View from Our Back Deck--Autumn 2017

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

The Nook Samsung is Loaded and Ready to Go

We're finishing our packing tonight for our adventure together. It looks as though the weather will cooperate while we are in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. But next Monday morning we ferry over to Monhegan Island, and although the first day seems like it is likely to be a good day, the rest of the week is iffy, due to remnants of Hurricane Florence, which are expected to travel north eventually. But nobody knows. I feel so badly for people who will be sorely affected by this storm. I don't care what happens to us weather-wise on Monhegan. We can always go again for sun someday.

Monhegan is 10 miles out in the open Atlantic. I'm bringing all kinds of rain gear, so I think we'll venture forth okay, but not on the rocky shoreline if the surf is too high.

I just want you to know that there will be NO DIETING on this trip. I love all kinds of seafood and chowders, and Ken is a crazed lobster and crab and scallops lover. We're not expecting our favorite Maine shrimp to be available, because there has been a moratorium on fishing for it for a while now, in an attempt to "save the herd." I hope that the Maine shrimp population revives, although Ken hears from his family in Maine that its prospects are not bright.

And finally, what we'll be reading. It's Ken's birthday, and he has received from (guess who?) The President is Missing by Bill Clinton and James Patterson, which he has been eager to read. He is also carting along a number of Suduko books.
I've got my Samsung loaded with books. I wanted a Maine island murder mystery and so I downloaded a Faith Fairchild mystery, The Body in the Birches by Katherine Hall Page, set on the fictional Maine island of  Sanpere. KHP writes a darn good cozy murder tale, and sometimes, I've got to say, a good many of her murder tales are none too cozy! Woof! (I woof in appreciation, something I've picked up from a succession of retrievers who never bark--they woof!)

Because I'm bringing some knitting, I'll continue with Old in Art School, my audio read, by Nell Painter. She does not disappoint. If I finish it, I'll start listening to Famous Father Girl by Jamie Bernstein, her memoir of living and growing up with her dad Leonard Bernstein. This year is the centennial of the birth of that magnificent composer, conductor, and musician.

And I have a real, live gothic on my Samsung, one by Susan Hill, entitled The Woman in Black: A Ghost Story. It's short, at 133 pages. I started it a few nights ago, but thought, no! No! I should save this for Monhegan Island, when we'll be staying in a very nice renovated room, but in an old cottage, which happens to be part of the largest inn on the island. It will be lovely if it's good and creaky when the winds blow! I do hope there is a deep-voiced bullfrog  of a foghorn on the island.

I do hope I can post something on my travels. Monhegan has wifi,  but with "spotty bandwidth." I haven't named all the places we'll be staying, but will post when I can, although photos will have to wait for when I can download them when I return home after Sept. 24th.  

Monday, September 10, 2018

Reading on the Way to a Vacation and Beyond

Although we don't leave for our vacation until early Thursday morning, we've already been preparing like mad. The car's problems were totally fixed when Ken developed a dental emergency. Thank goodness, the dentist assures him he will be able to totally fix the problem tomorrow afternoon. Sigh. Thank you!

Lately I've been continuing to listen to Old in Art School: The Art of Starting Over, and I do identify with the author Nell Painter. Her comments that are race-related can be incredibly provocative, particularly as they concern contemporary art, which makes the book even more interesting.

Painter narrates this memoir flawlessly.  She is so careful and clear, and  has obviously taken the time to prepare what she will be reading in advance of the recording session. Painter was in her mid-60s to early 70s when she took on the challenge of working for a BFA in Fine Arts and then an M.A. at the Rhode Island School of Design. I believe I've already noted that she is a pre-eminent historian emeritus at Princeton University and author of acclaimed works of U.S. History. 

Painter's art became a second life. No, never a hobby, but a full-time professional occupation. Amazing! What she had to do to obtain her goals, what she had to sacrifice for what she wanted more than anything, makes for an awe-inspiring memoir. I was deeply moved by her narration of the final months of her mother's life, when Painter was constantly flying back and forth to Oakland, California, from Newark, New Jersey, while attempting to keep up with her BFA class. Painter was the only child of her parents and that makes the passage so difficult for the parents  and the child. 

I listen to Painter's flawless narration while I knit, and I think and I think about what she has to say. I must confess I'm an art enthusiast and art appreciator. I adore art museums, travel to important art exhibitions, and enjoy all kinds of art, all periods of art,  and  I am, for better or worse, sigh, an  art hobbyist.

It looks like I need one more post before we leave for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Thursday. Will do!

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Late August--Labor Day Reading

Yes, I'm so out of the loop the past three days. So many of you have been reading up a storm and I've been cleaning and de-cluttering madly--absolutely insanely, so that it seems to me that you all have been leading intellectually productive lives and I have been merely sweeping up!

I do allow myself moments of respite. This past week offered about three days of unbearable heat and humidity, when my cleaning went minimalist and instead I trudged off in swimsuit to the pool with Chris Bohjalian's suspense thriller, The Flight Attendant, in my bag. Under ordinary circumstances, I'm sure I would not be as keen for this novel, and I know some of you thought it was relatively mediocre. But with my thriller-loving and undiscriminating heart still beating, and with my need for something not too difficult to read before and after swimming loads of laps, I've enjoyed the novel, although I will say I have a harder time when I find the protagonist not particularly likeable or unlikable, or as a person I can somehow find something to identify with.

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie is still claiming my attention, but I must say his imagination is mind-bogglingly boundless. (The link leads to a BookPage interview with Rushdie about the book.) This is my first read by Rushdie, and I knew his writing was very different. Oh, let's call it positively wild with exclamation points.

I read it first thing in the morning, with my first cup of tea or coffee, in bed. The novel requires the utmost concentration, I've found, so much so that I can only read about 20-25 pages at a time, maximum. This is because I'm not taking hallucinogens.

I wonder, I do find myself wondering, again and again: Might  Rushdie sometimes take hallucinogens while he is writing? After all, LSD is definitely coming back into vogue, so I don't think, based on the incredible leaps of imagination to be found in his writing, that it's unreasonable to just ask him to clarify the point.  And the countless allegories to every mythical culture throughout prehistory and history. Yikes! Not to mention allusions to obscure films, classic novels, and not so classic novels. I'm mentally exhausted just trying to describe the prose in The Golden House

Sunday, August 26, 2018

A Little Nothing of a Post and a New Book

On the days I'm home, I work at least 3-4 hours a day on the upstairs rooms' overhaul--my projects room, my bedroom, the laundry room, and the upstairs loft so far. It has been absolutely grueling, and this is because I have not done a thorough weeding of STUFF (including books) in years.

I am determined, so very gung ho, to get the upstairs whipped into shape. Of course, this renovation all came to pass because I tried to do some projects and was completely thwarted by my CLUTTER.  I know I don't have that hoarding syndrome, which has been so explicitly detailed in amusing memoirs written by those afflicted. But still...

I do have trouble weeding books, magazines, and arts and crafts materials from the upstairs rooms. And clothes.

So new books: I helped one of Ken's clients yesterday to unravel the mysteries of her Nook e-reader, the Samsung tablet. When I asked her which book she wanted to download first, she said that she was dying to read Salman Rushdie's The Golden House, which is set in Manhattan, where Rusdie now makes his home. This client once spent nearly her entire adult life living and working in Manhattan, and now makes her home in the Adirondacks. 

It just so happens that I've been longing to read the same novel, and have it on my bookshelf in the bedroom. So we've each decided to read it and then discuss it together. Such fun. I don't often have this sort of opportunity in my neck of the woods.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

De-Cluttering Rules, Yet a Tennis Memoir Distracts

I have been tearing apart my projects room. Although I've continued to do all sorts of art projects  in this space, I have been horribly hampered by the awful fact that there is too much stuff in that room to really do anything at all.

So!! A major revamping of that "studio" space. A gargantuan effort, huger than I thought, but it is well underway and loads of space has been created. Much more to go! Sigh.

I've been knitting and listening to Unstoppable, the memoir by the tennis superstar Maria Sharapova, who undoubtedly needed to write this memoir after she was suspended for two years from participating in the Women's Tennis Association matches on account of a doping charge. In fact, the medication that was found in her bloodstream via random testing, is a med she has taken for years, and had only recently come under the scrutiny of the WTA. Maria was undeniably at fault for not realizing that a medication she was taking had come under scrutiny, but as Serena Williams has argued, Maria was unfairly penalized as an example to others. Maria has been playing again since the spring, at least 6 months prior to the date when her suspension had been scheduled to be lifted.

Maria Sharapova is not a favorite on the WTA tour. She is intensely reserved, which causes many fans and other players to criticize her. She does not interview well, which is another problem for her. She does not fraternize with other players at all,  and she screeches with each shot she hits, at a decibel level far above what any other tennis player manages. Yet another negative in her court.

Still, I am finding her story to be compelling, which has surprised me, because I have been one to criticize her ( her screeching is intolerable--ouch!)  I'm sure at least some of her stories and introspection is pure bunk, but a certain portion  is genuine.  I do think she tried to make this story a genuine version of her life, which was fraught  from the beginning. Americans  have criticized her  for her player affiliation to Russia, but  the story of her background, and how  she and her father came to the U.S. make this strong connection plain.

The U.S. Open starts Monday, August 27th.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

A Murky Day Means Knitting to Audiobooks

Just a few sunny days this week and now we're back into The Murk, as I call it. It's plenty dark due to a dense cloud cover. Yes, I'm thankful  it wasn't hot and we were able to have the windows open all day, which has been a rarity this summer, due to the heat and humidity, even when there is Murk. It will be murky and a bit rainy until Wednesday. (I'm just hoping this means we will have a spectacular fall).

Indoor cleaning projects were not appealing today, so well before noon, I tossed off de-cluttering to launch a new knitting project. I'm excited about this one. Noro Kuryeon yarn, manufactured in Japan, is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. Every yarn in this line is wool, mixing many colors together to make multi-colored garments. I ordered the Noro Kuryeon wool for a scarf and draped hood combination that seems as though it will be very practical for an Adirondack winter.

It took quite a while to knit the gauge sample, because I had to do it in the pattern, which is not difficult per se, but is very complicated because it's a 12-row pattern and each row is different. It's just knit and purl, but you never know when you will purl or knit, row by row.

I was fine while I was finishing the last two hours of Barbara Ehrenreich's nonfiction book Natural Causes: An Epidemic of Wellness, the Certainty of Dying, and  Killing Ourselves to Live Longer.

I was drawn to this book based on Ehrenreich's tour de force bestseller Nickle and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America , in which the author went "undercover" as a waitress, hotel room cleaner, nursing home aide, Walmart clerk, and a cleaner of houses to show how difficult it is to survive as a poor woman in America. Things haven't changed at all since the book was first published in  2001. So if you haven't read it, and even if you know how hard it is, Nickle and Dimed is a classic. Ever tried to get food from a food pantry when it closes at 5 pm, the same time as you get off work, and other impossible Catch-22s.

In listening to Natural Causes, I was astounded to learn that Ehrenreich got her Ph.D. in molecular biology. Or was it cellular microbiology? In any case, Ehrenreich, who calls herself a "gym rat," (just because it makes her feel good, not to live longer), presses home the message that although we like to think that the diets we eat, the exercise we do, the herbs, the constant screenings for cancer, and everything else we do because we believe they will make us live longer, none of it has ever been proven to do just that. It is true that people of higher socio-economic levels live longer, and poor people have shortened lives.

She cites study after study, and gives copious explanations of cellular activities, which have all been updated. She interviewed countless researchers and studied a mind-boggling number of research studies.   I really like her message. It's provocative, as all her books are, which I like.  One of her messages I really, really liked: If one gets cancer, cardiovascular disease, Type-2 diabetes, kidney failure--you don't deserve blame. It happens not because you didn't exercise enough, eat the "right" foods, on and on.  As she and her studies show, the human body, as it ages, is designed, whether genetically or due to environmental reasons,  to develop some of these problems. The idea that we can control what happens to our bodies is a very modern notion, and does not serve us, she argues.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Another Satisfying Thriller and Comments Problems--Sorry!

For about 4-5 days I've been having problems with my comments. One I tried to publish, but it didn't post, which has me fretting, because it was a post from Tracy who was sharing information about the terrible wildfires in California. I can copy it "by hand," which I will asap.

The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine (the authors are actually a team of two sisters) satisfied my thriller soul, yet the ending was not unexpected at all. Lots of critics and commenters mentioned a real twist at the end, but I didn't find it to be so. Still if you long for tales of deep Highsmithingly darkness among the rich and famous, you may enjoy The Last Mrs. Parrish.

My adolescent reader's appetite has barely been whetted, so it was with great delight that this afternoon I downloaded An Unwanted Guest (Penguin Random House summary) by Shari Lapena, (link to her website) available as of today.
This one is delicious--It's set in early winter, in a well-maintained, but old country inn, in the middle of nowhere in the Catskill Mountains in New York State. (The Catskills are a mountain range two+ hours to the south of the Adirondack Mountains.) Of course the weather turns absolutely brutal, when a blizzard-like storm turns into a horrific ice storm. Naturally, the inn is completely cut off--no electricity, no phone, no wifi, no nothing, not even a generator. (Every tourist residence in upstate New York has a generator and this is no historical). But at least they have plenty of food, drink, a library stuffed with books, and oodles of murders. Just perfection for my restive adolescent reader at the moment.)

I'll bet you're saying, "Loads of thrillers and murder mysteries have had this type of setting and premise. Is there nothing new under the sun these days?" And, of course, you're absolutely right.

Then why am I finding this story so compelling? Each guest couple or guest single has their own backstory, which ups the ante. This one has excellent description, so every scene is crystal-clear. And, moreover, this gathering of strangers in a remote place, cut off from civilization, speaks to us. It's a premise that's  done over and over again, because it speaks to us. Strangers coming together in the midst of crisis with no outside resources, with almost no resources, must find a way to survive somehow.

If you will pardon my whimsy for a moment, I am reminded of Snoopy, typing away on the top of his doghouse. Of course, he's writing his first great novel, which begins with the words, "It was a dark and stormy night." The perfect opener.
And did you know that this is the opening sentence to A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle? 

I will sign off for tonight, but for the following postscript from my inner teen.

P.S.If you know of more thrillers or suspense novels that had you on the edge of your bed, or reading chair, please do let me know. I'm dying for more.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Voracious Adolescent Reader is in Residence

For weeks, literally four weeks, I have been searching for a book to tempt me beyond 30 minutes of forced reading, when I plunk myself down on the loft bed or chair and task myself to read. I have searched and searched for a book that might pique my curiosity, to no avail. After the heat wave in early July, it was DARK TIMES for my reading. I read, but lackadaisically-I just couldn't get engaged.

But who knew, (not I!),  that I had a book-ravenous adolescent inside me, who has been longing for a tremendously TRASHY read?

I didn't know this, until I found The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine, by scouring the August edition of the advertisements in BookPage, which my library kindly distributes.  The link above does not go to GoodReads, because I found the novel description there to be way off, and readers' comments were either purely positive or full of venomous hatred for the book, giving too much away, I think.  Read it after you read the book perhaps. It seems to have aroused very strong emotions in some readers.

I'm two-thirds of the way through, and I can say that it's fascinating to my adolescent self who can't believe the things these people are doing. Occasionally, this creature comes bouncing up from the depths of my psyche and devours pure trashiness, which is lots of fun until the jag is over and I'm bored with it all.

So put this one on your list if you ever get into one of those moods... There's supposed to be a wicked twist at the end.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

84 Charing Cross Road, Booksellers, and My Next Thriller

I'll confess; I have never read the book or the play 84 Charing Cross Road. Last evening Ken and I watched for the second time the film starring Ann Bancroft and Anthony Hopkins (and let's not forget Judi Dench), which was produced in 1987, and which we loved the first time in the 1990s in our Massachusetts home.

Did you know that Mel Brooks produced this film? I certainly didn't until this evening, when I went scouring the Web for info. Brooks seems like the least likely person to gravitate toward producing this sort of movie, BUT he was a New Yorker and Jewish, like Helene Hanff, though neither were at all religious, and both were incredibly irreverent and feisty, so I can imagine them meeting and getting along splendidly. (Of course I don't know this.)

How I would love to have a relationship with an English or Scottish bookseller--that's my thought for tonight. Oh, sigh!
And to realize how transformed the purchasing of used, rare, and antiquated books has become! Now you go to Abe Books and proceed. However, I am certain there are book collectors with very, very deep pockets who have personal relationships with booksellers far afield from their homes. Well, I know they do. I occasionally read the magazine Fine Books and Collections. But that kind of collecting is only for the very, very rich today, as so many things are.

We have  lost so much, yet Helene Hanff was never able to have a blog and thereby an international group of fellow readers who shared the books she enjoyed most. Wouldn't she have loved that? Would that have compensated her for the lack of a special bookseller? I think so, in a way. But why can't we have both, in the best of all possible worlds?  She only had her favorite London bookseller to share her thoughts with, and a few English friends in NYC.

I started reading The Annotated Frankenstein today. And I must have a thriller, a downright page turner if I am ever to morph back into being a voracious reader again. So, after a lengthy search, I am starting The Last Mrs. Parrish by Liv Constantine.