I’m reading “By Nightfall” by Michael Cunningham and I’ve come across this passage:
“ – a study- with profoundly comfortable swaybacked armchair, in which it seemed you could sit and read forever…there were three lordly and lazy old cats, the shelves crowed with books and elderly board games and seashells from Florida and framed, rather haphazard-looking photographs, the faint smells of lavender and mildew and chimney smoke, the wicker porch swing on which someone had left a rain-boated paperback copy of Daniel Deronda”(page 45).
I love the description of this space and I want to visit it. Inhabit it for a summer. It is a place I could spend an entire season cuddling with the cats and reading all of the books (yay George Eliot!) in a big comfy chair.
Lately it seems as though there has been a plethora of books and articles and websites telling us how to create a personal niche that is truly and exclusively your own. Some say to create a “dream collage”, or “sacred space” or even a “meditation corner”. I say phooey. You don’t need a formal name, an area with a label. All you need a place where you can breathe and be distracted from reality if only for a few minutes. Nothing formal, nothing premeditated or organized. Just a spot. A personal” time out” site. And it doesn’t even have to be in your own home. The little corner table at the coffee shop down the street, the back desk on the third floor of the public library. A place to roost.
I have two spots. One is my bedroom especially now that it’s been repainted. It’s calm and cozy and all it needs is a suitable bookshelf to house all the books I’ve bought but have yet to read (yes…there are enough to fill a bookshelf. At the moment they’re residing in my kitchen cupboards…loooong story). The second in the “big boy” lazy boy recliner at my mom and dad’s. There seems to be good feng shui where that Lazy Boy is situated that can’t be explained.
But, because this is MY space I and I do have a penchant to dream…and dream big I did actually find a picture of my dream “time out” spot. Want to see it? I found it on http://www.desiretoinspire.net/
Here it is:
Isn’t it beautiful? What is your “space”? Your spot of refuge and vegetation? Write and let me know!
Right now I’m reading The Passage by Justin Cronin. Now, I’m not the biggest Science Fiction fan but I enjoy the book
when I’m reading it…
…but the story just isn’t “calling” me.
I’m wondering if the plot is so far-fetched that I’m having trouble emotionally attaching myself to any particular character. I almost formed an attachment early in the book. To six-year-old Amy. But now that she’s taken a hiatus for the last two hundred pages
I’m not as committed to the story as I was.
Does that ever happen to you? You’re in the middle of a book when all of a sudden, well, you just don’t care who survives the Apocalypse.
Is it worth it to finish? Do you stick with the story just because you’ve invested in over 300 pages?
I do appreciate Cronin’s writing. But is this appreciation enough to keep me reading? We’ll have to wait and see.
Today the students in my 11th grade English Class had to choose their favourite quote in the play “The Glass Menagerie” and respond. Here is the example I provided for them. Please feel free to read their responses in the comments section of this post!
“He is the long-delayed but always expected something that we live for.”
Tennessee Williams “The Glass Menagerie”
The above quote refers to the character “Jim” in The Glass Menagerie. A man who at one time was the quintessential high school hero, the one “most likely to succeed.” But Jim hasn’t amounted to a whole lot. He hasn’t achieved any fame or fortune. He is a mere cog in the wheel of everyday, middle class, 9-5 existence.
But Jim is holding out for his time to come.
He is making plans. He is taking courses. He is getting married. He is not just going to sit,
waiting for that “something” to fall out of the sky and land on his lap. He’s going out to find it.
The character Laura, on the other hand, has had her “something” fall on her lap. It’s Jim. Her high school crush taking space in her ethereal, fragile glass world. Her long-delayed but never expected something has arrived. But it’s not a perfect arrival. It’s one filled with heartache and disappointment.
It is broken glass.
What is your “long-delayed but always expected” something? Is it entrance to the perfect university program? Is it your ideal job? Is it finding a soul mate? Winning the medal?
How long have you been waiting?
How long are you willing to wait for it,
whatever “it” may be?
What are willing to do to increase your chances of getting it?
has it already arrived and you’re not all that pleased with how it’s turned out. Has it been one big disappointing, bubble bursting experience. Do you find yourself searching and waiting for another “something”?
And what do you do while you wait? Sit on your bum and twiddle your thumbs? Stick your head out the window every five minutes to see if you can spy it coming down the street? Or maybe you go out and about and search
but to no avail.
I guess the thing to do is to, as they say, is to expect it when you least expect it. Live each day appreciating what DOES exist.
The tangibles and touchables.
Filling each and every moment so there are no gaping crevasses of expectation.
So that when that “long delayed always expected something” is nothing
but a pleasant surprise
I teach High School English. One of my classes has decided they wanted to have a “secret Santa” so
I acquiesced but only on the condition that the gifts MUST be a book
and not just any book
a used book
nothing over 5 dollars.
Well, the enthusiasm that ensued was far beyond my expectation. Students have been leaving little notes on my “Potluck and Prose” for Secret Santa informing him of their literary preference.
Recently I received a post asking what “were the books that “have most stayed with me in some way” (Thanks Darlene!) and I compiled a list…then proceeded to send the same post to a few of my friends.
Here are the titles that appeared. All of them wonderful suggestions for gift ideas (new and used) this Christmas. After reading the list please add a few of your own in the comments!
What were some books that stayed with you over the years??
Last night I couldn’t sleep. So I did what most people do I in the darkest, loneliest hours of the night… downloaded free books on my iPad. Now, I always knew the selection of free books available to the public was extensive but I never realized how wonderfully accessible it all is. So, like a kid in a candy store, I downloaded works by Kate Chopin, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Virginia Wolf and Joseph Conrad. Kipling and Kafka and Carroll. It was my childhood junk food response all over again
– consume until satiated.
I knew no moderation.
I’ve mentioned before that growing up in small town Alberta we had no REAL bookstores to speak of and then the one that did finally pop up had a collection of “young adult” fiction that extended the length of one shelf of one bookcase. Thank goodness this miniscule collection included Nancy Drew Mysteries and works by the goddess of young adult literature, Judy Blume.
What filled the huge, cavernous gaps between the acquisition of reading material was the fact my mother had a little collection of literature that she accumulated before she was married and kept it neatly shelved in the storage room beside the “big freezer”. Mom was smart, when she was a young woman it too was impossible for her to purchase books in the middle of the Saskatchewan prairie during the early 1960’s, so she became part of the “Reader’s Digest Book Club” . She was shipped classics like “Wuthering Heights”, and “Gone with the Wind” every month or so.
Mom was very free in letting me peruse her volumes, reading whatever caught my eye. Once in awhile I’d find a trashy paperback loaned to her by one of her friends (or so the name inside the front cover showed) and I’d secretly read it sitting atop of the freezer consuming all sorts of mild debauchery I couldn’t understand…as well as frozen cookies. I’d quickly replace it (and the baking) if I heard her footstep on the staircase.
And I still haven’t gotten over the fact the public library wouldn’t allow “farm kids” to get library cards. I’d LIVE for library time at school so that I could sign out books to my heart’s content (that would be two, two books. One fiction, one nonfiction). Needless to say I now abuse my public library privilege and download with a frenzy seen only at blue light specials at Kmart.
As a kid, if I would have known my future would include immediate accessibility to all sorts of stories I would have found the wait torturous and willed myself to fast forward in time. But alas, I would have had to appease my impatience with the world of H. G Wells… if finding a volume wasn’t as impossible as time travel.
I’ve always loved reading. The acquisition of a good story sitting at my fingertips is one simple thing that truly makes me happy. Maybe it’s because it was a struggle to simply find a book and doing so was like finding a treasure, a glittering gem in a pile of ash. Needless to say the fact that today a plethora of tales lies at my immediate disposal is like a dream come true and I find myself behaving like a little kid at Christmas surrounded by wrapped gifts…. so giddy and excited she starts unwrapped one gift, then notices another with glittering paper and starts unwrapping it just to drop it for another – often have three or four books on the go because I need to consume as many stories as I can for fear they will be taken away.
What did I download? From the library “The Hundred-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared” by Jonas Jonasson and for free “Persuasion” by, who else, Jane Austen.
“How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book”.
~Henry David Thoreau, Walden
I’ve always relied on books for company. In fact I can remember the titles of specific books that have kept me company during some of the loneliest times in my life. Even when it was difficult to concentrate for any length of time because of some sort of emotional tumult, I’ve always reached for a story to soothe or distract me.
They were convenient company.
As a child my closest friend lived over a mile away and the sisters and I weren’t always the most bosom of buddies so I would lose myself in Nancy Drew. I still have a lovely collection of yellow bound Nancy Drew Mysteries sitting in my cupboard. And discovering Judy Blume’s “Blubber” was a moment I’ll always remember because the voice was familiar and the story could have been taken directly from the halls of my elementary school (and I as a chubby girl so I could relate). But I think the MOST important book of my childhood was “Gone with the Wind”. I would read, and reread the story, reading all of Scarlett O’Hara’s lines aloud pretending to be a “Southern Bell” instead of a Northern Alberta farm kid.
Junior High, that purgatorial time of melodrama and moodiness, I found distraction from bullies and boys with the likes of Agatha Christie (“The Murder of Roger Ackroyd” and “Curtain” being my favourites). I was also entranced by Mary Stewart’s Merlin series (“The Crystal Cave”, “The Hollow Hills”, “The Last Enchantment”). Puberty was all about murder and intrigue or magicians and knights.
High School, when most of my friends would sit and snuggle in the school hallways with their boyfriends or walk to McDonald’s for a lunch date of fries, I’d sit with my newfound love Charles Dickens. I remember reading “Great Expectations”, paper lunch bag at my side, eating my cheese and lettuce (no mayo) sandwich and questioning Miss Havisham’s reason for warping Estella’s view of men. Years later, after my first break up with a boy, I understood Havisham’s motivation for wanting to rip out someone’s heart and stomp it into a grimy pulp. I also loved Daphne du Maurier’s “Jamaica Inn” and thought Jem was one of the most dashing figures in literature. It’s hard not to fall in love with a horse thief.
At university, when I’d feel insecure in my relationship with the boyfriend at the time, I’d read and re-read “Wuthering Heights”. It just seemed appropriate. As an adult, I remember the titles of books that have kept me company during chosen times of solitude. “Mrs. Dalloway” when took to London by myself. Then sitting on a deck chair by a lake in Jasper trying to get through” Wings of the Dove” by Henry James but being too distracted by the fact I had my heart-broken. “Anil’s Ghost” by Michael Ondaatje whilst on my way to Paris. Sitting silently with my mom on the deck of a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean reading “The Secret Book of Grazia dei Rossi” by Jacqueline Park and thinking how wonderful it was to have my mother to myself.
The latest “new era” defined by a book started two years ago when I was in an automobile accident. For about four months I was unable to concentrate for any length of time on story and could only consume magazine fodder. Many a night I would lie awake unable to read the pile of books calling to me from the corner of my room. The whole experience was frustrating and distressful. To me, the inability to read for any length of time was like losing the ability to take a deep breath. I could inhale little shallow catches of prose in magazines and newspapers, but I could not breath deeply the essence and delicacies of a well-told story. That was until four months later when I went on a weekend excursion to the “big city” with my sister and attempted to read “Angelology” by Danielle Trussoni.
And I read and read and read and took a deep breath.
Since then I have surrounded myself with books waiting patiently to be read. I think I may be somewhat fearful of feeling alone and desolate without my “friends” though and am over compensating. I now have collected a multitude of hardcovers, several eBooks (as well as 4 digital titles signed out of the library). I wonder if this is a sign I’m afraid to be lonely and feel the need to surround myself with “friends”?
But patiently they’ll sit waiting for me to invite them into my life and keep me company even during the most trying times.
What am I reading now? “Bellefleur” by Joyce Carol Oates and “S” by J. J. Abrams and Doug Dorst.
What books help date a new “era” in your life?
My AP Engish class wanted to have a potluck. So we did. And while we were eating our delectable meal we discussed…
our favourite books EVER.
Favourite books from our childhood.
Favourite books from middle school.
Favourite books from present day.
And what a lovely discussion it was. The snow fell in heaps and bunches outside our window…and inside our toasty classroom we ate, and chatted about the most heartwarming of subjects
Here are some of the titles discussed:
The Maze Runner
The Vast Fields of the Ordinary
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime
The Girl With the Pearl Earing
Anything by Lucy Maud Montgomery
The Book Thief
Anything by author Cassandra Clone
The Night Circus
Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief
The Ranger’s Apprentice series
A Song of Ice and Fire
The Little Princess
The Lucky One
The Five Ancestors
The Fault in our Stars
Beyond the Shadows
Being by Kevin Brooks
His Majesty’s Dragon
I am a book geek. Not only do I always bring home a book from the bookstore EVERY time I visit (even though my intent was just a scouting trip) I also make finding the nearest bookstore a priority every place I visit…San Diego, Honolulu, New York, even visited the few English bookstores in Tokyo (where it’s standard procedure to neatly wrap the cover of paperbacks with butcher paper so that no nosey subway passengers are privy to your choice of literature. I have to admit it felt all so clandestine!).
Years ago I went to Las Vegas with a group of friends complete with feather boas and themed t-shirts. The ladies and I went to shows, we shopped, we played the slots. After a day my book radar did a scan and nary a blip was found. Nowhere and at no time during the 3 days we vacationed did I find a bookstore. It was so bizarre and between mojitos I found it very disconcerting. No pocket books in the gift store at the hotel, no bookstore in the airport (unless I missed it) no bookstore anywhere on the strip. Now I realize most people don’t go to Vegas to read and I certainly didn’t go to Vegas to read, but if there ever was a reading emergency I would have been hooped. I have to admit it freaked me out some. I have since learned there actually is a bookstore in the mall on the “strip”. I blame the previously mentioned mojitos for not being able to spot it.
Booktown. Sidney British Columbia. One summer I was looking to visit Vancouver Island and I found an advertisment for a new spa hotel opening in Sidney. Google-ing “Sidney BC” I happily found out that Sidney is also referred to as “Booktown” Canada. Having only 11 000 residents it boasts 12 bookstores making it Canada’s only “Booktown”. My favorite is Beacon Books right on Beacon street and well within walking distance of the hotel, but you can check out the “Haunted bookstore” and several other as well. Now you won’t be partaking in beverages of the alcoholic nature on Sidney’s promenade, and if you glance into any restaurant you will see a sea of grey heads, but it is charming and slow and the Thursday summer market rivals the one I’ve visited in San Francisco. If you’re interested http://www.sidneybooktown.ca will give you all the information you need.
Paris. Home of THE most charming, eclectic bookstore ever to be found on the Left Bank. It’s called Shakespeare and Company. I discovered it over fifteen years ago during my first trip to Paris and I make sure to visit it every time I return. The last time I was in Paris I was accompanied by a group of students. It was wonderful seeing the excitement and wonder they had exploring this store on their own. Shakespeare and Co possesses within its walls both new and used books. It smells of history and dust and imagination. There are little beds scattered throughout the store, squished between shelves and tables. You can sleep in the store for free if you promise to work 2 hours a day and, what I love, read a book a day. There is a piano with a cheerful sign written in black pen inviting patrons to “play me”. Written above the entrance is the phrase “Be not inhospitable to strangers lest they be angels in disguise” inviting all to enter. Check out Shakespeare and Company on http://www.shakespeareandcompany.com
I’m holding out for the piece de resistance. A small town in Wales called Hay on Wye. http://www.hay-on-wye.co.uk . The mecca for all bibliophiles. 41 Bookstores, 1500 inhabitants. I don’t think I could handle the excitement of the Guardian book festival in the spring, but I live to walk the streets of the village, ducking into bookstores, stopping for tea, dodging into another bookstore….
Just as a bookcase is the soul of a home, I believe bookstores are the soul of a city. Filled with history, and adventures …a place of escape from reality even if it is only for an afternoon.
We started an independent novel study in my 10th grade English class today! And although some of my students were a little less than enthusiastic about reading “a whoooooole book!!???” they seem to have taken to the challenge with gusto and determination. I’ve asked them to share some their understanding of their novel on this post. Here is what I am having them do:
1. State the title of the book they are reading.
2.Share an interesting quote from what they’ve read thus far and explain why they find it interesting.
3. Pose a question or share a comment on content, author style, personal connection etc.
I can’t tell you what a perfect morning it is when I see a class of 33 young people read!
“When I am attacked by gloomy thought, nothing helps me so much as running to my books. They banish the clouds from my mind.” Michel de Montaigne
I cycle a few favourite “go to” books that will always lift my spirit and take my mind off the muckage life throws. Here are the ones I’ve been migrating towards lately:
1. Jane Eyre. No matter how horrible life gets, Jane’s is always worse. I mean how many of us have the psychotic ex-wife of the man we love hold up in the attic? And Jane never considers herself a victim. An intelligent, well spoken “plain” protagonist who gets swept away by a brooding, tortured gentleman who, let’s face it, seduces her shamelessly.
2. Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier. Far better than the movie (and that’s saying lots because I get all puddley for Jude Law). Some of the most intriguing characters I’ve ever met. I especially like the blind goat lady. AND the last fifty pages are the most romantic ever written without the gag factor.
3. The Elegance of the Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery I read it the first time and was mildly entertained. The second time I cried like a baby. Renee and Paloma are two characters whose voices are so distinct they stick with me long after I’ve read the book.
4. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. How I only found out about this book five years ago I’ll never know. I must have been living under a rock, or at least waaaaaaaaay up in the snowy Canadian north to not even realize this book existed until a lady in my book club recommended it. Charming. Heartbreaking without being hopeless.
5. Jamaica Inn by Daphne Du Maurier. I found this book in my mother’s collection years ago when I was about eleven. Mystery, Romance, and a strong female protagonist. Easy to sink into when the thoughts of the day won’t settle. And Jem rivals Mr. Rochester when it comes to handsome scoundrels.
What are your “go to” books? The ones who attack those gloomy thoughts, as posed by Montaigne, with the vigorousness of a Rottweiler with a new toy? Please share!
I’ve been chastised and persecuted and ridiculed in public to the point where I have to go underground in order to practice a ritual that is so frowned upon by society I dare not reveal it to anyone…
…ok, maybe to you.
Here it goes…
I don’t read novels the same way most people do.
Friends have screamed,”but you ruin the ending that way!” ” Why would you do that? That is not how you’re supposed to read a book!” ” It’s just wrong!” ” You’re a freak!” And I am not giving way to melodrama here…these are direct quotes, most of them from loved ones.
Granted I am the type of personality that hates surprises. When I was a kid, and Mom and Dad where out, I’d search the house high and low to find my Christmas gifts. And I don’t particularly like going to movies because I can’t skip ahead or fast forward to the end of the movie, watch the resolution, then rewind the flick back to where I left off.
I much prefer DVD’s for this reason.
When I start a book I don’t just flip to the first page of the first chapter. Rather my reading ritual is to scour all the publication or newspaper acccolades (snippets that are listed on the first page or two of some books, or sometimes grace the back cover). I’m not sure why I want to know other opinions before I come to my own but if one of the accolades is from an author I admire, I’m more likely to purchase the HARDCOVER of the intended book. I then usually read any author information, or book club or readers club suggested questions and answers if they are included in the publication. Finally I read the interview with the author at the back of the book if there happens to be one.
Then, and only then, do I settle in and read the first quarter or first third of a novel. Next I flip to the back and read the ending. Now I don’t just leave it at that. I DO go back and continue from where I left off. I do have a genuine interest in seeing how the author gets to his final plot destination.
Who’s to say an author’s true intent is to have his or her novel read from front to back, beginning to end, following the story in order of the page numbers?
I’d like to think I do this is because I enjoy the journey of the read as well as the destination. There have been a couple of books where skipping to the end has given me NO clues to the resolution of plot. “Boys in Trees” by Mary Swan being one and “Four Letters of Love” by Niall Williams being the other and I still enjoyed both immensely.
Is there a proper way to read a book?
Harold Bloom writes in the preface of his book How to Read and Why : “There is no single way to read well, though there is a prime reason why we should read… Reading well is one of the great pleasures that solitude can afford you, because it is the most healing of pleasures. It returns you to otherness, whether in yourself or in friends, or in those who may become friends. Imaginative literature is otherness and as such alleviates loneliness.”
To me, reading a novel has become almost ritualistic. A comforting routine that allows me, as Bloom suggests, solitude without loneliness.
What is your reading ritual?
Books are love letters (or apologies) passed between us, adding a layer of conversation beyond our spoken words.”
― Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer: Awakening the Inner Reader in Every Child
I started a book club over ten years ago and although members have come and gone over the years
there has been a core of five that have suffered and celebrated life events over the magic of prose.
Our group is now made up of 10 and we’ve become a bit of an institution of sorts. I am often asked “what is your book club reading this year?” and so I thought I’d share our entire list with all of you who are curious.
How did we come up with this eclectic array of titles?
We all meet in September with books that we’ve read and loved,
or want to read but haven’t had time,
or have heard about and are curious….
or are scared to read alone for fear of frustration.
Then we are all given 10 votes (with the intention of meeting 9 or 10 times throughout the year) and we can put out ten votes on the books we so choose; one vote on ten books, or two votes on five books ….
I once wanted to read certain specific book so badly I put my entire ten votes on that one book! (much to the chagrin of several members…but they humoured me.)
This year we have everything from true crime to young adult, science fiction to literary classics. We also have an honourable mention list for those titles who didn’t quite make the cut.
Enjoy! And let me know if you’ve read any of these. What did you think? Which is your favourite?
2013/14 Book Club Reading List
October: Ender’s Game – Orson Scott Card @ Leanne’s house Oct. 23
November: The Purchase – Linda Spalding
December: Persuasion – Jane Austen and
Life After Life – Kate Atkinson
January: Z: A novel of Zelda Fitzgerald – Therese Anne Fowler
February: Unwind – Neal Shusterman
March: Helter Skelter – Vincent Bugliosi
April: A Trick of the Light – Louise Penny
May: Cutting for Stone – Abraham Verghese
June: The Forgotten Garden – Kate Morton
Pure – Julianna Baggott
The Orphan Master’s Son – Adam Johnson
Police – Jo Nesbo
The Empress Dowager Cixi – Jung Chang
The Lion Seeker – Kenneth Bonert
Love in the Time of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Arcadia – Lauren Groff
The Winter Palace – Eva Stachniak
The Lollipop Shoes – Joanne Harris
And the Mountains Echoed – Khaled Husseini
The Language of Flowers – Vanessa Diffenbaugh
The Little Giant of Aberdeen County – Tiffany Baker
The Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
Light Between Oceans – M.L. Stedman
The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared – Jonas Jonasson
The Juggler’s Children – Carolyn Abraham
Game of Thrones
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