In the High Peaks

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Crazy Weekend: Landscape's Ablaze with Color!

This is THE WEEKEND coming up. Our "color" is going to peak this weekend. Peak from my point of view, that is. Although next weekend many trees will be colorful, the most sparkling bright crimsons, deep reds, and flame oranges will be gone. What will make this weekend dramatic, is that the trees that tend to turn a duller shade of gold or yellow have not "turned" yet, so contrasting with the brilliant flames, we will have the cooling greens. Glorious! I literally go crazy with wonder.

So, I have many goals this weekend, not all of which can be realized. I want to post again about the Bernhard Schlink Week coming November 11-17.  I'd like to post a "button," but I have to figure out how to do that on Blogger. In other words, I want the picture button to reside in the far right-hand column. And I want to post about Caroline's and Lizzy's German Literature Month in November.

Stay tuned. I am coming back this weekend!

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Antonio Tabucchi! 1943-2012. And Pereira Declares.

Perhaps I should have known that the Italian author Antonio Tabucchi died this past March at the age of 68. Perhaps someone or Caroline mentioned it. But, for whatever mental lapse that is the cause, learning of Tabucchi's passing was a shock for me today. He was only 68. Just think of the books this prolific writer still had inside him. I mourn him.

I loved reading Pereira Declares, as I mentioned in a previous post. I'll be frank; I don't think this was a political novel at all, despite its setting in Salazarist Portugal--1938. Pereira was Every Man, as far as it goes. He had literary passions, he loved his omelettes aux fines herbes despite his serious cardiac condition, he was lonely without his deceased wife and spoke to her framed photograph throughout the day, and yes, he had detached himself from the thrum of real life and the real world, whatever they are. And I think Tabucchi is emphasizing that point. Real life, so what? What difference does it make to a man whether he's involved in real life? And what is that anyway?

So when the young rebel Monteiro Rossi insinuates himself into Pereira's life, Pereira opens the door, despite his protests that he wants nothing to do with Rossi and whatever the young man is doing. That declaration is a smokescreen. Deep down, without Pereira being fully conscious of it, he's longing for meaningful human contact. As time passes, it becomes clear that Pereira is desperate for it, desperate enough to put himself in harm's way without a second thought. And when it comes to that, he rises to the occasion, swinging with both fists.

I'm not going to belabor the summary of a plot, because Pereira Declares is a character study, and an enjoyable one at that. I won't label it fascinating or intense. It was to my mind a quiet character study, and I loved that.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Where to Turn? Schlink, Thrillers, & More

This is the first weekend that I've had a chance to draw deep, calming breaths. I went for a two-hour fast-tempo hike today, with the temperature at a strikingly low 60 degrees following a week of temps in the eighties, yes, again. This seasonable fall weather of lower temperatures won't last, it seems, thanks to global warming. We'll be back in the high 70s by Thursday next week.

Reading: After finishing Pereira Declares by Antonio Tabucchi for Caroline's Tabucchi Week, starting Monday the 17th, I'll be starting Peace by Richard Bausch for Caroline's Literature and War Readalong on September 30th.

Now I need something completely different. How about a quick, easy thriller? I have so many novels to draw from in the house at the moment. It's staggering for me to see how many I've purchased this year that I haven't read yet. Yet I've chosen Sisters by Rosamund Lupton, her thriller that was published last summer in 2011, to read on my Nook. Quick, fast, and compelling, I've heard, so here goes.

What are you reading this weekend?

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Do you know about Coursera?

Just in case you haven't heard about Coursera, I thought I'd give you a few links to see if you'd be interested in taking a university course, offered by some of the top universities in the U.S., for FREE.

Because my greatest dream has been to be a university student in a Ph.D. program in one of my favorite areas of knowledge, I immediately latched onto Coursera. I can't afford a Ph.D., but Coursera has possibilities for the insatiable learner in all of us.

This fall I'm taking "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry"  offered by the University of Pennsylvania. I'd tell you more, but we had a WILD and woolly storm this afternoon and have lost electric power. I'm operating on battery at the moment so must be quick.

In any case, many courses are available in many subjects. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed up, but that doesn't mean anything, as many courses are still open.

When you get to the Coursera homepage, click on "Categories." You don't need to set up an account to browse the site. If you're like me, you'll next click on "Humanities and Social Sciences."

Better linking tomorrow, if I've got real POWER.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Please Post! What Are You Reading This Weekend?

Hey! It's the weekend, and hopefully, a few of us have a little bit of extra time to pick up a book that's for our own enrichment.

Life is so short! How that point is abundantly made each day, each week.

So, I'm reading and browsing through a number of reads: Pereira Declared (of course) by Antonio Tabucchi, and I'd like a lighter read.

You know, I have  in my very hands The Nightmare by Lars Kepler, the Swedish husband/wife team, authors of the incomparable The Hypnotist.  Ken's devouring Jo Nesbo's The Devil's Star at the moment. He's racing through it. I haven't read this title, but I've read Nesbo's The Snowman and The Leopard, the former being my fave of the two. But I have so many books on board, it's hard to choose. I'm also feeling drawn toward working on art and sewing, so I'm all up in the air. This blog needs an Autumnal Photo, absolutely. A June photo has got to go!

I've lost sleep due to the Democratic National Convention this week. Michelle Obama was on fire, John Kerry's speech was my favorite (if only he'd been able to speak like this when he was running for prez!), and Bill Clinton was the liberal comfort food. Obama's was lacking, but that's ALWAYS the case for the presidential candidates. Their "handlers" won't let them say anything. It's so sad.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Antonio Tabucchi!

I don't like being busy with work to the extreme, as in in extremis. Help.

But I have managed to dig in to Italian writer Antonio Tabucchi's Pereira Declared, set in Lisbon in 1938. I am at one with Pereira; I even think there is a part of me that is in my core Pereira. So immersed in his cultural interests that he has scarcely noticed the political. It's his character that makes his interaction with Fascism in Portugal so believable. Incredible writing! I'm so glad I'm reading it, so glad that Caroline is hosting the Antonio Tabucchi Reading Week, starting September 17 through the 23rd, I believe. I've named the week incorrectly. Damn. But I am so tired tonight, working long hours, sleeping much less.

The seasons are changing here, although today it was 83 degrees at the college, 40 miles to the south. I got home, an hour to the north, and with the elevation, it was 72 degrees. Thank goodness! I was sweltering in the classroom this afternoon. The leaves on the maples are just beginning to turn...Fall in the Adirondacks is such a short season, I want to savor every day.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Aharon Appelfeld's A Story of a Life

When I first picked up Appelfeld's narrative, I thought, "Oh, another Holocaust memoir." But was I in for a surprise.

Appelfeld was just seven or a bit older when his father, mother, and he had to flee their comfortable home in Romania, at the very beginning of the war in Europe. The little boy had been secure in his parents', his servants', and his grandparents' love, but suddenly that world is snatched away and nothing is ever again as it was.

A Story of a Life is not a linear narrative, which is one of its strengths. Appelfeld loosely strings patches of intensely detailed memories, some from the days before his world changed and some after. Some of what might be supposed to be the most significant memories are no more than the remembrance of a scream heard from afar--his mother's, signalling her murder.

Although Appelfeld doesn't say, it seems that he and his parents were taken from their homes to a Jewish ghetto in another city in Romania, and from there, it's not spelled out, but he and his father are walking to Ukraine to a "camp." More shadowy reminiscences, and then, Appelfeld escapes from the camp and is on his own, roaming the forests. Alone.

It is this aloneness that Appelfeld conveys with such startling clarity. There he is, a young child,  in deep woodlands, hallucinating visions of his mother and hanging on to the certainty that they will come to him. He scrounges berries, but what else? The time period is not clear, but it is months. With winter, he must find shelter, and after an undetermined length of time a woman takes him on as hired help. She is a prostitute, the means to his survival, but cares nothing for him. Eventually, he escapes her threats to kill him and somehow, he lands in Italy, in an "orphanage," where he is prey to Italian smugglers and evil-doers who exploit children for whatever ends.

As he reenters society, he has no language and rarely speaks a word. Years later, after the end of the war, he journeys to Palestine, but his isolation seems to intensify, perhaps as he becomes more aware of the communication abilities of his peers. This introspection that marks him also isolates him, and he tells the painful story of his first years in Palestine, on a kibbutz and later, in the military.

His years of apprenticeship as a writer are a struggle, but he does not give up, and the reader sees him becoming part of a tight writing community.

If I had time, I would like to quote a number of amazing paragraphs from the book--so filled with meaning.

Appelfeld as a child and teen reminded me so much of the boy in North to Freedom by Anne Holm, who, I believe, is a Danish writer. I believe it was published in the UK as I Am David. It was made into a film, and I have seen it, but I have read and reread the book--it is one of my favorites--and it's haunting.