My book is now available for ordering from Broadstone Books! (You will be able to order it from other booksellers, including Amazon, but it will cost a little more so why not support the small press?) It will be out on July 15!
“In days before selfies and social media, postcards were a ubiquitous feature of travel, providing both means of communication with friends and family while away, and souvenirs of journeys once back home. Even if not quite gone, they seem more than a little nostalgic now, as do many of the poems in Jeanne Griggs’ new collection,Postcard Poems. By choosing to present her poems as short notes that could fit on a postcard, she has opted for a formal brevity; and the conceit of holiday communication allows her to write both about place (so that her poems are often both ekphrastic and epistolary – a…
We biked again last Saturday and hope to return to the trail this weekend.
Although the city has not yet implemented watering restrictions, our part of the world is experiencing a severe drought. It may not be apparent on the trail, but in our neighborhood, lawns are dormant, lake and creek levels are low, and new plants are dying. According to our contractor, however, this is excellent house-painting weather, so there’s that. Between you and me? I’m willing to wager that if not the snap of burlap stretched over the ornamentals then the slap of primer on the siding will be the magic rainstick that shakes some precipitation from the sky next week.
■ Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (J.K. Rowling; 2005. Fiction.) Perhaps I was a bit harsh when writing about my HP reread last year, “[T]he flaws have become too big to hide under a long sweater of sentiment. They’re just not particularly well-stitched, are they?” This from a woman who has (speaking of sweaters), year in and year out, from the first cool-enough morning in October until the first too-warm morning in April, donned the same tatty, misshapen gray bundle of yarn with sleeves to take her first cup of coffee. Well-stitched or not, both the stories and my ugly old sweater comfort me. And that’s not a bad thing. No, not at all.
■ The Goshawk (T.H. White; 1951. Non-fiction.) p. 23 It has never been easy to learn life from books.
p. 38 Here comes (one thought, suddenly catching oneself out) that excellent piece of work called man, with his capacity for looking before and after, his abilities to reflect upon the enigmas of philosophy, and the minted storehouse of an education that had cost between two and three thousand pounds, walking sideways to a tied bird, with his hand held out in front of him, looking the other way and meowing like a cat.
To the list “Things I did when I wasn’t reading this weekend,” add “Biking.” With the ghosts of two memorable spills in mind, we stuck to walks and the exercise bike last year to avoid the ER and urgent care during the pandemic. Today’s, then, was our first ride in twenty months.
Since my last annotated list, I’ve read eight books for a year-to-date total of ninety-four. At the end of next month, I’ll sort out how this positions me to meet my goals.
Three graphic works:
■ Imagine Wanting Only This (Kristen Radtke; 2017. Graphic non-fiction.) ■ Drawn to Berlin: Comic Workshops in Refugee Shelters and Other Stories from a New Europe (Ali Fitzgerald; 2018. Graphic non-fiction.) ■ The Book Tour (Andi Watson; 2019. Graphic fiction.)
A gorgeous (and highly recommended) volume of poetry:
■ Stag’s Leap (Sharon Olds; 2012. Poetry.)
Two “vacation books”:
■ The Brutal Telling (Louise Penny; 2009. Fiction.) ■ The Last (Hanna Jameson; 2019. Fiction.)
The twentieth in my quest to reread all of Shakespeare’s plays:
■ Richard III (William Shakespeare; 1594. Drama.)
For the Cardiff BookTalk:
■ To the Lighthouse (Virginia Woolf; 1927. Fiction.) From Chapter XVII of “The Window”:
But what have I done with my life? thought Mrs. Ramsay, taking her place at the head of the table, and looking at the plates making white circles on it. “William, sit by me,” she said. “Lily,” she said, wearily, “over there.” They had that — Paul Rayley and Minta Doyle — she, only this — an infinitely long table and plates and knives. At the far end, was her husband, sitting down, all in a heap, frowning. What at? She did not know. She did not mind. She could not understand how she ever felt any emotion or affection for him. She had a sense of being past everything, through everything, out of everything, as she helped the soup, as if there were an eddy — there — and one could be in it, or one could be out of it, and she was out of it. It’s all come to an end, she thought, while they came in one after another, Charles Tansley — “Sit there, please,” she said — August Carmichael — and sat down. And meanwhile she waited, passively, for some one to answer her, for something to happen. But this is not a thing, she thought, ladling out soup, that one says.
From Chapter V of “The Lighthouse”:
And she wanted to say not one thing, but everything. Little words that broke up the thought and dismembered it said nothing. “About life, about death; about Mrs. Ramsay” — no, she thought, one could say nothing to nobody. The urgency of the moment always missed its mark. Words fluttered sideways and struck the object inches too low. Then one gave it up; then the idea sunk back again; then one became like most middle-aged people, cautious, furtive, with wrinkles between the eyes and a look of perpetual apprehension.
She has always done this, bellied up to a ledge, a box, a pillow, a leg, an armrest, a stack of books, then crossed her arms to hang out for a bit. That she did it when I set down my new books to photograph — and that she then looked me right in the eye as I held the camera — was unheard of.
Recently, Joseph asked how I decide which books to add to the collection. I located an entry on that topic from the archive of my original site, but much has changed in the sixteen years since that was posted. Besides, although I talk about living in a library, it really is a sort ofantilibrary, as more than half of its contents are books I haven’t yet read. As I’ve written before, while this once embarrassed me, it now alternately enlivens and frightens me. From early in Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable:
The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and the others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.
The independent bookstore we chose to visit was every bit as lovely as the reviews and local word-of-mouth had suggested, even though it had only recently reopened to the public. Apart from the garden center and an IKEA stop last summer, this adventure was the first in-person shopping I’d done since March 8, 2020.
Walks in new places. Games in the evening. A few errands. Meals from new-to-us restaurants. A trip to at least one independent bookstore. And plenty of time together. That’s all we hoped for from the week. It was absolutely wonderful.
Since my last annotated list, I’ve read thirteen books, for a total of eighty-six so far this year, sixty-five of which were from my shelves. My reading goals mirror last year’s: one hundred books from my shelves (i.e., books in my collection before the end of 2020), including at least twenty-four non-fiction titles and at least one book from each of the following categories: Shakespeare (by, about, retold, etc.) poetry, NYRB, Kurt Vonnegut (by or about), Joyce Carol Oates, philosophy, art, and children’s / YA. At this writing, all of this seems achievable as I have more than six months to read thirty-five more books from the shelves, including eight non-fiction works and something from the Vonnegut, NYRB, and art collections.
My quest to reread all of Shakespeare’s plays this year is going well; I’ve now finished twenty, most recently:
■ Henry VI, Part One (William Shakespeare; 1591. Drama.) ■ Henry VI, Part Two (William Shakespeare; 1591. Drama.) ■ Henry VI, Part Three (William Shakespeare; 1591. Drama.) ■ Julius Caesar (William Shakespeare; 1599. Drama.) ■ Coriolanus (William Shakespeare; 1605. Drama.)
Julius Caesar (“You blocks, you stones, you worse than senseless things!”) and Coriolanus (“Hear you this Triton of the minnows?”) have always been particular favorites of mine, so it is unsurprising that I loved rereading them, but this, my third, time through the Henry IV plays was so much more rewarding than the prior two. In addition to better understanding the history that informs the plays, I also have a firmer grasp on the many characters’ relationships to one another.
■ The Brothers Karamazov (Fyodor Dostoevsky; 1880. (Trans. Constance Garnett.) Fiction.) Three posts about reading this with an online book group: one, two, three.
■ A Swim in a Pond in the Rain (George Saunders; 2021. Non-fiction.) I recommended this book in the third of my book group posts (linked above). Here are two commonplace book passages:
p. 103 We’re always rationally explaining and articulating things. But we’re at our most intelligent in the moment just before we start to explain or articulate. Great art occurs — or doesn’t — in that instant. What we turn to art for is precisely this moment, when we “know“ something (we feel it) but can’t articulate it because it’s too complex and multiple. But the “knowing” at such moments, though happening without language, is real. I’d say this is what art is for: to remind us that this sort of knowing is not only real, it’s superior to our usual (conceptual, reductive) way.
p. 283 There is no world save the one we make with our minds, and the mind’s predisposition determines the type of world we see.
■ Gideon Falls, Vol. 6: The End (Jeff Lemire; 2021. Graphic fiction.) This concluded the series.
■ The Collector of Hearts (Joyce Carol Oates; 1998. Fiction.) In his Cardiff BookTalk, Tyler Keevil mentioned that this short story collection not only inspired his most recent novel, Your Still Beating Heart, but also serves as a work he teaches in his university classes. I actually preferred Oates’ most recent collection, The (Other) You.
■ Meditations (Marcus Aurelius; 180 A.D. (Trans. Gregory Hays.) Non-fiction.) From entry 4.3:
Men seek retreats for themselves – in the country, by the sea, in the hills – and you yourself are particularly prone to this yearning. But all this is quite unphilosophic, when it is open to you, at any time you want, to retreat into yourself. No retreat offers someone more quiet and relaxation than that into his own mind, especially if he can dip into the thoughts there which put him at immediate and complete ease: and by ease I mean a well-ordered life. So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself. The doctrines you will visit there should be few and fundamental, sufficient at one meeting to wash away all your pain and send you back free of resentment at what you must rejoin.
From entry 11.1:
It reflects that our successors will see nothing new, just as our predecessors saw nothing more than we do: such is the sameness of things, a man of forty with any understanding whatsoever has in a sense seen all the past and all the future.
■ The Woman Upstairs (Claire Messud; 2013. Fiction.) When I reshelved The Burning Girl, I pulled this down. NPR interview here and review here
Portions of our neighborhood were developed with older residents in mind, and the reasonably well maintained sidewalks and paths make daily walks as easy as after-lunch naps. While my husband and I regularly walk three miles in the neighborhood before he begins work each weekday, though, we prefer to get out to a conservation area or state park on the weekends. The image above was taken last Sunday.
My quest to reread all of Shakespeare’s plays this year is going well: I’ve completed nineteen at this writing. Right now, the last two books of the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius and the feverishly unreliable narrator of Claire Messud’s The Woman Upstairs have captured my attention.