Category Archives: writing

The Tuesday Book Sculptures

Sorry about yesterday, everyone. Traveling in rural areas of Scotland makes for spotty Internet. But all shall be forgiven, because I have now seen, in person, the Edinburgh Book Sculptures!

If anyone doesn’t know, I am a fanatic for these things. The backstory is best told on a different site, so I’ll just give you the basics here. In 2011, a mysterious little paper cut statue of a tree growing out of a book appeared in the Scottish Poetry Library. It was titled “Poetree” and had a tag honoring books, ideas, and words, thanking the library for existing.

Everyone thought that was nice, and then shortly a second statue appeared. And soon they were everywhere: the National Library, the Storytelling Centre, the Writer’s Museum, the Filmhouse, the Central lending library for Edinburgh, and the National Museum. Always celebrating words and ideas and thanking the institution (all of whom had free admission) for being there.

The sculptures gathered enough attention to have a book put out: GIFTED. And the best part is, once the sculptures gained international attention, it didn’t take the media long to figure out who had made the statues. And at her request, they withheld her name. So very British.

The other fun part about the sculptures is the books they are made from: the dinosaur from AC Doyle’s Lost World, the Hyde street scene from Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. And most of the rest from Ian Rankin novels (a great crime writer based in Edinburgh).

This is a random sampling of some of the statues, which I have now finally seen in person. Some of the venues were rather startled by my ardent worship, but I am a happy person.

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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.

 

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The Monday Book: YOU HAD ME AT WOOF by Julie Klam

hadmeatwoofSo this is one of those books that’s an awful lot like a “reality” show. It just takes what comes and turns it into funny.

Klam’s writing is funny. She turns stuff that is bread-n-butter dull about rescuing dogs into fodder for guffawing. Her turn of phrase and comedic typing timing shine through.

Because overall, this is a book that will be so familiar to rescuers, it’s kinda like when cat people play that game Neko Atsume. Why? You do that all day in real life….

There are some intense moments in WOOF but overall this is a light, breezy read that gives mostly laughs. I read it on my girl getaway weekend in Asheville with friends who are also animal lovers, and after a couple of out-loud snorts, they forbade me to read any more as we settled in for bed.

Klam also weaves her family into the narrative, detailing sibling rivalry between her daughter and a co-dependent puppy, and how her husband reacted to assorted pass-throughs of needy canines. Not much of it is in depth, more a laugh-a-minute across the surface. I was totally in the mood for that when I read this, so it worked. If you’re looking for a deep read about dog rescue, this isn’t it, but if you want to dip a toe into the water and see how it feels, WOOF is for you.

Diversion doggies; it’s a fun, quick, sweet, light read. Two paws up for YOU HAD ME AT WOOF.

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I’m Going to a Spa to Lie Down

Friends and I have been plotting our escape for months. Grove Park Inn in Asheville, home of a spa full of mineral pools and a restaurant full of fine wines. Susan, Beth, and I are going to go be Women On Vacation there for three days.

We are taking extra wine, and some Polar Water (soda of choice for those as don’t drink soda) and coloring books and our bathing suits. We are leaving behind our cell phones and our Adulting hats.

Viva la irresponsibility!

Beth has an incredibly responsible job. She is the vet for Appalachian Feline Friends AND the entire town of Big Stone Gap. People drive up to her home at midnight with owls they hit; they phone at 3 a.m. to ask about a coughing dog. Being a vet in a small town is hard work, 24/7. Her phone will be off this weekend.

Susan reads x-rays to tell people whether or not that have incurable diseases. No pressure there….. and she is herself the survivor of a difficult health history that has left her with some enduring ouchies. Plus she looks after a herd of eldercats, including some adopted from AFF. Her phone will be off this weekend.

And me, I run around between the medical world, the bookselling world, the cat rescue world, and general adult responsibilities, trying to shuck them all onto other people so I can carve out time to write. My clinical office is moving and turning itself into a 501c3, with resultant steady politics. The cat rescue is coming into season. And I have final edits due at the end of the month that haven’t been started. (Umm, if you’re reading this, Nancy, I’m on top of it, I swear.)

We are going to a spa to lie down. Preferably in salt water pools while handsome cabana boys bring us drinks with fruit in them. Actually, skip the fruit and put in extra chocolate syrup and vodka.

And yes, we will certainly enjoy the trappings of a ritzy weekend, but more we will enjoy just being together, doing nothing but being together. Scottish folksinger Ivor Cutler wrote a song that English singer Nic Jones made famous in pubs across Britain. Jack and I often sing the lyrics when we’re stressed, and in fact since The Election in America a quote from it has been my banner picture on Facebook.

I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Green grass, green grass, growing  beneath me
There’s the green grass growing beneath me
I’m going in a field to lie down
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Blue skies, blue skies up above me
There’s the green grass growing beneath me
I’m going in a field to lie down
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Yellow flowers, yellow flowers growing all around me
There’s blue skies up above me
Green grass growing beneath me
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field
I’m going in a field to lie down

Susan, Beth and I are outta here. Y’all have a good weekend, ’cause we’re sure planning to.

 

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Intersections

Jack’s doing the Monday Book this week because yesterday was Wendy’s birthday – –

This is more about books in general and the kind I favor.

I tend to read memoirs, biographies, histories and novels that are set in the present. I tend not to read romances, historical novels, science fiction or fantasy. BTW – romances about the Amish may be popular but I’ve never read any.

The most recent read was ‘Monty Python Speaks’ which is really a history of the famous fellows from the their roots and on to infamy (they’ve all got it infamy). It included a reference to my big sister’s old school chum Denise Coffey, who starred in a precursor of the ‘Circus’ on British TV called ‘Do not Adjust your Set’ it even had her in a picture alongside Cleese, Palin and Jones. I was probably about 10 years old when I last was in her company.

So books can not only be a way into a particular world from the point of view of the author (and her husband), but also alongside a character referenced by someone else altogether. This gets us towards something else – altogether – –

One of my favorite writers of fiction is the author of the Inspector Rebus novels – Ian Rankin. They’re novels, but the author and Rebus are from West Fife where I also spent most of my life. He captures the Fife coalfield villages perfectly and those passages are very real to me.

So I suspect we (or at least some of us) live our lives, very often, through reliving our lives through others’ writings or maybe projecting our lives into others’ writings. We wander back and forth through our own lives, imagined lives, lives we’ve read about, imagined lives we’ve read about –

Aren’t books wonderful?

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Hey Y’all, (don’t) Watch This

50_Cupcake_HiRez

Today is my 50th birthday. So far this morning I have celebrated by catching up on things that slid past while my attention was directed elsewhere: getting the final grades in, why the dishwasher was making that funny noise, blue line edits to Fall or Fly, what to do about the nasty stain in the downstairs toilet bowl….Turning 50 is very glamorous.

One of the items I’m catching up on is this weekend’s blog. It is very satisfying to go from 49 to 50. Among other things, this is the age at which society begins to ignore women, which means we can do as we like. At the fundraising galas, while the eyes of the men with bow ties are on the cute little blond across the room, I can drink their champagne. When a kitten tries to cross a busy road, I can leap from my automobile and demand everyone halt because I have grey in my hair, heft to my hips, and the authority of surprise behind me. Yet no one will hold me accountable, because I am a 50-year-old American woman.

If I’m reading the hints right, society thinks women are supposed to feel bad about turning 50, slightly apologetic or guilty that we couldn’t keep ourselves young and thin forever. Ha. I got these wisdom lines from a lot of different places, none of which I am ashamed of being in. And from knowing a lot of different people, most of whom were worth knowing, and the ones that weren’t I don’t know any more. Traveling light is a good thing at any age, so it seems a little counter-intuitive to worry about carrying other people’s baggage now.

Thus I spent my birthday morning stamping gel flowers into all the toilets in the house, because they promised to eliminate odors AND suspicious pink crusting. I found it very satisfying. Who knew they even made such wondrous things? And my husband has promised me one of those little round vacuums to do the floors – you know, the kind cats like to ride in You Tube videos. It’ll be entertainment as well as cleaning. Not that cleaning is my thing: living in a comfortable house while saving time is. I have stuff to write, mischief to make, cats to play with, husbands to tease – ehm, strike that, just one husband – and causes to support. Heh heh heh. Never underestimate the power of a woman whistling on her way.

Hold my stolen champagne glass, kiddo; I’m goin’ in.

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The Monday Book: NIGHT JOURNEY by Kathryn Lasky

It stands to reason that, having cleaned out the children’s room, I would have picked up a book or two to read for fun.

What’s really cool is when you start reading, and suddenly you remember a line from the book just before you read it, and you quote it as you read along. Which is how I found out I’d read this book a long, long time ago.

I picked up The Night Journey not because I remembered reading it, but mostly because it had a Samovar on front, and because Trina Schart Hyman illustrated it. She’s one of my two most favorite children’s book illustrators. LOVE her work.

Journey describes a great-grandmother and grandchild reconstructing the elder woman’s escape from pogrom-filled Russia when she was the age of the child to whom she is now telling the story. Filled with finely-drawn characters like Aunt Ghisa (a little bitterness from the unmarried sister who still loves her niece) and Wolf, the tormented loner who escaped an earlier Cossack raid at a cost higher than life. When Rache is first told her great-grandmother’s story, so intense is Wolf’s part in it that she writes it in a letter to be opened on Rache’s eighteenth birthday. The letter being opened is the culmination of the story, and it is intensely bittersweet.

Children’s books aren’t so layered and deep these day, methinks. The dismantling of the Samovar so the family can sneak it out with then, and the protection of the gold coins the family carries, run through the larger historic story like gold threads. It is a very satisfying read.

And fast. Which is fun sometimes, when you just want to spend two nights living someone else’s life from the safety of your pillow.

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