The Siamese Ponds Wilderness

Gazing at the East Branch of the Sacandaga River

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Catching Up & Reading Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

To skip the personal info, drop down to paragraph 4.

Last evening I returned home from a ten-day trip to Boston. My mother was diagnosed with cancer two weeks ago, and my brother and I zoomed in to visit lots of doctors, hear lots of opinions, do some of our own research, and, finally, with my mother's input, come up with a plan. A "big surgery" was a possibility, but all of our research and my mom's wishes ran counter to surgery as an option.

On December 7, Mom will be 91. She has had an extraordinarily healthy and productive life, and we all wish for that to continue, without interruption, for as long as it's possible. As she herself said, "A huge surgery? What would be the point of that?"

The miracle in all of this is that my brother and I, who have always been at thunderous loggerheads from it just happened because I think deep down we both knew we wanted it and needed mutual support. And in our togetherness, we were able to fully support our mother. It seemed like magic to me and I'm grateful.
Day One, had not a moment of controversy or ill will between us. We spent time together and healed some wounds. We didn't have to work at it;

I was not able to read at all for a number of days, but when I latched onto Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte several days ago, I've been reading and enjoying it ever since. I'm two-thirds of the way through as of this evening. I'm reading it on the Kindle, and I must admit I was originally drawn to it because it's a relatively short novel.

I heartily agree with critics who say that Agnes Grey is reminiscent of Austen's novels in its depiction of English village society and romance among the gentry. I find Anne Bronte's acute and sometimes satirical characterizations highly entertaining. And, as a governess herself of some years, Anne knew fully the strait-jacketed role she had to play between the offspring she was supposed to instruct and the parents in the homes where she was employed.  Highly recommended!









Friday, October 17, 2014

Books for German Literature Month

Actually, two of my books have arrived. I'm still planning the rest of my reading for November, the dullest month of the year in the Adirondacks. Rain, constantly gray skies, cold, and waiting for snow!

I'm glad to say I have Flight without End by Joseph Roth for Caroline of Beauty is a Sleeping Cat's Joseph Roth Week, November 24-30. It's a short novel, first published in Germany in 1927, and first published in the U.S. in 2003. It's a post-World War I novel set in Germany in the early 1920s. I'm looking forward to it!

The other novel I bought is a YA novel recommended by Thomas of Mytwostostinki.com. (Lazy after work tonight. See my blogroll, please.) It's Young Light by Ralf Rothmann. Eager to read and review it!

I need to study Lizzy of Lizzy's Literary Life's (see my Blogroll) most recent German novel recommendations for more ideas. I'd like at least two more novels.

Please forgive the abbreviated post!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Must Post but Pardon! Way Behind

I've fallen terribly behind with my blog writing as sometimes happens in the autumn months. Our prime foliage has passed, leading to a slump in my mood, something that only a bright snowfall can lift! And for that we need to wait for weeks. Just give me some light! Time for candles and the gas fire, and books.

I still fully intend to blog about my enjoyment and enthralled appreciation of The Haunting of Hill House, the 1959 classic by Shirley Jackson. I was supposed to do this on October 1st, and what day is it now? Please don't remind me.

I still haven't written about why A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger is one of my favorite books of 2014. This post is long overdue! If you are leaning toward reading this book, you will not make a mistake by moving forward to read it.

And books in my house as of today: I went to Crandall Library and The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher was on hold for me. Wunderbar! I feel so lucky to have the short story and others in the collection to read this weekend.

Another read for my R.I.P. IX: I'm devouring Tana French's The Secret Place. Very, very worthwhile so far. French has a firm, masterful touch on dialogue and exquisite pacing--and her characterizations show the mark of a dedicated stylist. It's a long book, but I don't mind a bit, yet it might be a while before I complete it as it is a true chunkster.

One very lucky book arrived at my door today! For two years, I have waited for the moment to acquire a copy of The Atlas of the Great Irish Famine, published in 2012 by New York University Press. I received this massive, colorful tome at a major discount from a used book sale at the New England Historical Genealogical Society. I paid $40 for a $70 book and it is "Like New." Lucky. I have browsed all through it while cooking dinner tonight and I'm very excited.

So I hope to post more substantial stuff very, very soon!



Friday, September 26, 2014

A Mini-Post of What's to Come

Late September is peak foliage and we're having unbelievably beautiful Indian Summer weather at the same time. That means no work gets done anywhere and everyone gets out to enjoy the show.

So this is just a post to say that I'm planning on blogging about the incomparable medieval historical/thriller A Burnable Book by Bruce Holsinger. The novel is set in 1385, in Chaucer's day. I want to emphasize that Holsinger is not only an incredible storyteller but also an academic who has spent his career specializing in medieval studies. Actually, he is an expert on the history of vellum--the animal skins (parchment) that was used as paper in the 14th Century. I loved this novel so--Holsinger knows the medieval streets of London, Southwark, and Westminster inside out. I personally loved A Burnable Book more than Wolf Hall, though I would never claim that Holsinger's is the better book. Mantel's work is impeccable, of course, and, as I've stated previously, I do suffer from Anne Boleyn and Henry VIII fatigue! So, readers, do take this into account.

I am looking forward to giving more information about the Russian Literature Month in January. But gosh, that might have to wait for foul weather, which is sure to arrive sometime next week.

And I need to say that I'm participating in Caroline's and Lizzy's German Literary Month in November. Won't you join us? I have found my participation to be extremely rewarding.

More to come...


Friday, September 19, 2014

Announcing a Russian Literature Month in January 2015

To start the New Year off with a whazoo, I'd like to announce that I'm hosting a Russian Literature Month in January 2015.

This year, the event is open to books originally written and published in Russian no matter what region the authors hail from. In other words, if a writer's ethnic group is Uzbekistani but he or she writes novels in Russian, these works may be included in the Russian Literature Month Readalong.

Contemporary Russian literature and classic works are both included. Even medieval Russian sagas may be included.

I hope to read a number of novels for January, but for now, do you think you might be interested?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Russian Haul and Where to Put Them

What a dizzying week in books! The college library has purged quite a number of Russian novels from its stacks, most likely because Russian language and literature is no longer taught at the college and shelf space is at a premium as well.

Now my haul is such that I'm contemplating a bookcase devoted to Russian literature and history, a bookcase I don't own at the moment. I'm also trying to remedy the neglect of my time-worn Russian novels and poetry as well, which are stacked in a rather dusty area. So I guess I hope to breathe new life into this Russian haul, though I'll admit, none are pristine copies.

I've taken possession of the published Notebooks for two of Dostoyevsky's novels, including The Possessed, a Dostoyevsky novel I've never read, though I inhaled Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Kamarazov as an 18-year-old, and I still own those books. I found a beautiful volume of Yevtushenko's poetry, and a well-worn copy of Solzhenitsyn's First Circle. I like that the purged college library is so worn--so many people read it, that I'd like to join them. I've got Stendahl's And Quiet Flows the Don (French, not Russian, I know, but still illuminating about a period in Russian history.) A volume of Pushkin's prose,  a history of Soviet fiction, a history of 19th-century Russian literature, and Dostoyevsky's Notebooks for A Raw Youth. All of this to add to my recent translation of Dr. Zhivago and Pasternak's poetry, and Oblomov and on and on! 

Do you by any chance share a passion for Russian literature? Do you read contemporary Russian writers? Please comment if you are willing!

Monday, September 15, 2014

R.eaders I.mbibing P.eril IX: My Reads New and Classic

This year 2014 marks the ninth year that Carl V. Anderson's of Stainless Steel Droppings has hosted his annual blogger "gathering." Even though it's September 14, the grand event runs from  September 1st to October 31st, so if you'd like to join in, there's still plenty of time to participate. This is my first year and I have three books ready to go. 

What I'm reading for R.I.P. IX:
1. First of all, I borrowed The Secret Place by Tana French from the library. It took me all week to reach page 44 due to the usual time constraints. I then realized how desperate I am to finish it, but it's due at the library in a mere 10 days with no renewal possible. And with 458 or so pages with small print, I made the only sensible decision. Instead of reading under pressure, I ordered the recently-released (in the U.S.) hardcover. It's the kind of mystery/thriller I like, one that I can really sink my teeth into, with the kind of deep characterization and plotting that demand intense concentration. Naturally, I want to read it at my own pace. And, yes, now I can annotate, annotate! I read Broken Harbor earlier this year and liked it very much, yet if my gut feelings gleaned from the first 44 pages are worth anything, I think The Secret Place may be extra special.

2. I'm participating in the Estrella Society's readalong of The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. The 1959 classic is due to be discussed on Wednesday, October 1st. I just ordered the new Penguin paperback bearing a lusciously creepy cover. I've never read this novel and am extremely eager to dig in. I'd better read it first, and best of all, it's only 258 pages.

3. The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle readalong for October is coming up at the blog Simpler Pastimes. I'm so glad Volume 3 of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Novels arrived yesterday. I'm all set for some fun!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

The Hound of the Baskervilles--Annotated

Tonight the temperature will fall to 37 degrees, though we'll warm to the low 70s by early afternoon tomorrow. Our summer was cooler than normal and I appreciated that! Still it was quite warm with daily temps in the low 80s and high 70s, often with plenty of humidity. I must admit I'm so thankful that we were spared days in the 90s, which left me free of day-long confinement to air conditioning. A lucky and welcome summer. I thoroughly enjoyed it. Our big news is that we took up tennis and after a number of lessons are having lots of fun.

But back to real life. I'm now on a schedule--teaching Tuesdays and Thursdays, with time to read five days a week! I've committed a bit of book purchasing recently. Because I'm reading The Hounds of the Baskervilles for an October readalong, I finally purchased the third volume in a three-volume set: The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, which was published by W.W. Norton in 2005. The third volume contains the four novels and some short stories that were never compiled into a volume. Unfortunately, the entire set is now out of print. The only volume available new these days is Volume 3, in a slip-cased edition. My other two volumes are not in slipcases, so I do have a mismatched set, but I'm so thankful that I was able to get it at all despite the increase in price. But they are well worth it! I love the annotations--extremely well-done by Leslie Klinger.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Diane Keaton: Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty

I listened to Keaton's book of personal essays/memoir, Let's Just Say It Wasn't Pretty, on my travels to Boston and back home again. It was an audiobook I picked up at the library on my way to the Hub, and it was not what I expected. Diane Keaton has had a fascinating life, she is a not a cookie-cutter movie star or celebrity, and she is uniquely herself. That's a given.

In this book she focuses on the question, "What is beauty?," and how that question has resonated through many parts of her life. First, she discusses her physical self as an entity in the competitive world of Hollywood, and then she focuses on beauty in respect to her search for her "dream home," which, as she describes it, has led her to move at least once every two years into another home and then renovate it only to resell the home (at a profit) before moving onto the next house to renovate. I found this interesting, and would have liked to know more about her process, her fascination with architecture, and the details of some of her renovations, but instead, she defends this way of life against those who have criticized her for it. This was unnecessary. Most of her fans and readers would not have thought to criticize her for this way of life. It's interesting, but this need to defend herself from Hollywood gossip and from other aspects of her life was not what I enjoyed at all. 

In fact, because I had no other audiobook for the trip and for parts of the trip there was no decent radio, I felt at times like a captive audience. So I listened closely. I do truly feel that I understand her ideas and beliefs, but personally, I can't relate to them myself. I accepted her portrayal and found it intriguing that she worried so much about aging, hair loss, and all the other bodily changes, but I'm just six years younger than she was when she actually wrote the book, and I can't relate to the deep conflict she feels, not at all, not to any of her concerns. Please Note!! I'm not finding fault with Keaton's book--it's deeply personal to her, how could I find fault with that? But I couldn't connect with her ideas because I suppose I'm an entirely different person.

Beauty. Nature is beautiful to me. The Adirondack landscape is beautiful. I define beauty in terms of Nature primarily. But much, much more important to me as a life concept is just this one word: Meaning. I'm always searching for the meaning behind everything, the meaning that supports everything, the meaning that drives each person to his or her life's work or being, the meaning behind people's behavior, their ideas, their accomplishments. Meaning. This concept, I suppose, is extremely abstract, but there it is.

I found parts of the book depressing in its view of aging as a series of losses. Yes, I agree wholeheartedly that aging comes with losses, sometimes frightening ones or ones that seize upon us quickly and alarmingly. I get that. But at the time Keaton wrote this book, I believe she had not finished grieving the loss so that she can move fully forward into the next stage of her life. I felt the positives she stated were statements where she was "whistling in the dark" rather than ones she genuinely believed.

For me to accept aging, I need to believe that no matter what happens, there is something new and meaningful to grab on to. Something new to learn, something new to discover. Something!
And someday I'd love to read a biography of Keaton's life. Now that would be riveting!