Category Archives: Big Stone Gap

The Monday Book: FAREWELL SUMMER by Ray Bradbury

farewell-summer-ray-bradburyBradbury is one of my all-time favorite authors, even though he breaks all the rules of what I normally like to read.

He isn’t about character development or plot, and one of the reasons people have a hard time adapting his books to TV or Movies or Stage Plays (witness The Martian Chronicles and Something Wicked This Way Comes) is that not much happens. What does happen is subtle. I mean, think about it, humans land on Mars and the theme of Chronicles is how it makes humans feel and act to have done that.

When the wind blows in Bradbury’s books, it is action, event, and plot development. His winds don’t blow, they dance, sprinkle the dust of mummies into towns, awaken strangeness, extend foggy hands to pull you into graveyards and make you explore your dark side. They might even slap you off a cliff, but they never just blow. And yet, that’s all that happens for three chapters: Bradbury describes the effect of the wind on people – mostly young boys and those who would force them to return to school at the end of summer: the Evil Old Ones who battle for control of the clocks.

I don’t know any other authors who can write such mundane clichés with so much beauty and elegance, you go back and reread the sentences for the joy of them.

Farewell Summer is actually the sequel to a book I didn’t get into all that much of Bradbury’s, mostly because it was written so much from a boy’s perspective that it left no room for a girl to say “Hey, me too! I want more childhood and to be grown-up at the same time, too!”

But that’s fair enough. How can anyone stay feminist-annoyed at an author who writes such incredible openings as this one in Chapter 19:

Grandpa’s library was a fine dark place bricked with books, so anything could happen there and always did. All you had to do was pull a book from the shelf and open it and suddenly the dark was not so dark anymore.

Yes, okay, just give me some more sentences and let me slide under the spell of his poetry where nothing happens except the wind blows and school lets out for summer. It’s lovely.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Scotland, Uncategorized, VA, writing, YA fiction

Checklist for going to Scotland…

stressJack and I are two days out from going to Scotland for his annual tour. This is the first year I’ve been able to go with him. So I’ve been getting my to-do-before-leaving list together, and thought you might like to see it:

  1. Crochet breast (a friend who had breast cancer discovered that a crocheted knocker could go swimming, and asked me to make her one. It’s taken a long time to get her measured for size, but I am determined this will be with her before I depart.)
  2. Sign house papers (we are selling our cabin in the Tennessee woods, and of course the papers arrived and had to be notarized)
  3. Scrub away that suspicious yellow stain behind the toilet (casting no aspersions on male bookstore guests, but if the plane goes down I don’t want people making snide comments about my housekeeping)
  4. Clean out the Prius (we were going to trade it in when we got back, and then a friend was looking for a car for his daughter, so what better time to sell your car than 48 hours before an international flight?) – Oh, and arrange transport to the airport.
  5. Make unicorn hair (my niece asked for a unicorn scarf for Christmas, and mailing it while in Scotland will be a lot cheaper, but I haven’t get the mane finished)
  6. Find a place to hold a conference for 96 doctors that includes enough hotel rooms, wifi, child-friendly activities, and gourmet level food (Oh curse you state park that lost our reservation made LAST SEPTEMBER- although it’s not all bad; they gave us a significant discount for next year. A VERY significant discount.)
  7. Tie up tomato plants (only six heirlooms remain of the 14 I planted, due to blackberry winter, dogwood spring, indian summer, tomato-killing fall–whatever you call that weather we had)
  8. Stop solving cat rescue problems (the other members of Appalachian Feline Friends have stepped forward to afford me this time away; I need to stop saying “if it were me, I’d” and thank them for the gift of awayness)
  9. Weed the front garden (oh who am I kidding? I don’t sodding care if we have crabgrass)
  10. Ignore pile of clean laundry (it will be here when I get back, and given the other stuff, it isn’t a priority. I have unicorn hair and a crocheted breast to finish.

We leave Sunday afternoon. A friend asked me “what are you looking forward to the most in Scotland” and I had to lie, because my first response was, “Not having any cell phone service.” Truth. Go by, mad world. Without me, please.

Leave a comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Hero

HH13I got Jack up early this morning, and we headed for Hazel House in order to catch the six vestal virgins (as we incorrectly call them; three of them have had litters) therein. I overturned furniture and explored new ways of stringing invectives before he cleverly used geometry to project the exact ricochet of the last capture-evading cat off the wall, straight into the waiting carrier.

I get home from a hard day’s adulting involving talks with a lawyer and other fun stuff to find that some jobs that volunteers were doing for Appalachian Feline Friends, didn’t get done. One of them not getting done has caused a rift with some very smart, very kind people. I am unhappy.

Jack reminds me that adulting is hard, and an organization made up of volunteers has to roll with the punches. He then tells me to go ahead and work on the lawyer-and-jobs things while he cleans the guest room–which is a nightmare because we’ve been storing everything we needed to get Out Of The Way for the past month up there. But now we need it because a friend is coming to town. A friend we’ve been looking forward to having with us for three months or more.

Then Jack comes downstairs and makes us supper. I rise from my computer blitzkrieg to eat, and then take leftovers out to the garage to freeze.

The garage is underwater.

Jack waded into the water, turned off the machine, got me to pull the breaker, and then found the problem. The hot water hose to the washing machine has broken. Since he was knee-deep in getting out information to those going on the Scottish trip, we agreed that tomorrow was another day. About ten minutes later, my long-suffering husband said, “I think I have the part I need for that….” left his computer and went back to the garage.

And fixed the washer by 8:30 pm.

Sod you, Monday. I have a superhero for a husband!

 

 

 

2 Comments

Filed under Big Stone Gap, blue funks, bookstore management, home improvements, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

A Guy Walks into a Bookstore….

18921773_1618662488144809_1870777436861749913_nJack and I have often said that the best stories found at a bookstore are in the customers. This is Brandon. He came in looking for old books to decorate with. He’s renovating an old house and looking for book nook filler. Fair enough. We negotiated a cheap price for “filler books.”

But as we did, since his right hand was wrapped in bandages and looked about twice the size of the other, I commented that renovations must have taken a bad turn.

Brandon looked briefly sheepish.

“I have this motorbike,” he said.

“Biking accidents are the worst,” Jack offered in commiseration, and Brandon practically blushed.

“Here’s how it went down. I got caught in some pig gravel, and I had to lay the bike down, and I did it, textbook. So gentle, so easy, I didn’t even have road rash on my arms.”

(Translation, for those not in the biker world. Brandon unexpectedly hit loose gravel, swerved, and knew his bike was going to capsize. So he deliberately leaned over enough that the bike would fall in a semi-controlled way. Usually a falling bike will still drive forward a bit, scratching up the skin of the biker.)

“But I messed up my bike, really did a number on the body work, little dents and all, and I limped it back home and went back into the house to work on it some more. And I was so mad, I punched the wall in the basement.”

Where he’d been working to re-expose the solid oak beams that held up the old house.

“If I’d punched that stupid plaster board and paneling, everything would’ve been okay. But I went straight into a beam. Broke two of them little tarsel thingees.”

Surviving a bike accident to take it out on a wall has to be one of my new favorite customer stories. There’s just something so human about this.

 

 

1 Comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

The Monday Book: MEMOIRS OF A SURVIVOR by Doris Lessing

I like most of Lessing’s work, but she can be a real downer. This book picks up on some scenes that appear in others, and since this was published in 1974, I’m assuming these were the first appearances, and their refinement came in later works.

Somewhere in her life, Lessing saw or felt that girl children were valued less than boys. She’s got this running as a sub-theme through a lot of her novels, and it’s here in a few of the scenes involving Emily, the teenage protagonist of this novel.

The novel has two protagonists, the second one also being the narrator, a woman in late mid-life who watches from her London flat window as society breaks down around her. Think “The Road” because there’s no specification of what’s happened, just reactions to it. The societal disorder is actually pretty ill-defined, because it’s mostly there to explain why there are bands of roaming young people terrorizing the city. Think “Children of Men.” Something’s gone wrong centrally.

The narrator gets Emily in a very strange way; one day a man knocks on her door and tells her this child is her responsibility from here on out. And the narrator says “Fine.” Think Stephen King, eschewing explanation and yet not sounding implausible because it’s all so human-nature driven.

Then Emily gets into all sorts of scrapes and her pet Hugo is getting eyed up by the gangs for dinner, and it’s not going well, and…. well, the ending is a bit of a shocker. It’s actually happy. That’s all I’m gonna say.

This book requires a lot of the reader. Nothing is what it seems, except is is. Everything is falling apart, and yet some things are getting better for no reason. If you like literary fantasy – and I’m not even sure that’s a genre – you’re going to love Lessing’s Memoirs of a Survivor. If you like things explained, best pick up something else.

When she published it in 1974, Lessing called it a dystopian fable. Apparently, it was made into a movie in 1981. I don’t even want to think what violence the subtle writing and edgy themes would have suffered in that process. I’d say this book is like steel lace. The beauty is unusual in where it’s found, yet the writing is so delicate in describing bluntness. Steel lace.

1 Comment

Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, folklore and ethnography, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, post-apocalypse fiction, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, VA

Sansa Stark Issues a Dire Warning

rickon towelListen up, people. I am Sansa Stark, and my family and I have been treated most vilely. We came to this foster home believing they would be good to us, and at first I admit they were. Wet food, soft beds, a climbing tree, and we got lots of cuddles and shoulder rides. robb

Yes, thank you, but that doesn’t make up for what came next. One morning bright and early with no warning, that sweet-voiced lady who’s always cooing and carrying us around picked us up and deposited us without ceremony into a box. And closed us in there, and carried us off, despite our protests.

Next thing we know, we’re in this big bright space and dogs are barking and people are petting us and saying things like, “Bath time, babies!”

Bath? What is this thing you speak of? We like petting, and their hands were nice so we didn’t think anything about it until…..

rickonWATER! WATER EVERYWHERE! I watched in horror as someone picked up my baby brother Rickon and set him under a little waterfall. He yelled for help, but there was nothing we could do except watch as they cruelly applied a foul blue gel that foamed and bubbled like a witch’s spell, and then thrust him back under the waterfall, again and again.

Truth be told, I had thought Rickon was black and brown. I didn’t expect him to be so white.

Anyway, no sooner had his cries subsided when they reached for me….

I will be avenged. Do you hear me? I will wreak such havoc as has never been known in this kingdom or the next…..

sansaWe would like to be adopted now, please. Obviously this is not a place we can trust. I will reward handsomely the first person to rescue any of us. Me first, of course.

Leave a comment

Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, post-apocalypse fiction, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch

Everything’s Coming up Roses – –

It’s Jack’s Wednesday guest post – and it’s on a Wednesday for a change!

It’s that time of year again – When we can watch the grass grow and try desperately to stay ahead of all the yard work.

We had an abnormally cool and rainy spring here, so the transition to days of sunshine and temperatures in the 80s has been rather abrupt this year. But we didn’t have the usual late frost, so we will have a very abundant apple and pear crop. Even the sad old peach tree, although on her last legs, will have a crop of some sort it appears. Apparently peach trees have a limited life and just die naturally then have to be replaced. On the other hand, the apple tree I thought I might have pruned to death a couple of years ago has recovered well – swings and roundabouts.

Our good friend David came over from NC recently and prepared our front garden so Wendy has been scattering flower seeds there, while our heirloom tomatoes are ready to be planted along the back yard fence. We couldn’t possibly have grown tomatoes outside in Scotland, far less the peppers we will plant out front here.

But summer here also brings fairly regular thunderstorms that test the efficacy of our gutters. I already know that a couple are sagging in the wrong place, so that’s another urgent job that will have to be fitted in between mowing and weed-whacking. At least we now have a weed-whacker that actually starts and runs happily as well as having the easiest string replacement system I’ve ever come across. We have another two in the shed that never worked properly!

Wendy and I have an old friend in Scotland (who lives in a house that features regularly throughout the ‘Outlander’ TV series) and he sends end-of-the-year newsletters annually that are always full of doom and gloom. Reading back through this post it looks a little like that, so – –

Just for the record, I’m very happy to live where the summers are warm and mostly sunny and the winters are no worse than Scotland!

I just remembered I need to get gas for the mower – – –

Leave a comment

Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, home improvements, Life reflections, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch