14 June 2009

What are you reading this summer?

Poets and Writers Magazine posed the question on their FaceBook page Friday: What's your summer reading list? I don't usually have a specific reading plan, regardless of the season, but it seemed a good time to look at some of the books that I have 'on deck'. My resolve to not buy any books this year hasn't held, but I have made a slight progress through the mountains of unread books. My list is 10 books, and 3 books of poems. Probably a bit idealistic, but I on extended summer until the first frost, I may be able to complete at least 50% of this list. What is your summer reading list?


The Time Traveler's Wife. Audrey Niffenegger. My book group read this a few months ago, but it was during a period when I was busy with work, so I only completed the first few chapters. Reading LitLove's recent review has brought this back towards the top of the reading pile.

Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant, Anne Tyler. This is the selection for my book group this month. This has been on a list of books to read for years. I'm looking forward to reading this.

City of Thieves, David Benioff. In a weak moment, (as far as my "no new books" rule) I was talked into buying this by a clerk at Border's. I have only read the first few pages so far -- not enough for it to capture my full attention, although I have heard very promising things about this book.

Short stories:
In Our Time, Ernest Hemingway. I was thinking about this book recently, and was prompted to buy a copy when I was bookbrowsing in Paris. Yes, it's an American writer, a book in English, but I was at Shakespeare and Company, a place where Hemingway hung out in the 20s, so buying a book by him while there didn't seem so out of place, just a bit touristy. Courtney wrote a few weeks ago about launching a "Haunted by Hemingway" reading group. I hope she includes this book.


Mark Bittman Food Matters. I purchased this book several weeks ago and was eager to read it immediately, but was disappointed when I opened the book to realize that the first page was page 53. I did exchange it for a copy that had all of the pages -- and in the right order -- but it seems to be a book that I'm reading in short spurts. Somewhere in the stacks are other books by Alice Waters, Michael Pollan, and Barbara Kingsolver on food and ethics of eating local and organic.

My Stroke Of Insight, Jill Bolte Taylor. I'm reading this for another book discussion group. A brain scientist, Bolte Taylor was able to learn about her area of expertise in a way few of her peers ever had when she had a devastating stroke at 37. This book is about insights learned during her long recovery.

Leaving Mum and Pup, Christopher Buckley. I saw an interview with Buckley a few weeks ago and was intrigued enough to go buy his book. The first few chapters have made me laugh in parts, and, in other parts, sympathize with his pain over the deaths of his parents. I've read about a third of the book, and while it can't help but be name-dropping -- it's about Bill Buckley the standard-bearer of conservatism for decades, for christssakes -- there is something in this book that goes beyond the celebrity nature of Buckley's parents. I'll probably write a post about this book at some point. I have a copy of one of Christopher Buckley's novels that a friend gave me a few years ago. It promptly made its way to the bookshelf with the cover not even having been opened. I may find that book when I'm done with this, as I do like his prose style.

Letters On Cezanne, Rainer Maria Rilke. Another book that I've had for some time. Rilke's letters to his wife regarding multiple visits to a Cezanne exhibit. I find writing about art very difficult because I do not have the vocabulary of an art critic. These letters, though, are not a critique, but a description of a personal experience with the paintings. I'm planning to avoid the lengthy commentary at the beginning of the book until after I read through the letters.

I usually have a book or two with a theological or spiritual focus that I'm reading. Right now it is L William Countryman's The Poetic Imagination: An Anglican Spiritual Tradition. I am expecting a heavy dose of Donne and Herbert in this book, but I am mostly interested in reading this because I have an interest in exploring the intersection of spirituality and art. This may be a bit too academic for "summer reading" -- maybe for any kind of light reading.

Always have a few books of poetry that are close at hand for perusing, rather than languishing on the bookshelf. Current volumes are:

Sixty Poems by Charles Simic
After by Jane Hirshfield.

While in Paris, I purchased Into the Deep Street: Seven Modern French Poets, 1938 - 2008. The poems are in both the original French, and translated into English. This may take a long time for me to get through, but it should be interesting and challenging. I am unfamiliar with the 7 poets in the volume: Jean Follain, Henri Thomas, Philippe Jaccottet, Jacques Reda, Paul de Roux, Guy Goffette, Gilles Ortlieb. Actually, I'm unfamiliar with any contemporary French poet.

And, as for working on my French skills, I had to purchase a copy of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's Le Petit Prince while I was in Paris. A favorite of mine since childhood, I use to have a copy in french that I first purchased in Paris 30 years ago, but I couldn't find it recently when I wanted to. I'll probably reread this again soon.

That's enough to last me through the season and beyond. We'll see how many of these are read in the next few months or what other books may grab my attention.

I'd love to read what you is on your summer reading lists. Leave it in the comments.

10 June 2009

Celebration of Life at Six - OR - I love my nephew, but my sister can never read this post!

Imagine a cinematic depiction of the most nightmarishly chaotic child's birthday party.

Now imagine that the scene lasts twice as long as necessary in this hypothetical movie: the audience has understood the point; it's time to move on.

Nothing could be that bad, right? But, for the sake of expanding one's knowledge -- or just to experience some party-crashing fun -- extend the scene into complete steadycam coverage of the 90-minute party. Except, here is the catch: while it may be theatre, it isn't film and there are no funny outtakes.

That is the how I spent my evening.

Kindergartners running rampant in the house. Toddling babies moving too quickly for their grandmas to catch them in a non-infant proof house with steps leading into every room. Food choices consisting of cold, greasy pizza and chocolate-dipped fruit arranged like flowers on plastic GIJoe spears stuck into a Sponge-Bob bucket. Drink: no sugar (good), no caffeine (bad), and wine in a jug so large, so Brobdingnagian, that it makes the extra-super, super-sized Tub-O-Coke at the QuikMart look like an palate-cleansing aperitif.

Orchestrate the scene to a soundtrack of a performance by STOMP! with harmony provided by a lively Labrador, located in the laundry, with a wood door as a washboard accompaniment, capable of performing simultaneously in two distinct voices: a high-octave yelp and a window-rattling, basso profundo woof.

And, to think that the sugar wasn't even introduced until the last half hour, served suitably, if not predictably, atop store-bought chocolate cake.

As we left the party, I turned to my recently injured son, hobbling out to the car without crutches, and asked: Got Vicodin?

For more party snarking, surf over to Cake Wrecks and laugh while you rubber-neck at some other party disasters.

08 June 2009

Economic Balancing Acts

The theme for the current issue of Qarrtsiluni is Economy. Browsing the site this evening and reading a few of the entries posted thus far this month, was all of a writing prompt I needed. After writing the poem below -- which certainly could benefit from additional revisions at a later date -- I listened to audio clip from 1-Jun, an interview with a Newfoundland resident, which gave me the last line for this poem.

Also linked on ReadWritePoem, prompt #77.

Economic Balancing Acts

Stretch dollars
till the green fades
and the faces blur
and you strain to hear
the clink of coins.

Stretch pot roast:
three lunches, two dinners,
the potatoes thinned to the point
of not remembering the dank,
loamy dirt of their birth.

Cramped in economy
class, with no room
for flailing arms
or growing legs
or new shoots,

You must conserve your movements,
and your thoughts,
and all divinations
for the future of your humanity.
Turbulence will leave your skins bruised.

Conserve your finances.
Conserve your energy.
Conserve your life.
Keep from others what you do not
want loose in the world.

Check your pulse.
Wear a crash helmet.
Catch your breath.
Avoid late blight.
Know your heart's capacity.

Know your heart's capacity.
No bailouts are needed;
only manage your own household.
Memorize all the thresholds of
the many-chambered dwellingplaces:

hidden caves,
deep, ancient crevasses,
undiscovered streams --
so you do not forget
your tuberous roots.

What you give, you'll never miss.