Valentine’s Day post on a heartbreaking novel

I was only a few chapters into The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter when I knew it would break my heart. I just didn’t know how.

The book was building towards something. But what? What horrible thing will happen?

And to who?

I knew it wasn’t going to end well. But I kept reading. Continue reading

My bookcases and my 40 years

When I turned 40 earlier this month, I set a goal for myself: I will read 40 books in the next year.
Thanks to a good friend who suggested this may be too ambitious for my particular situation, I have revised this goal: I will read 40books OUT OF MY OWN BOOKCASES in…however long it takes me.
First, let me talk about my beautiful bookcases.
When we were house hunting, it came down to two houses. One had a three-car garage, was on a lake, and had built-in bookcases. The other, which we now live in, didn’t have these particular things, but was great in other ways.
Poor Jeremy gave up his dreams of fishing out of his back yard and keeping all his trailers and boats on-site (Ok there still wouldn’t have been enough room for all of these!!).
And I thought I was giving up my bookcases.
Until he suggested: Why don’t you just have some bookcases built in “that room”? That room, which would have otherwise had no true purpose except making me feel like I needed another couch, is now my library. Thanks to my uncle Don, cousin Aaron and Monarch Cabinets (family business plug), I soon had my very own bookcases built wall to wall.
This was my dream come true because I definitely had the books to fill them.
However, truth be told many of these books I have not yet read. I am constantly collecting books to read “someday.”
So this year, instead of clicking “buy” on Amazon, hitting another used bookstore, or grabbing a book at the library, I will be book shopping from my own bookcases. If I run out of “new” books, I will re-read some favorites.
As I am set to finish the first book of this endeavor, the bar has been set very high. Birdsong by Sebastian Faulks is the type of book that reminds me why I fill my bookcases with books.

Every night I have looked forward to going to bed so I can read it. As the pages wind down, I am filled with excitement and sorrow, as this journey will soon be over.
This is the type of book that makes me want to go click “buy” on everything else Faulks has written, so I can add them all to my bookcases to be read “someday.”
But I won’t…for now…instead, I will look foward to what other surprises await me right here.

Dr. Suess and the power of a gift

Beyond the immense power of words and themes, a gifted book carries even more emotional weight.

Dr. Suess’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go was a gift from my fifth grade teacher; he brought it to my high school graduation. He brought this and a roll of toilet paper, signed by my fifth grade class, but that’s a whole other story.
The years are long between fifth and twelfth grades. As different as we were in some ways, my family and this teacher had a special connection that remained through all those years. 
After high school, this book sat in my bookcases across states and houses, and I always considered it a symbol of someone who believed in me. This teacher was one of my first champions. Perhaps a stronger one than I ever knew. 
I admit this book hasn’t been out of its decorative sleeve much in the past 20 plus years until recently when my kids found it and consequently accused me of hiding a “kids book” in my room. The nerve!
So, we enjoyed reading it several times during the next few days. And during these recent readings, I found myself somewhat reflective (being forced to consider where have I gone exactly?). 
A few days after our Dr. Suess reading marathon, I learned my teacher had passed away. During the week I had been reading this story to my kids and reflecting upon it, he was in his last days of hospice. 
I was planning my next journey while he was facing his.
For the rest of my life, when I look at this book, I will be thankful for this teacher and feel him believing in me. 
“Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!” – Dr. Suess

The Atlantic: My new favorite magazine

Before leaving my house one day, my dad left a copy of The Atlantic on my coffee table and said I should read an article on such and such. (He didn’t say such and such but this is how I heard it at the time as I was busy doing something.)
So I took the magazine on our 10+ hour summer vacation road trip.
I was quickly sucked in by “The Gigolo” where the author invites the star of a reality series over for a party with her friends to be interviewed about the growing male escort service. Ok, this definitely wasn’t the article my dad was referring to, but it was fascinating. 
Then “Spolier Alert” noted that the average American family throws out $1,500 worth of food each year, but equally or even more important, “food waste is responsible for emitting the equivalent of 3.5 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually” and “if food waste was a country it would be the third largest greenhouse gas emitter on the planet.” Though the article focused more on technologies to help indicate food’s freshness, it actually inspired me to get (my husband) working on our new composting system.
Article after article I learned more and more, about Minecraft, infertility, craft distilling. I learned that clown fish can change sex; I won’t share here, though I have already told in some social situations, how this fact would change Finding Nemo
Then I came across the cover story, about the moral debt America accrued from slavery and the history of “white flight.” Yes, this is a likely suspect, I thought. This may well have been the article he thought I should read. And I was glad I did. But I still wasn’t sure.
After that was another feature story, “Fire on the Mountain” about the 19 Firefighters who died near Yarnell, Arizona last year. The story, which reconstructed their final hours and bravery, was one I was thankful to read. 
Story after enjoyable story, I wondered if that article was “the one” I was supposed to read.
But at some point I decided it didn’t really matter anymore which one I was supposed to read because I enjoyed them all, and further, I didn’t even want to know anymore! 
Then I reached the end, “How the Novel Made the Modern World,” a history of the American novel. Yes, I had to admit, this was probably it, the one he had intended for me.  Even so, I had already read the whole magazine enjoying other stories just as much. 
Eventually I couldn’t stand it.
“Dad, that Atlantic you gave me…which article was it you wanted me to read?” 
“I can’t remember,” he said.
The Atlantic. June 2014.

Tips and tricks for drinking in Ulysses

I drafted this to present at the annual Bloomsday celebration…

 As Leopold Bloom notes early on,


“Good puzzle would be cross Dublin without passing a pub,” (Joyce Ulysses, 48),
so I put together some Tips and tricks for drinking in Ulysses, or 1904 Dublin:
1.      For a quiet mid-day drink, try Davy Byrne’s, and make sure to claim your free drink every four years. Known as a “moral pub,” the barman Byrne doesn’t chat much but

stands a drink now and then. But in a leapyear once in four” (140).

2.      However, before ordering a drink, DO NOT check the time because Nosey Flynn, who has been sitting in the same nook since Dubliners’ “Counterparts,” will gab about it later:
God Almighty couldn’t make [Bloom] drunk. Didn’t you see him look at his watch? Ah, you weren’t there. If you ask him to have a drink first thing he does he outs with the watch to see what he ought to imbibe. Declare to God he does” (146).
3.      Also, DO NOT order water or gingerpop in front of other patrons. Even if you have dyspepsia or are attempting sobriety, real Irishmen like Paddy Leonard still expect to buy a round:
“Paddy Leonard eyed his alemates. Lord love a duck, he said. Look at what I’m standing drinks to! Cold water and gingerpop! Two fellows that would suck whisky off a sore leg” (146).
4.      So, most importantly, DO NOT refuse a drink. Temperate behavior for any reason will arouse great suspicion and will be mocked incessantly by a nameless narrator:
“Bloom saying he wouldn’t and he couldn’t and excuse him no offence and all to that and then he said well he’d just take a cigar. Gob, he’s a prudent member and no mistake” (249).
5.      Instead, always adhere to the accepted “treating behavior” – buy and accept drinks in somewhat equal quantities – and when someone at Barney Kiernan’s asks you:
“Can you make a hole in another pint?”
regardless of how many pints you’ve already had, just answer
“Could a swim duck?” [sic] (257).
Joyce, James. Ulysses. Ed. Hans Walter Gabler. New York: Random House, 1986.