Mary's Library

Monday, July 31, 2006

Wilhelm's Meme

Wilhelm hates filling out forms. It's a struggle every ten years to get him to do the Census. So I didn't really expect anything when I asked him to answer the Meme questions.

He did it! And there are some very good books on his list.

1. One book that changed your life

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris. There may be other books, too, but this is the one that made me the TR buff that I am today (with all attendant consequences).

2. One book that you've read more than once

I'm not much for re-reading books. I do believe that I have read at least twice The Deep Blue Good-by by John D. MacDonald, the first of the Travis McGee books.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island

On a practical level, probably The Boy Scout Handbook. Assuming that I did not need the practical information, then The Bible.

4. One book that made you laugh

Because I enjoy humor, I 've read a lot of book that have made me laugh. How can I pick one? I can't. I'll give you some of the best (as I can recall off the top of my head and you can pick.

The White House Mess, by Christopher Buckley (political satire at its best)
Stormy Weather, by Carl Hiasson (still my favorite Florida novel)
The Complete Works of Saki, by H.H. Munro ("Say what you will about Christianity, but a religion that gave us green chartreuse will never die.")
A Fine and Pleasant Misery, by Pat McManus (the very best of outdoor humor)

5. One book that made you cry

Well, I'm not much for tear jerkers. Even if it was only one passage, I did get a bit teary in The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, when TR's first wife, Alice Lee Roosevelt dies on the same day, in the same house, as does TR's mother, Martha Bullock Roosevelt ("The light has gone out of my life forever.")

6. One book you wish had been written

I'm really not coming up with anything here. Lack of imagination perhaps. I suspect that whatever I might suggest actually has been written. If I come up with anything, I'll get back to you.

7. One book you wish had never been written

The Koran

8. One book you're currently reading

If only you'd asked a couple of days ago, I would have responded A Godly Hero, the life of William Jennings Bryan. Now, I'm reading Watch Your Back, by Donald Westlake -- lightweight summer fiction, and so far not that good. Technically, I am still reading The Merchant of Power: Sam Insull, Thomas Edison, and the Creation of the Modern Metropolis by John F. Wasik -- an interesting book that I need to get back to.

9. One book you've been meaning to read

Yikes, there's a stack of them. One would by Worth the Fighting For, by John McCain. Even if I don't always agree with Senator McCain, I always respect him.

10. Now tag five people

Sorry, I don't play tag.

DGus' Meme

I asked DGus to send me his answers to the Meme that's been going around the blog world. Here are his answers and comments:

What is a "meme", exactly?

[According to the 4th ed of the American Heritage Dictionary, a meme is "A unit of cultural information, such as a cultural practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another." In this case, as you point out, it's more like a pop quiz. - md]

My reading is not great--certainly not worthy to be compared to yours--and my memory of my reading is even worse. This is like getting called on in a big lecture class after not doing the homework. But for what it's worth, here's what comes to mind.

1. One book that changed your life

FLATLAND, by E.A. Abbott. A clever, even brilliant little book. Math Fiction. I read it as a college freshman. Several years ago I bought 20 copies from Dover (one of the very cheap editions), and I force them on innocent people. [Wilhelm was one of these innocents. - md]

2. One book that you've read more than once

OLD YELLER, by Fred Gipson. I read it more than once as a kid, and recently I read it aloud to some of my kids. I still get choked up when Old Yeller dies.

3. One book you'd want on a desert island

SWISS FAMILY ROBINSON by Johann David Wyss, to give me survival tips and encouragement.

4. One book that made you laugh

THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL by Philip Roth. I was young and immature then, and laughed uncontrollably. Now I don't laugh when I read. Nor read Roth. Well, I guess I laughed a bit when I read LAKE WOBEGON DAYS by Garrison Keillor, and smiled a lot.

5. One book that made you cry

MARY: A CATHOLIC-EVANGELICAL DEBATE by Dwight Longenecker and David Gustafson.And, in the OLD YELLER vein, I also got a little misty when Beth died in LITTLE WOMEN. Well, OK, I actually got a catch in my throat. But hey -- I'm not a tough guy, and I get choked up easily.

6. One book you wish you had written


7 a One book you wish had been written

The Autobiography of Jesus Christ. And I have a book idea in my head, based on a series of classes I've taught in religious anthropology entitled "What Is Man?" I wish I'd just get up the gumption and do it.

7 b. One book you wish had never been written

THE DA VINCI CODE. How stupid. And the Koran (saw this on someone else's list, and I agree).

8. One book you're currently reading

The Collected Works of St. John of the Cross, given to me by an acquaintance who seems to think my religion could use some improvement. Turns out he's right, but I'm not sure how much St. JOTC is going to help.

9. One book you've been meaning to read

Never could get very far into MOBY DICK. [Is this payback for Pilgrim's Progress? -- ed] But no, I've given up, so I can't say I mean to read it any more. Maybe Augustine's CONFESSIONS. I've never really finished it, but I mean to.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Book Meme

I've been tagged by Sharon at Ex Libris for the bookish chain letter that's going around called A Very Selective Book Meme. The idea is to answer some questions about your book preferences and then pass the questions on to five other people. I love this sort of thing.

This meme was started by a guy named Benjamin Myers at a site called Faith and Theology on the 26th of July and it's all over the place already. You can follow it from link to link. I've been surprised and sometimes amused to see the books that folks have chosen in answer to Ben's questions.

Here are my responses:

1. One book that changed your life

The Bartlett’s of Box B Ranch (1949) by Camilla Campbell. This is an unusual choice, in part because it’s a mediocre book that I doubt anybody but me has read. But it was the first book I ever borrowed from the library. I was nine years old and I had just joined the Girl Scouts. My new friend, Elaine Craven, took me to Acushnet's Russell Memorial Library, where I got my first library card. And this is the first book I borrowed. The rest is history.

2. One book that you've read more than once

I’ve re-read a lot of books but the author that I am always re-reading is Anthony Trollope. A favorite for re-reading and re-re-reading is Can You Forgive Her?

3. One book you'd want on a desert island

Proust’s Recherche du temps perdu. (In French, please, along with a French dictionary. I could spend the rest of my life trying to translate it properly, something nobody else seems to have been able to do. But don't let that stop you from reading it.)

4. One book that made you laugh

Lawrence Durrell’s Antrobus: Stiff Upper Lip; Sauve Qui Peut; Esprit De Corps

5. One book that made you cry

The death of Mr Harding in Trollope's Barchester Towers always gets to me.

6. One book you wish you had written

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather. This is a perfectly crafted book . It portrays beautifully the hot and dusty adobe world of Santa Fe and the dedication and love and struggle with which the American West was built.

7. This started out with 7 a but has morphed to 7b. I like both questions so I've answered both.

7 a One book you wish had been written

The book about Melville's life and works that my college English professor, Barbara Chellis, was working on when she died in her early 40s.

7 b. One book you wish had never been written

Pilgrim’s Progress. It’s unreadable . I have been assigned to read it in high school, college, and graduate school and I never could get through it. I couldn't even get through it when my on-line trollope group read it a while back.

8. One book you're currently reading

How to choose? The most interesting of the many books I’m reading is probably the Garry Wills’ book, Henry Adams and the Making of America.

9. One book you've been meaning to read

Don Quixote. I’ve been meaning to read this for some 50 years now and I thought I had it licked last spring when I got my hands on the new translation by John Rutherford. But it was not to be. But I’ll try it again some day soon.

10. Now tag five people.

Ben said: "I’ll tag anyone who happens to read this!" I am doing the same. If you don't have a blog, answer in a comment to this post.

However, I'd like to hope the following people will read this and consider themselves tagged:

Anna (aka cello girl) at Beware of Greeks Bearing Knitted Objects

Sarah at Sarah's Bookarama

Friday, July 28, 2006

What I'm Reading

I've started a lot of books lately, so I’m officially reading all those listed below but I’m spending most of my time with the ones I’ve given an asterisk.

* The Prime Minister (1876) by Anthony Trollope. My online trollope group started reading five chapters a week of this long novel back in May. We will finish in September. This may be one of my top ten favorite novels.

* Passion (2004) by Jude Morgan. This historical novel is about Mary Shelley, Byron’s sister Augusta, Lady Caroline Lamb, and Fanny Brawne, women who were relatives and lovers of the great Romantic poets, Shelley, Keats, and Byron.

* The Din in the Head (2006) by Cynthia Ozick. Lit crit that discusses Susan Sontag, Helen Keller, Tolstoy, Saul Bellow, Sylvia Plath, Delmore Schwartz, Proust, Kipling, and others in short essays that go, as always with Ozick, to the heart of the matter.

*The Cat Who Knew a Cardinal (1991) by Lilian Jackson Braun. An interminable mystery series that stars two exceedingly personable Siamese cats and a man with a mustache that twitches when he’s in the presence of a clue, this is the perfect thing to read when it’s 105 degrees outside and you can’t bear to tackle even one more convoluted, symbol-drenched, Proustojamesian sentence and need the literary equivalent of iced Kool-Aid.

Deerbrook (1839) by Harriet Martineau. My not-trollope group will discuss this when we finish Castle Rackrent and Passion.

Book by Book: Notes on Reading and Life (2005) by Michael Dirda, one of the best book reviewers I’ve ever had the privilege to read. This book is a rambling commonplace book rather than a collection of reviews.

A Love Affair (1984) by Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. Written some time between 1935 and 1942, this book looked appealing when I found it on the shelf. Unfortunately, it’s not very good. In fact, it’s positively bad. I begin to think it may be a product of vanity publishing. Too bad.

I have recently finished reading the following. This time the asterisks indicate what I thought of the book (on a scale of 1 to 5.)

** Castle Rackrent (1800) by Maria Edgeworth. A vicious of satire of the Irish, drenched in irony. It was here that Thackeray got the idea for Barry Lyndon (1844).

** Charm City (1998) by Laura Lippman. The city in question is Baltimore and this is the solidly constructed second book in a murder mystery series.

*** A Grave Talent (1993) by Laurie R King. This is the first is a new series of mysteries that take place in contemporary San Francisco. King is the author of The Beekeepers Apprentice (1994), the much-praised series starring Sherlock Holmes. Both are outstanding.

** One Sunday Morning (2006) by Amy Ephron. Love and angst in 1920s New York and Paris.

** Old Filth (2005) by Jane Gardam. A retired Hong Kong judge comes to terms with his life and his sins.

Thursday, July 27, 2006


Sandy (my sister) and her husband own a small (very small) airport in Marlboro, MA. Tuesday and yesterday were big days for them. An Erickson Sky-Crane stopped by to refuel during a job upgrading a nearby TV tower.

This monster attracted a lot of attention and Sandy tells me there were about 40 cars parked around the airport when she got there yesterday. Lots of little kids got to tour the cockpit.

To read about it in the Metrowest Daily News (west of Boston, that is), go to their site, here. The photo to the right is from that article and that's Sandy's husband walking toward the orange dragonfly.

The Sky-Crane left late in the day yesterday to fly west to fight forest fires in Oregon.

For a picture of the Sky-Crane for kids to color, go here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Good Bad Reviews

Some reviews pan a book in such a way that you enjoy the review and find yourself unaccountably wanting to read the book despite its bad press.

Here’s a comment on Toby Young, gleaned from a NY Times review by William Grimes of Young’s latest book, The Sound of No Hands Clapping, (which I haven’t read, but I’m right tempted):

“Toby Young is a balding, bug-eyed opportunist with the looks of a punctured beach ball, the charisma of a glove-puppet, and an ego the size of a Hercules supply plane,” he quotes one British critic as writing. “And I speak as a friend.”

His previous book was, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People (2001.)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

A Love Affair

I’ve been to the dentist again and so I’m owed a treat. Today I decided to browse the shelves at the library and pick up any old book that caught my eye.

What did so was Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s A Love Affair, written before the author died in 1942 but not published until 1984.

The book jacket doesn’t say much about it, but something tells me this is a roman a clef and a little poking around in New York City history will provide the clef.

And since I love costume jewelry, and since it was sticking out and easy to see, and just because I wanted to look at the photos, I borrowed Kenneth J Lane: Faking It (1996.)

The above picture of Mrs Whitney was painted by Robert Henri in 1916. It can be seen in the Whitney Museum.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Bad Lands

The wilderness is becoming populated in the Bad Lands of dead men who don’t know they are dead. They talked themselves into greatness and, not knowing when to stop, also talked themselves out of it.
– Walter Hines Page, US ambassador to Great Britain, June 1915

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Another View of Old Filth

Jane Gardam’s Old Filth is reviewed in today’s New York Times Sunday Book Review by Paul Gray, who talks about “a novelist at the very top of her form.”

I disagree about that, but this is certainly a reviewer at the very top of his form.

The review is called “Orphans of the Empire.” Read it.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Old Filth

This book by Jane Gardam, Old Filth (2006) is one I wanted to like. Gardam is a fine writer and the title, with its shades of irony, appealed. It’s an acronym for Failed in London, Try Hong Kong and it refers to Old Filth himself, a judge who spent his career in Hong Kong and has retired to England as the book begins.

Since reading Rudyard Kipling’s biography I’ve been curious about the Raj Orphans, the children of British parents posted to the far east who were sent alone at about age six to be raised at “Home” in order to escape the perceived dangers of disease in the east.

The system held dangers of its own as the quality of the foster care varied greatly and some children – Rudyard Kipling was one of them – suffered under sadistic people who had the children entirely at their mercy. Such was the case with Old Filth, who with two cousins were sent to Wales where they were beaten and abused.

But alas, Filth, the man, was as unlikable a character as I’ve met in some time (and that says something when I’m reading in The Prime Minister about Ferdinand Lopez.) He is described throughout the book as having been beloved, respected, appreciated by nearly everyone he encountered, a few felons excepted.

The author wanted the reader to see through this superficial view of him to the flawed man beneath whom people never saw and to forgive him his faults because of his dreadful youthful experiences. That didn’t happen. The other characters weren’t well realized and the plot, such as it was, drifted about without a real point.

This is not a bad book. It’s a mediocre book that could have been a very good one.

Friday, July 21, 2006

It's Hot

It’s hot. The temperature went up to about 100 today and it will be well above that for the next three days. Thank goodness for the dryness here. When the humidity is only about 15% the heat doesn’t feel quite so oppressive. Though 100 is 100 whatever the humidity.

I spent the afternoon entertaining myself with Laura Lippman’s second Tess Monaghan mystery, Charm City. I’d normally give it two and a half stars but today it gets three for keeping my mind off the temperature.

Thursday, July 20, 2006


“He pities the plumage, but forgets the dying bird."

-- Thomas Paine

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Sneakers and Maritime Safety

When Wilhelm said this morning that there’s this review in this week’s Economist of a terrific new book about the Plimsoll line, I didn’t immediately rush to I mean, maritime safety is important, but it’s not something I obsess about. (Sorry Sarah.)

“May I read you the review?” said he. “Of course,” said I, thinking, I’ll just keep reading my email while he reads.

About one paragraph into the review I was at rapt attention.

Plimsoll, a bankrupt who had been arrested for assault in his youth, later pulled himself together and became MP for Derby, a post which he used to campaign for maximum load lines on ships.

“In the mid-19th century one British mariner in five died at sea. . . . between 1961 and 1870, 5,826 ships were wrecked off the British coast.”

That’s atrocious.

“Here’s the beginning of another review, this one by Geoffrey Moorhouse in “Guardian Unlimited”:

“A storm at sea is enough to put the fear of God into anyone; and there's nothing like being caught in a Force 12 to concentrate the mind on first and last things, to the exclusion of anything in between. This is as true as it ever was, even in an age of satellite navigation, aerial rescue services and stabilisers.

“. . . in the 19th century . . . too many vessels were not fit to be on the high seas and, more often than not, they were disastrously overloaded by owners who didn't give a damn about the welfare of those who sailed in them, whose lives were thought to be expendable for the sake of profit. These were the infamous ‘coffin ships’, and never was an epithet more richly deserved.”

Eventually Plimsoll was successful and in 1876 the Merchant Shipping Act requiring “the hull of every cargo ship to be marked with the level of maximum submergence – a mark that to this day is called the ‘Plimsoll line.’”

And the sneakers? In 1876 a salesman for the Liverpool Rubber Company named them plimsolls “because submerging them above their rubber trim results in disaster.”

The book is The Plimsoll Sensation: The Great Campaign to Save Lives at Sea, by Nicolette Jones. It’s of interest in part because the author “brings to life . . . the political climate in which [Plimsoll] battled. . . . The author clearly outlines the infighting and backstabbing of the political process.” Those of us who are readers of Anthony Trollope’s Parliamentary novels should find informative a report on English politics in the late 1870s, when Plantagenet Palliser was the Prime Minister.

The book is published in England. Those of us in the US will have to wait a while before we can pick it up at Barnes and Noble.

Monday, July 17, 2006

One Sunday Morning

Amy Ephron, as with many others in her talented family, has The Knack. She can takes something as simple as a glimpse of two people leaving a hotel on a Sunday afternoon and create an entire world.

She has done this with her latest novel, One Sunday Morning, which begins one day in 1920 with four ladies, gathered for their monthly bridge game, looking idly out the window. They see a friend and the fiancé of another woman leaving the Gramercy Park Hotel.

They vow not to tell a soul, but it isn’t long before their set is whispering about the woman, who is forced to flee the city or become an outcast.

Ephron wrote a previous novel, set in 1917, called A Cup of Tea, that has become one of my favorites. A woman asks a stranger home for a cup of tea and the lives of both of them change in unimaginable ways.

Both books are available at Barnes and Noble.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Burgers on the Grill

Jan and Jenny came by yesterday for burgers on the grill and a long talk about everything from who should be appointed sheriff and what the mayor is doing wrong to Ethel Merman in “Annie Get Your Gun” and Frida Kahlo.

And Jan, who you will remember gave me Emma Brown a while back, brought me a book – another hit, Anne Tyler’s Digging to America, which I had been reading before I had to hustle it back to the library Friday.

Guess what I’m going to be doing today.

Friday, July 14, 2006

I Love Lists

I love lists and today I came across one so brilliant I’m envious that I didn’t think of it first.

It’s from Justine Picardie’s luminescent little book about fashion, My Mother’s Wedding Dress: The Life and Afterlife of Clothes (2005), and it’s called Best Dressed Heroines.

Here are Picardie’s choices:

Pippi Longstockings, in the book of that name by Astrid Lindgren.

Kate, in Rosamond Lehmann’s Invitation to the Waltz. This was beautifully re-published recently by Persephone Books. (Ask dovegreyreader about this one.)

Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote.

Rebecca, at least as described by Mrs Danvers in Daphne Du Maurier’s enthralling novel.

Linda in The Pursuit of Love by Nancy Mitford. (See also Love in a Cold Climate.)

Cassandra, narrator of I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith, who dyes all her clothes green.

Flora Poste and Elfine Starkadder in Stella Gibbons’ Cold Comfort Farm.

The Girls of Slender Means, who share a Schiaparelli evening dress in Muriel Spark’s fetching novel.

Esther, the narrator of Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar.

Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. (I find that one a bit iffy.)

Mrs Ada Harris in Paul Gallico’s Mrs ‘arris Goes to Paris.

Who’s on your list?

Thursday, July 13, 2006

New Arrivals

In the mail today I got Anthony Beever’s much-revised 1982 history of the Spanish Civil War, The Battle for Spain (2006.) It looks excellent. Wilhelm has his eye on it and will probably read it when he finishes the biography of William Jennings Bryan, A Godly Hero (2006), by Michael Kazin.

A friend came by this morning with some books to aid me in my quest for a nutritious weight-loss diet. Diet for a Small Planet by Frances Moore Lappe was published in 1971, but it’s still one of the best books on the subject of non-animal protein.

Another book that addresses the importance of food combinations in providing protein is The Insulin-Resistance Diet (2001) by Cheryle R Hart (from Spokane) and Mary Kay Grossman.

And for some yummy vegetable recipes, Vegetariana (1984, 1993) by Nava Atlas.

So what did I learn about nutrition today? Nothing. I spent the day polishing off the chapter summaries for my online Trollope group, which are due tomorrow, and reading the first in the Jack Frost murder mystery series, Frost at Christmas (1984), by R D Wingfield.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

The Diet

I went to Dr Seppi for my regular checkup today and he sent me off to Auntie’s to buy The Sonoma Diet (2005) by Connie Guttersen. It’s one of theose modern low carbohydrate, high protein, multi-grain, fruit and vegetable affairs, which isn’t going to be easy for the Carbohydrate Kid. Already I’m depressed.

While at Auntie’s I got a copy of Laurie R King’s The Beekeeper’s Apprentice. I read it back in 1996 when I was a bookseller at Border’s and King came to visit our store. It's the Spokane Is Reading choice for this fall and I’m looking forward to re-reading it. One of the major characters in the series is Sherlock Holmes, and you-all know how I feel about Mr Holmes.

Then the Wells Fargo Wagon brought my copy of Amelie Nothomb’s Stupeur et tremblements. I’ve read three pages and except for the occasional idiom/slang/somewhat obscure word like “l’ascenseur me cracha” (“the elevator spit me out,” I think) and “le hublot,” (the porthole – I looked it up) I’m not going to have any trouble with the French. (Unlike the diet, with which I'm going to have serious trouble.)

All three books are available at Barnes & Noble.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

An American Tragedy

There’s a story in the New York Times this morning about a celebration of sorts that is taking place this week on the anniversary of the death of Grace Brown at the hand of her boyfriend, Chester Gillette. He hit her over the head with a tennis racket and pushed her overboard to drown in Big Moose Lake in upstate New York.

The names have been changed, but this story will sound familiar to English majors and old movie lovers as the basis for Theodore Dreiser’s 1925 novel, An American Tragedy. A film adaptation called “A Place in the Sun” was made in 1951 with Elizabeth Taylor, Shelley Winters, and Montgomery Clift. (I’ve put it in my Netflix queue.)

Now of course I’m tempted to re-read the book, which gripped me one summer when I was in high school and wouldn’t let go for years.

Monday, July 10, 2006

New from PW

Monday is the day Publisher’s Weekly announces new books, so I look forward to that email eagerly. Today’s has an important new book, which is saying something in the middle of July, which is snooze time in the publishing business, except for thrillers and hot romances which are laid down about now.

So I was interested to find a starred review of a new book about WWI by Martin Gilbert, The Somme: Heroism and Horror in the First World War. PW calls Gilbert the dean of WWI historians. But his range is wider than that.

He has written extensively about World War II and the holocaust, his biographies of Winston Churchill are outstanding, and he has published some very useful atlases. I consider The First World War: A Complete History (1994) to be definitive.

Many of his books are available at Barnes and Noble.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

not trollope

"If you want to read about the vagaries of the human heart, or the fleeting nature of love or time, read Goethe's lyrics; but if you want to know about the unreliable nature of narrative in a time of landlords, read Maria Edgeworth."
--Introduction to The Penguin Book of Irish Fiction

This quote was posted today by Fay in my not-trollope group, which is currently reading Maria Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent (1800)

Friday, July 07, 2006

Je me rends

My pal dovegreyreader has been talking up Amelie Nothomb, a writer whom she admires. She and The Bluestalking Reader tend to be binge readers and they have both been posting of late about Nothomb as they read their way through her entire oeuvre.

Should I read her too? How to decide?

Today when I checked in on Ex Libris, lo, I found she too has posted about Amelie Nothomb. So what could I do? Obviously, Everyone Who Reads is reading la belge.

And so I have ordered Stupeur et tremblements from It's been a while since I've read anything in French more rigorous than Tintin, so this may be a challenge. I'll let you know how I do.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Books I'm Returning to the Library

I haven’t read all of every book I’m returning today, but I gave them each the Nancy Pearl Fair Shake Test (subtract your age from 100 and that’s how many pages you must read before you decide whether the book is worth reading or not.) The art and furniture books I didn’t really read, just looked at the pictures.

The Collins Big Book of Art: From Cave Art to Pop Art, edited by David G Wilkins **

Furniture, by Judith Miller*****

Common Sense 101: Lessons from G K Chesterton, by Dale Ahlquist** or ***

Talk To the Hand: The Utter Bloody Rudeness of the World Today, or, Six Good Reasons To Stay Home and Bolt the Door, by Lynne Truss*

The One Percent Doctrine: Deep Inside America's Pursuit of Its Enemies Since 9/11, by Ron Suskind**

Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism, by Ann Coulter**

The Kitchenless Cookbook, by Suanne Beverly*

You will note that I’ve added some asterisks (*). I rate the books I read or consider reading on a scale of 1 to 5. One means the book is bad, boring, or untrue. Five means it’s first-rate (e.g., Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Trollope’s Can You Forgive Her?, Mann’s The Magic Mountain.)

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Summer Reading

I’ve been reading The Oprah Magazine’s summer reading issue.

It’s full of book recommendations and there’s a tie-in with offering you a 10% discount on 20 of the books reviewed. There’s a letter from Harper Lee about reading as a child. There are articles about the beginnings of novels, clever bookshelves, how to read a hard book (War and Peace, The Remembrance of Things Past, Moby Dick, and The Man Without Qualities), and reading as an art (by Toni Morrison.)

And then there are the suggestions for summer reading. Here are some of the titles (with a discount if you buy them at amazon):

Talk Talk by T C Boyle
Alentejo Blue by Monica Ali
Heat by Bill Buford
The Portable Dorothy Parker
I Feel Bad About My Neck
by Nora Ephron
The Devil and Miss Pym by Paul Coelho

Oh, and there are four bookmarks.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

The Din in the Head

I’m a fan of Cynthia Ozick, who has a new book out, The Din in the Head: Essays. Here’s a quote from the book, which is available from Barnes and Noble:

"A department of English is not the same as a Marxist tutorial. A rap CD is not the same as academic scholarship. A suicide bomber who blows up a pizzeria crowded with baby carriages is not the same as a nation-builder."

Monday, July 03, 2006

My leabhar lion

A recent post by my pal, dovegreyreader, elicited the following comment from her daughter in Glasgow, who has coined a word for “blog” in Gaelic:

To be honest, Gaelic is not a language which lends itself to new-fangled, technologically-useful words. But here goes.

Blog: Leabhar-latha eadar-lion (lit. trans. 'internet diary'). Phonetically: 'law-er laa ed-er leen'. Cumbersome in the extreme.

Thinking about it, I am going to create my own word. Combining the two words gives 'leabhar lion' ('law-er leen' trans. 'net book') That's better. I like it. ….



That’s it. “Blog” is history. From now on I post to my leabhar lion.

Sunday, July 02, 2006


We were in the grocery store yesterday and there they were – boxes of Crayola crayons with 64 colors. Wilhelm was looking at light bulbs – we use those curled ones that are energy saving and don’t burn out as quickly, but they hide them in the light bulb display so it was taking a while.

Anyhow, from the other side of the aisle those crayons were singing to me. In Greek. I think Wilhelm had earplugs because he didn’t hear a thing. I told him I was going to cut them up to add extra color to salads (they are edible, you know), but he didn’t buy that. He did buy the crayons.

As Miss Woodhouse and I were admiring them later he said, offhandedly, “Now I suppose you’ll want the bigger box.” Bigger Box! A box with more than 64 colors?

I was on the Internet in a flash and there on the Crayola site was a box with 120 colors. It will be here within 5 business days.