Sunday, March 1, 2020 - 14:28
If a man in 1870 did a Rip Van Winkle, fell asleep for seventy years, and then woke up in 1940 he would be in an alien world. If the same man went to sleep in 1770 and woke up in 1840, most things would be recognizable. The man waking up in 1940 would see cars, washing machines and telephones. The man waking up in 1840 would see wood stoves, washing tubs, and postal service; all similar to 1770 culture.
I listened to a Planet Money podcast episode about Robert J. Gordon, an economist, and his…
Tuesday, February 25, 2020 - 12:22
So proud to be part of the debut of the Southern Review of Books! See my review of a great new young adult book by a local author.
Sunday, February 16, 2020 - 11:56
When I turned fifty, I had recovered from busting my ACL on the ski mountain. My horse was sold. My son was off to school. I was not yet a principal at my school. Deep in my gut was a burning irritation with life that I could not soothe. I needed something to throw myself against. My husband had a 1983 Honda Magna that we would ride on the highways in the Eastern Sierra mountains. Even if I was on the back it made me smile.
One day he stopped on the way to Mammoth and told me to get off. I had…
Saturday, February 1, 2020 - 14:41
Choi, Susan. Trust Exercise. Henry Holt, 2019.
Defined by the author as an exercise in dreaming, this winner of the National Book Award, to call this work a novel seems deceptive. That’s what Choi is – deceptive. Posing as love stories so well that the Library of Congress catalogs this work as such, the three sections of this work, the Trust Exercises, require the reader’s trust and their perception beyond the engaging tales Choi offers. Choi requires us to feel the cost of trust betrayed.…
Tuesday, June 5, 2018 - 18:30
High Tide in Tucson: Essays from Now or Never by Barbara Kingsolver
This has been on my shelf for more years than I care to say. It was published in 1995. I return to it again and again because of the beauty of the language and the vision into the life of a writer traveling the world. And yet one of the most tender stories tells about my two favorite subjects – motorcycles and librarians. Set in her high school in Kentucky, Kingsolver tells of her intellectual and moral coming of age reading…
Thursday, May 24, 2018 - 08:38
Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison
There are many reasons we enjoy reading. Sometimes I read because it strips my illusions away. My eyes are cleaned and I see the world anew. This is the story of Bone, a girl stained by the label of “bastard” on her birth certificate. In the midst of the poverty, abuse, and violence, her mother focuses her shame on this label. Bone is raped and beaten by her mother’s boyfriend. Raylene, Bone’s aunt, takes her to raise. As Bone is recovering, her mother…
Sunday, May 13, 2018 - 10:40
As I said, I have returned South. Vance’s about his story about his family’s move from Appalachian Kentucky to Ohio and his eventual graduation from Yale Law School is well written. Along with his personal tale of a family torn by poverty, drugs, violence, and abuse, he quotes studies about the economic and sociological/psychological factors involved. In his grandparent’s exodus from Appalachia and his escape from a life of drugs and social services to the Marines, I hear a familiar trajectory. He loses…
Tuesday, May 8, 2018 - 10:15
Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
Home I came to the South and in some ways, it is as if I never left. That is how this book made me feel. I knew some of these folks in my time - hell, I still know some of them. Jacob McNeely of Cashiers, a small North Carolina mountain town, has only one flickering candle left in the window, his high school love, Maggie. Hip deep in the world of meth dealing presided over by his father; Jacob is set to inherit the “family business.” Maggie can see a…
Saturday, May 5, 2018 - 22:18
Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
The Pulitzer Prize winner for 2017 (among other awards), Whitehead drew me in and kept me believing in his alternative history novel. Using history, true and altered, and magical realism, he follows two slaves escaping in the 1800’s. I found that the gritty truth of the history of slavery mixed with the magical underground railroad ( a real underground train!) helped to balance my emotional response as a reader. The truth of history is too brutal for hope…
Wednesday, May 2, 2018 - 16:28
Tell Me a Riddle by Tillie Olsen (1961) brings the sent of my grandmother’s iron to me in “I Stand Here Ironing.” This is a small collection of short stories with words as carefully chosen as the stones in the pocket of a four-year-old, and just as valuable. The lives on display here can be pondered for a long time. Take the time to think after reading this.