
Our sense of duty must often wait for some work which shall take the place of dilettanteism and make us feel that the quality of our action is not a matter of indifference.
Book Five, Chapter 50
“… [T]here are always people who can’t forgive a man for differing from them.”
I also finished reading Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch.
Coming to languages too late for effortless fluency, she set about achieving what she could through resolution and determination. She found an outlet for her hungry ambition by reshaping herself into an intellectual. She turned her yearning into learning.
Books — or texts, as they were called by those versed in theory — weren’t supposed merely to be read, but to be interrogated, as if they had committed some criminal malfeasance.
Such an approach to fiction — where do I see myself in here? — is not how a scholar reads, and it can be limiting and its solipsism. It’s hardly an enlarging experience to read a novel as if it were a mirror of oneself. One of the useful functions of literary criticism and scholarship is to suggest alternative lenses through which a book might be read.
A book group member recommended The Readers Karamazov podcast, which began its second season with a four-episode discussion of Middlemarch. (And, yes, I must go back and listen to their The Brothers Karamazov episodes.) What a terrific resource! I enjoyed their insights so much that I plan to read along for the rest of this season. Candide (Voltaire; 1759. (Trans. John Butt; 1947.), their next selection, was a reread for me.
In my quest to reread all of Shakespeare’s plays, I have finished Twelfth Night and Troilus and Cressida since my last annotated list.
Under the heading “beach reads” (although I spent no time at the beach this summer), file the following:
■ The House in the Cerulean Sea (TJ Klune; 2020. Fiction.)
It struck him, then, just who this house belonged to, and how much of an honor this would be. For an adult sprite, their dwelling was their most important possession. It was their home where all their secrets were kept. Sprites were notorious for their privacy, and he had no doubt that Phee would one day be the same, though he hoped she would remember the time spent at Marsyas in her youth. She wouldn’t have to be so alone.
■ The Turnout (Megan Abbott; 2021. Fiction.)
■ The Plot (Jean Hanff Korelitz; 2021. Fiction.)
■ A Trick of the Light (Louise Penny; 2011. Fiction.)
The Inspector Gamache series is actually a number of steps up from “beach read.” As always, many thanks to Robin for recommending these books.
My recent graphic work selections include:
■ Odessa (Jonathan Hill; 2020. Graphic fiction.)
■ The Hard Tomorrow (Eleanor Davis; 2019. Graphic fiction.)
■ Sweet Tooth: The Return (Jeff Lemire; 2021. Graphic non-fiction.)
■ It’s Not What You Thought It Would Be (Lizzy Stewart; 2021. Graphic non-fiction.)
■ Seek You: A Journey through American Loneliness (Kristen Radtke; 2021. Graphic non-fiction.)
Radtke’s Seek You is a gorgeous read. Highly recommended.
■ Gilead (Marilynne Robinson; 2004. Fiction.)
Speaking of gorgeous reads, how did this languish on my shelves for seventeen years? Beautiful, beautiful.
Well, see and see but do not perceive, hear and hear but do not understand, as the Lord says. I can’t claim to understand that saying, as many times as I’ve heard it, and even preached on it. It simply states a deeply mysterious fact. You can know a thing to death and be for all purposes completely ignorant of it. A man can know his father, or his son, and there might still be nothing between them but loyalty and love and mutual incomprehension.
But I’ve developed a great reputation for wisdom by ordering more books than I ever had time to read, and reading more books, by far, than I learned anything useful from, except, of course that some very tedious gentleman have written books. This is not a new insight, but the truth of it is something you have to experience to fully grasp.
We take fortuitous resemblances among us to be actual likeness, because those around us have also fallen heir to the same customs, trade in the same coin, acknowledge, more or less, the same notions of decency and sanity. But all that really just allows us to coexist with the inviolable, untraversable, and utterly vast spaces between us.
I was thinking about the things that had happened here just in my lifetime — the droughts and the influenza and the Depression and three terrible wars. It seems to me now we never looked up from the trouble we had just getting by to put the obvious question, that is, to ask what it was the Lord was trying to make us understand.
I love the prairie! So often I have seen the dawn come and the light flood over the land and everything turned radiant at once, that word “good” so profoundly affirmed my soul that I am amazed I should be allowed to witness such a thing.
Recent non-fiction selections included:
■ Fulfillment: Winning and Losing in One-Click America (Alec MacGillis; 2021)
■ Witch-Hunt: Mysteries of the Salem Witch Trials (Marc Aronson; 2003)
■ The 57 Bus: A True Story of Two Teenagers and the Crime That Changed Their Lives (Dashka Slater; 2017)
Original article here.
■ Green Shadows, White Whale (Ray Bradbury; 1992. Fiction.)
I read Bradbury’s fictionalized account of his travels to Ireland to write the script of Moby Dick for an upcoming Newberry Library program.
■ Medea (Euripides (trans. D. Raynor); 431 B.C. Drama.)
Read before seeing the excellent 2014 production streaming on National Theatre at Home. I also enjoyed the related Reading Greek Tragedy Online episode, which can be found here.
The question: Why would one would set the alarm for 5 a.m. on a holiday?
Over the long weekend, I’ll pull together a post about the books I read in August. Until then, here are a few recent acquisitions.
It has been nearly two years since we last visited the Milwaukee Art Museum. We had the place practically to ourselves yesterday.
In May, when we first visited the arboretum, the rhododendron garden was on vibrant, colorful display. In this pause before autumn, though, it’s still lovely.
Color me grateful this readerly refuge survived the pandemic.