In the High Peaks

Saturday, October 30, 2010

I've Returned--I Hope for Good!

I sustained a wee bit of an injury that has made life difficult enough so that I have not had the energy to blog. Posting mid-term grades consumed my time as well. Although I may not have been blogging, I was reading.

I have extensor tendonitis in my left foot, which seems to have happened while hiking. I did indeed fall that Tuesday morning but thought nothing of it. I picked myself up immediately and felt perfectly fine. I didn't feel any pain until evening. Strange! But I've been hobbling ever since, for the past 11 days. I start physical therapy next week, thank goodness, but you know how tendonitis is; recovery progresses very slowly.

I am nearing the end of Let It Bleed by Ian Rankin. How about you, Katrina? Rankin has me wanting to make a trip to Edinburgh. Indridason had me wanting to visit Reykjavik. Maybe I can combine a trip to both cities? I better save my pennies! I'd love to see how Edinburgh has changed since I last visited 38 years ago. The October issue of National Geographic Traveler has an article about Edinburgh. I want to visit Castle Rock! My subscription is digital. The photographs are so much more alive in a digital format, I have been amazed! I'm truly there in those photos! My subscription is through Zinio.

In other news, I just found out today that I have landed a part-time "holiday" job at a major bookstore, which, I was told at my interview, may lead to a permanent part-time position. How I wish! I love working in bookstores. I have loved every bookstore job I've ever had.

And The Small Room discussion. Tomorrow, October 31st. I must head over to the site that's hosting it and remind myself how to go about it all. I'll post again tomorrow when I get it straight.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

10 Weeks Left in 2010--Which Books Will You Read?

Perhaps because I'm so in tune with the fall semester, the number of weeks remaining in this calendar year weigh heavily on my mind. I am hell-bent on engaging in the May Sarton discussion of The Small Room at the end of this month, and I'm eager to do a virtual Edinburgh tour with Ian Rankin by reading Let It Bleed with Katrina and whomever else would like to join us.

So, what else? I'm determined to read The Great House by Nicole Krauss, which has received unanimous rave reviews. But I must have that back to the library on November 1st.

My students are reading memoirs for our Memoir Project, which will culminate in their writing a very brief memoir of their own, of a single event, or a series of events in their lives. I simply must find a memoir to read to be in communion with them.

Are you putting a list together of the books you'd like to finish by New Year's, or does the calendar have zero impact on your reading speed? Please weigh in on your final 2010 reads!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Let it Bleed by Ian Rankin is a Go!

All right! As unappetizing as my library copy of Let It Bleed is (scroll down), I started reading it on Tuesday morning and got so hooked! I had to work most of the day, so I couldn't let myself go, but I'm eagerly awaiting several days when I can immerse myself for an hour or more at a time. Ian Rankin's police detective Rebus is wonderful. I'm all set for the ride, Katrina. Does anyone want to join us for an Edinburgh journey? Rankin's website has a map of the city, and I think I'll refer to it to aid my virtual travel to Scotland.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Ian Rankin & Edinburgh!

I'm closing in on the last 60 pages of The Small Room by May Sarton. I'm loving it; in fact, amazed by it, perhaps because I'm especially in tune with the "crisis in academe" theme.

After teaching today, I drove to Crandall Library and picked up a copy of Let it Bleed by Ian Rankin, one of the "John Rebus mysteries," published in the US in 1996. Katrina of Pining for the West will be reading and discussing it with me. Because she is a true Scot and lives close to Edinburgh, I'm hoping she'll be able to clue me in on the "Scottish dimension", explaining things, perhaps, that I have no clue about. All (most?) of Rankin's "John Rebus mysteries" are set in and around Edinburgh. I have only visited the city once, when I was nineteen, and was immediately entranced.

But I have a problem with the copy of Let It Bleed that I've borrowed. It's obvious that thousands of people have read it. The binding is, miraculously, intact, to its credit, but the jaundiced pages (you're cheap, Simon & Schuster!), the coffee and chocolate stains (I hope that's all they are), and the wrinkles from bathwater or beach-bathing or cooking spaghetti are all together too much! I don't mind a well-read book, but this copy I may choose to abandon back to the Crandall morgue.

A few minutes ago I thought I might buy a copy, but I'm not. No Kindle copy is available, so I'm going to wade through the water-laden pages of the library copy. Much ado about nothing, I suppose, but the aesthetics of reading are very important to me and they have been offended.

Friday, October 15, 2010

A Confession

My third post today--must be a personal record!

I confess I made a book-related purchase that was quite impulsive. Ken was partially responsible because he always condones gadget-related purchases. The creature arrived at the post office today.

I bought the new second-generation Kindle. It cost $139, as I bought the Wi-Fi Kindle, so I can download books from home, instead of via a cellphone "Whispernet" network. Because of our mountains, cellphone reception is a lost cause here in the Adirondacks.

Stay tuned!

Saying "Sayonara" to a Book

Book Blogger Hop at Crazy for Books this weekend. I have time this weekend because of our abominable weather. Two inches of snow tonight and howling winds after a day of a blustery, icy rain.

I have a problem "ditching" a book if I've managed to read over half of it. And the more I've read, the harder it is to stop reading. Yet if I start reading a title, and at pages 50-70 I can see it's going nowhere I want to go, I can easily set it aside and move on without remorse. But once a considerable time investment is made, I have trouble letting go, even though I've been known to make the sacrifice at late stages.

I'm facing this problem with Blackout by Connie Willis right now (scroll down for more info). I have only 120pages left of a nearly 500-page book, but I'm convinced nothing is going to happen that's going to make those final pages worth the trouble, so I tell myself I intend to get to the ending, but time passes and nothing happens and the book goes back to the library. But I still may finish it yet!

Last Day for a Free Month at BookSwim!

Just thought I'd let my readers know that today, October 15, is the last day to sign up for a free month at BookSwim. Scroll down to read about the beginning of my experimental foray into this new book rental subscription plan. I've just found out that my books should be arriving early next week.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Consumed by Great Reads

I finished Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason early this morning, and I can say I truly enjoyed it. I think mysteries and police procedurals are marvelous escape engines for the times when I'm under stress. I'm looking forward to reading more by Indridason and by other contemporary Icelandic writers. But my next detective novel will be one by the Scottish writer Ian Rankin--I've decided that much, thanks to Katrina of Pining for the West! The Rankin book will be for my personal Scottish Literary Challenge.

After finishing Jar City, I plunged into The Small Room by May Sarton. (Scroll down for more info about Sarton and The Small Room discussion coming up at the end of the month.) I read nearly 50 pages and am in a state of rapture. As you know, I love Sarton's writing, and this story is hitting so close to home! A new Ph.D. is launching her teaching career in a small New England woman's college, where there is much tension beneath the congenial surface. In addition to this link to my work life, the book was published in 1961 and evokes the dawn of the '60s in ways I didn't think were possible. (I'll wax on about this at a later date, when we discuss the book at the end of this month.) So far, I'm smitten beyond fathoming. This hysteria can often be a bad sign; inevitable disappointment may be around the corner, but I don't think so.

Oh! And the W.W. Norton paperback book cover! It is a beauty. I'm so glad I decided to buy rather than borrow.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Book Swim & A Nor'easter Blows In!

Oh, dear. It's much too early for this, though it has happened that we've been clobbered by a nor'easter in mid-October. I pray that the storm will be all rain, but it will be very cold, and snow will be mixed in, according to all reports. The snow will be heavy at times, they say, but as long as the temperature stays in the high 30s, we'll be all right. The storm will sweep in tomorrow afternoon and last into Saturday. My grandfather, a Massachusetts farmer born in 1883, always said, "No blue skies 'til three days after a nor'easter." And that's about right.

Book Swim!!!! I've been waiting for them to come up with "a free- month introductory subscription plan" and that has paid off. I signed up for six bestsellers, and they're supposed to be sending me three books. But a slight caveat. I signed up Sunday afternoon and they're still saying on Wednesday evening that they're "shipping soon." Not the best service for a company that charges $23 a month to loan three books!

The concept of Book Swim is great. But the cost is too high unless impeccable service can be delivered. I selected books that are in very high demand, BUT that's all Book Swim has in its inventory. I chose Freedom by Jonathan Franzen (tops on the bestseller lists), Ken Follett's first in a new trilogy about the 20th century, and Bob Woodward's Obama's Wars, about the White House's handling of the war in Afghanistan. I chose several others that are not in as high demand, and Book Swim has chosen not to send those, which indicates that they probably have very few copies of books that are not at the top of the bestseller lists.

Still, I love experiments that involve books, so here I go! I'll keep you updated.

Monday, October 11, 2010

More Info on the Forthcoming May Sarton Read

As seems to happen often these days, I did not post everything I should have about the upcoming May Sarton read of The Small Room. (Scroll down for more information about this title and about May Sarton.) I discovered that this event is coming from the blog, A Work in Progress. My copy has arrived from Amazon, and the book appears to be a very quick read, pages in the low 200's, wide leading between the lines, nominal cost. There's still time to join us!

You'll notice that the A Work in Progress post listed above links to the blog? Slaves of Golconda. Follow her link to this site if you like. I'm not overly optimistic about their participation, because they haven't made a blog entry since August 15th. However, we can discuss The Small Room here and at A Work in Progress at the end of the month!

Any takers?

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Beauty Abounds! And a Word about Blackout and Michael Dirda

What a gorgeous day today! The deepest of blue skies illuminated by gold, red, yellow, and orange foliage! The glories of autumn that are so short-lived here. Tonight we're expected to plunge down to 22degrees--a very hard freeze--and, without hesitation, the rest of the trees will turn quickly and fade away, all in a couple of days. As much as I love living here, I regret the brevity of the beauties of autumn. I walked more than six miles, luxuriating in the colors...and I did so deliberately, not caring that I'm behind with my schoolwork.

So! Blackout by Connie Willis. I'm halfway through and rather bored. Then I discovered a review by THE Michael Dirda of The Washington Post, who so obviously loved this book. He felt Blackout immersed him in the events of the Blitz, Dunkirk, and the V-1 bomb attacks as no other book had, but I feel I'm covering old territory that offers nothing new.

When I was twelve, I read Silence Over Dunkerque by John Tunis, published in the 1960s by a wonderful writer for the 12-14 year-old age group. I managed to pick up a copy recently at a used book sale and I loved it all over again.

Within the same span of time (being my early teenage years), I was mesmerized and transfixed by the classic American movie Mrs. Miniver (1942), starring Greer Garson, and which was very, very loosely based on the novel by the British writer, Jan Struther. I believe the movie and the Tunis novel gave me an understanding of the British evacuation that Connie Willis cannot surpass.

If you have never seen Mrs. Miniver, you must, because it is an unsurpassed film of the World War II era. It really is, and I believe my friends in the UK will love it, too, if, of course, they haven't seen it already.

If Michael Dirda says I must keep reading, I must.

Friday, October 8, 2010

May Sarton for Late October

I just ripped open the little Amazon box that arrived today, and inside I found my read for the second half of October, The Small House by May Sarton. I'm so delighted that a discussion of this book will be brewing at the end of the month.

I've been intrigued by May Sarton ever since I read Journal of a Solitude in the late '80s. Oh, how I cherish that book! I read it at a time of great chaos and pain in my personal life, and the book stirred and calmed me. It reconnected me to the rhythms of the earth and to the daily rituals that keep us connected to life.

Sarton was a poet, a novelist, an essayist, an intellectual, an academic. She taught for several years at Wellesley College when I was a nine-year-old in Natick, the town to the west of Wellesley. This was a time of enormous chaos in Sarton's personal life. She was in love with Wellesley's president, and according to Sarton, the president resoundingly rejected their brief relationship and denied that one had ever existed. No open lesbian relationships in early 1960s Boston! Nor could a hint of one be permitted. Sarton left Wellesley shortly afterward.

Most people who knew Sarton have acknowledged what she openly confessed: She was a difficult person who had intense, stormy relationships with the people she loved. Yet her art! Please discover May Sarton and a Journal of a Solitude, or perhaps, the book that followed, The House by the Sea.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Arnaldur Indridason--Well Worth Reading

I mentioned in my previous post that I'm reading Jar City by Arnaldur Indridason, the Icelandic crime writer. Although I'm not an expert on police procedurals, I must say I'm finding this detective novel a captivating read and well-worth the trouble. For an interview with Indridason, follow the link.

Yes, I'm still reading Blackout by Connie Willis and I won't give it up, although I'm finding sections of it to be tedious. I know many of her other novels have received high marks, so I'm not turned off, but I do wish the action would move along a bit more quickly.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Icelandic Mystery!

I'm enjoying Blackout (scroll down) by Connie Willis very much, despite its tendency toward repetitive meanderings. It's a heavy-weight at 490+ pages and could have been edited, but Ballantine published it, and this publisher is not known for spending more than a minuscule amount on editing. But I don't mind. Blackout has a lot going for it, and ESCAPE is the key ingredient in the recipe. (I'm also uncomfortable with Willis's versions of Cockney speech--is this dialogue-manipulation necessary?) But the story intrigues me, so I'm willing to overlook that, though I do wonder what my friends in the British Isles might think of it.

Now--Iceland, a country I dearly wish I had visited when I had the chance. I have picked up Arnaldur Indridason's Jar City, a police procedural set in Reykjavik. As Norse mystery writers go, some say Indridason can't hold a candle to Henning Mankell, but so what? It's set in Iceland, not Sweden, and the first few chapters drew me right in because for those in the know, Icelandic writers and Icelandic literature are nothing like the Swedish.