Musings and Amusings

Posts tagged ‘books’

Annie Proulx and William Matthews

Phantom by William Matthews

Phantom by William Matthews

If Alice Munro’s short stories are lazy river reading, Annie Proulx’s tales mimic her Wyoming rivers – indolent rivulets trickling through thirsty summer creek beds; rivulets that turn with a flash of lightning into raging swollen walls of water.

Stories bubbling and churning downstream with sharp twists that uproot everyone caught in their unforgiving path.

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Good, Better, Best – Alice Munro

Although I was somewhat disappointed in the first two Annies I read for my Annie Project, the stars aligned with my final three selections. (Future posts for Annie Proulx and Edward Abbey.)

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Will the Real Annie Please Stand Up?

Did any of you watch that 50’s-60’s show called ‘What’s My Line?’ where four people come on stage and say something like, “I’m Annie, and I’m an author”?

Only one of them was really an author named Annie but they all answered author-ish questions from a panel of celebrities (Dorothy Kilgallen, Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf) who would then guess which contestant was the real Annie.

Finally the host, John Charles Daly, would say, “Will the real Annie please stand up?” and the audience would gasp at how cleverly the contestants fooled the panel.

That’s how I felt back in January when Elizabeth wrote about reading Anne LaMott’s book Small Victories.

The gist of our comments was:

Me: “I’m so glad you are enjoying Annie Dillard …

 Elizabeth: “Who is Annie Dillard?”

 BAM!

I’d done it again. Been flummoxed by the Annies.

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Maps and A Sense of Place

What is a map if not ultimately a tool to help us in our discovery of ‘Place’?

Place can be as meaningless as a red X proclaiming, “You are Here” or as monumental as your internal compass at some point in your life’s journey whispering, “You belong Here.”

Occasionally Place can be conflicting heartstrings, as when you return to your childhood hometown, wanting to find what existed long ago exactly the way your memory locked it in.

Stranger or Friend

Book Cover for Stranger or Friend

Silvia Villalobos, an author and Romanian transplant to Los Angeles, recently published her first novel, Stranger or Friend in which Los Angeles lawyer, Zoe Sinclair, returns to her hometown only to find her best friend murdered and her mother succumbing to age-related illnesses and refusing medical care.

As Zoe investigates her friend’s murder, she finds once-friendly townspeople reluctant to share what they know. Zoe is forced to confront more challenging circumstances than she anticipated as she realizes how much the town she once knew has changed.

Silvia creates believable characters and relationships, and brings her story to a satisfactory conclusion (something I find missing in many novels). I recommend her novel for the storyline as well as the many themes Silvia incorporated. If anything, I hope she delves deeper into a few of her themes in her planned Zoe sequel, especially the conflicts that come as towns become more demographically diverse, forcing changing workforces and cultural adjustments.

What I enjoyed as much as the novel itself was the amount of thematic background Silvia provided during April’s A to Z Challenge. One theme that resonated with me is our human need to find our sense of place.

 In Silvia’s words, “People suffer through bad times – hurricanes, fires – and return to rebuild, as they feel they belong to the place as much as the place belongs to them.”

 Silvia’s novel takes place in Wyoming, and she specifically references the northwest corner of the state where Yellowstone National Park and the majestic Teton Mountain Range are the state’s crowning beauties.

from Google Images

Yellowstone’s Beehive Geyser from Google Images

from Google Images

Wyoming’s Teton Range from Google Images

While I have traveled to those tourist-heavy natural wonders, I know a different Wyoming – that of the central and eastern plains where families have passed down homestead ranches and where mineral excavation and oil/gas drilling are the lifeblood of the economy.

from Google Images

Wyoming Plains from Google Images

A Wyoming where the wind blows so steadily no matter the season; the snow blusters so forcefully; and the sun blisters so intensely, you’ve got to develop a thick crust and a ‘git ‘er done’ attitude to survive, let alone thrive. Silva rightfully uses weather as a driving theme in her novel, and highlights the effect it has on the sociability and personality of Wyoming’s residents.

Stegner photo

Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner Back Cover

While I was reading Silvia’s novel, I was finishing up Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner. Much to my surprise and delight, two of the final four stories, “The Wolfer” and “Carrion Spring” take place in Wyoming. Stegner wrote about the spring of 1907 after four months of brutal forty degree below zero cold snaps with intermittent wild, warming Chinook winds and continuous blizzard whiteouts and fog. Most of the cattle did not survive; the wolves were running rampant to feast on the carnage; and the wolfer and his vicious hound dog eventually succumbed in gruesome scenes when their trapping plan went awry.

Coincidentally, when I reread Silvia’s A to Z posts, I realized she quoted Wallace Stegner in her ‘Place’ post, “The knowledge of place that comes from working in it, making a living from it, suffering from its catastrophes, loving its mornings and evenings…”

Much as I like to think of myself as a Pioneer Woman, I haven’t worked the land in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico or Arizona nor suffered most of their catastrophes, but I love the Great Plains, Rocky Mountains and Southwest Desert. Every fiber in me knows this is where I belong … my sense of place.  Much of my heart resides with my Michigan family but Colorado is my rightful home.

Thanks to Silvia Villalobos and Wallace Stegner for celebrating ‘Place’.

I’m curious about my readers.

  •  Are you transplants who have found your ‘place’?
  • Lifelong residents of your birthplace?
  • Feel like a foreigner when revisiting your birthplace?
  • Multi-placers who split you time living in more than one place? If so, is one ‘home’?
  • Still seeking? How? Where?

I am also interested to hear about authors you like who write about ‘YOUR place’ in a way that holds meaning for you. (Prompt?)

Occasionally I scroll through Andrea Reads America where Andrea provides author quotes linking the author to their state . She reads and reviews several books taking place in a state then she ‘moves on’ to another state. Fascinating!

 

 

Coffee on Mother’s Day

Mothers day flowers

If we were having coffee, I’d say Congratulations and a Heartfelt Thank You to each of you Mothers undertaking the herculean task of raising children in today’s confusing and often contradictory societal norms.

Someday your children will thank you, too!

This I know because it took me years to understand and appreciate what my own Mother did for me. Not always what I wanted her to do, and I often wished I had someone else’s Mother for my own, but my Mother did her best and we all turned out ok in a relatively healthy and functionally, loving family.

Now I’m thankful she’s my Mom.

I’d also tell you this is why we don’t plant outdoors until after Mother’s Day.

Taken moments ago on Mother's Day

Taken moments ago on Mother’s Day

I’d tell you that my physical therapy sessions have ended successfully  … for now. I’m not all the way over the hump, and I fear a return to my ‘crippled, painful’ state, although the therapist assures me another 3-6 months of diligent effort on my part will be the most effective preventative.

It was time consuming to attend the sessions and do all the exercises multiple times per day at home, but my postural muscles have strengthened and realigned. My pain, although much diminished, returns if I stay in one position too long so I have to limit myself with seated activities or those like computer and reading that pull me forward. No more than 30 minutes without a readjustment. (Gravity, people. It’s not your friend!). Moving, stretching and changing positions frequently (as well as standing rather than sitting) are the key. In fact, I’m standing to write this with my laptop resting on a Swiffer Wets box to achieve proper level for arms and eyes. (I knew those Swiffer Wets would be good for something!)

The past few weeks, I’ve chosen playing keyboard and reading for my ‘lead to pain’ activities, rather than being on the computer, so my blogging frequency is still diminished. I hope to increase the frequency … time will tell. Usually it’s ‘you’re not good enough writer’s block’ that trips me up. Now I’m brimming with writing ideas and it’s my body dictating my productivity.

The ‘brimming with ideas’ synchs nicely with one of my 2015 Envisions – Mapping and Footsteps.

Not writing for so long, but continuing to read and mull has overloaded me with thoughts that are tangentially connected. If I’d been streaming all along, they wouldn’t be so jumbled. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it.

Today Hub left on a weeklong golf trip … the perfect time for me to immerse myself in sorting the jumble and experimenting with an organizational tool – Mapping. Many of you use various forms of manual or computer mapping. It’s new to me.

Visual mapping – not lists and outlines in notebooks where I can’t find what I’m looking for when I want it – but foam boards where I can pin or tape whatever seems to apply whenever I think of it. (Pinterest for Geriatrics …).

Where to start?

At the beginning!

image

Notes left to right – progression of posts ideas.

Notes top to bottom – details for specific ideas.

Post-its – questions on where/how to fit, insert or connect.

Photos, trinkets, and other visual stimulants to remind me that if I want to practice art, I need to consciously incorporate it into my writing plans.

I have a second foam board, or can quickly rearrange this one, as the posts sort themselves out.

image

These are all the books I am currently reading that support my Visual Mapping intentions or relate to my writing topics. I will write about specific books, topics and authors. I will pay tribute to a few of my blogging buddy authors as well as reflect impacts on my own life and values.

I hope this results in some worthwhile posts for you and me.

If not, we’ll commiserate over coffee.

Good Read – The Divorce Diet

Have you been knocked sideways by drifting snow and power outages? Has the natural (gloomy) light been enough to read? I hope so.

Today (Monday 2/16) was supposed to be Watercolors-in-my-basement Day, but suddenly I heard beeps; saw flickers; and was plunged into darkness. I felt my way along the wall up the stairs to my reading chair. Thank goodness for the nearby large picture window.

If you’ve ever lived in your head; cared for an infant; been dumped and divorced; dieted and ditched your diet … repeatedly … this recently published book is for you.  The Divorce Diet by Ellen Hawley (available at Amazon)

The Divorce Diet Written in a wickedly funny, Bridget-Jones-like, stream-of-consciousness inner dialogue, Abigail’s pluck carries her through multiple weighty burdens, any one of which is enough to compel a hand grab for calories.

It’s a fast read with loads of chuckles; a few winces; exercise even couch potatoes can embrace; and heartfelt admiration for an in-the-end triumphant Abigail.

The author, Ellen Hawley, is a native New Yorker transplanted to Cornwall, UK by way of decades in Minnesota. If that’s not enough to hint at her quirky perspective on the world, check out her blog.

My favorite-laugh-out loud post is Talking Trash to an I-Pad.

Try her; you’ll like her!

Sum-Sum-Summer Time

 

My favorite golf holes:

 

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Plus my favorite bike trails:

 

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Plus my good-grief-where’d-all-these-come-from summer reading stash:

 

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067

 

Equals not a whole lot of blogging time this summer!

 

Book List:

An Anthropologist on Mars by Oliver Sacks

The Baker’s Daughter by Sarah McCoy

This Time Together: Laughter and Reflection by Carol Burnett

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young

Danny: The Virtues Within by Jeremy Dunlap with Dan Dietz and Cindy Dietz-Marsh

Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D.

Pentimento by Lillian Hellman

Tiger, Meet My Sister … by Rick Reilly

The Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian

My Promised Land by Ari Shavit

The Inheritance by Louisa May Alcott

Crazy Salad & Scribble Scribble by Nora Ephron

The True Secret of Writing by Natalie Goldberg

Right Before Your Eyes by Ellen Shanman

The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh

Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake by Anna Quindlen

Imaginary Friends by Melanie Lee

Collected Stories of Wallace Stegner

DK Eyewitness Books: North American Indian

DK Eyewitness Books: Mesopotamia

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