In the High Peaks

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Recent Book Purchases

Today I'm participating in an "Open  Studio" at the Hyde Collection in Glens Falls. It's an hour's drive, but up here, we don't consider that far at all. The Hyde is a wonderful art museum, and since we've moved here, their exhibitions and activities have expanded and improved enormously--a wonderful show of Georgia O'Keefe's Lake George (New York) paintings, which were so breathtakingly beautiful, now a Rockwell Kent exhibition.

When that's done, I'll zip home and dig back into my books.

As far as book buying goes, I really and truly have gone overboard this year. I think I've been trying to cheer myself up. Well, it is fun!  Here are just a few...
Upper left--Siddhartha by Herman Hesse

Who We Are and How We Got Here by David Reich, which I discussed in yesterday's entry.

Elin Hilderbrand's  Here's to Us

Writing Hard Stories: Celebrated Memoirists Who Shaped Art from Trauma by Melanie Brooks,

My Struggle: Book 5 by Knausgaard,

The Awkward Age by Henry James,

Into the Wilderness by Sara Donati,

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley.

I am so late that I will have to add the links to each book when I get home.
Happy reading to all!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Super Heat Wave Means a Readathon--Want to Join In?

My plan for surviving the hottest weather I've ever faced in the Adirondacks (since moving here in  2005) is called Books Immersion. I am declaring a readathon until the temperatures return to the mid-80s F. No one knows when that will be. Temps Sunday and Monday will be around 93 degrees here at my GPS location--and we're at an elevation, which is what astounds me. I feel badly for people in the valley south of here who will face heat in the high nineties, with heat index readings of 107 degrees F, due to the oppressive humidity.

If you find that the heat is driving you indoors, please do drop in and say hello if you want some company. I'll be writing blog posts, visiting blogs that have recent posts, and responding to comments,  and commenting on the blogs I frequent regularly until this scorching siege is over.

What I'm reading today (Friday):

Jane Harper's Force of Nature, the Australian thriller set in the Girilang Ranges, a mountainous region in the Australian Capital Territory (not far from Canberra, Australia's capital city), approximately a half-day's drive from Melbourne. (2018)

Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past by David Reich, a professor of genetics at Harvard Medical School. (2018)  Follow the link is to a Guardian interview with the author.

I'm also finishing Time and Chance by Sharon Kay Penman, the fascinating and absorbing pageant of a historical novel set in the 1100s in medieval England, which I have discussed in a recent post.

Read on!!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Cool, Dark, Rainy Saturday with Books and Candles

With all of our trees in full leaf, a rainy day is ever so dark indoors. Hence, my trip to North Creek to buy my favorite "Northern Light" tapered candles, in dark reds and spruce green, to keep me comforted while reading all the afternoon long, very deeply. Saturday was a rest day after a busy week.

I started the day journal writing, and after the trip to buy candles, I immersed myself in reading one of May Sarton's published journals that I have never read, Recovering: A Journal, which was written when she was 66 and 67 years old, in 1978-79,  a time of crisis and nearly insurmountable challenges in her life. May Sarton was a European-born American, a distinguished and award-winning poet, novelist, memoirist,  academic, and feminist, who lived from 1912-1995.

Her most well-known work is Journal of a Solitude, written in her late 40s,  which was embraced by American women of all ages during and after the second wave of feminism in the U.S. in the late 1970s, and the 1980s, and 1990s. If you have not read it, it remains her most beloved work and is still her most popular and most widely read book today.

I read it in the early 1980s and consider it one of the best books I've ever read. I read it when I was not yet married and saw no potential of ever being married. I believe I gravitated to it because she described her challenges as a writer, she wrote about the solace of nature, gardens, and animals (she was one hell of a gardener, indoors and out), and she contemplated what it is to be a fallible human being, in life and in love and in failure. In her journals, she speaks to me, so openly and honestly, that I am drawn close to her experience.

And so it is, exactly the same, with Recovering: A Journal. I couldn't put it down.

The rest of the afternoon I devoted to Sharon Kay Penman's Time and Chance, about Henry II and Thomas Becket. I'm halfway through this chunky chunkster and it looks as though perhaps Thomas is on his way out after trying to hold on to his role as Archbishop of Canterbury. An atmospheric read and one that does not disappoint in this rendering of Henry II's reign.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Henry II and Eleanor and a Manhattan Terrace Garden 20 Floors Up!

Two summers ago (2016) I read Sharon Kay Penman's first novel in her Plantagenet Series--When Christ and the Saints Slept.  I remember it being an enormous chunkster (well over 550 pages) but can't remember its exact length. I thoroughly enjoyed it, despite it being a dense read, with loads of characters and tumultuous events, admirably done and engrossing, and I swore I'd read the second novel in the series the next summer.

Although 2017 did not work out, I am now engrossed in Penman's  Time and Chance, which begins with the relatively early part of Henry II's reign and the early years of his marriage to Eleanor. It's a large hardcover, with 512 pages, so I'll be going at it awhile. It will cover the entirety of Henry II's reign, because the third novel in the series covers the exploits of Henry's sons in full detail.

I love medieval English history, and it's fun when it's delivered as an historical novel. Sharon Kay Penman has written another series of books of early royal English history, but frankly I have no idea what the other series are about. I think I'd like to read all her books, BUT just one per year. Some are over 600 pages, and I don't think I read books fast enough to conquer more than one annually.

In addition I am adoring Susan Brownmiller's My City High-Rise Garden, which was published in 2017, when Brownmiller was 80 years of age. Here's a wonderful interview with her about the book. (I know, she does not look that old. It's probably the garden fitness training.) It's about her 35-year love affair with gardening on a terrace 20 flights up in a Manhattan apartment building. Such brutal weather conditions (Think the winds! And think about the fact that New York City is the windiest city, not Chicago!), the soil perpetually dry because of the winds, the loading and unloading of huge bags of soil and manure at such a site, the search for super-hardy stems and vines, etc. 

You will enjoy this book if you love to read about other people's gardening challenges, mishaps, disasters (oh--she has some beauts and yet she overcomes), and adventures. Believe me, you do not have to be a city dweller to appreciate and love this slim book. Brownmiller experimented with birch trees  and incredibly productive dwarf peach trees dripping with ripe fruit in August, perennials of all stripes, annuals, and loads of bushes of all sorts, not to mention boston ivy and climbing roses up the brick-face of the building. Fascinating  reading. Oh! And climbing clematis--how did she do it? 
For those who don't know Brownmiller, she was a prime leader of the second-wave feminist movement in the US in the 1970s and 1980s. She has written lots of books about this topic, BUT sorry, you will find no feminism in this gardening book. Oops! Well, maybe a wee bit!

Saturday, June 9, 2018

How I Enjoyed Muriel Spark and Penelope Fitzgerald This Week

This will need to be a brief post. I'm still not back to normal, but books provide consolation. I'm in the middle of reading the classic dog novel Big Red by Jim Kjellgaard. How interesting to discover that he was born in Albany, New York, the capital of New York State, and a city that we visit two hours' south for medical specialists. Unfortunately, his death was yet another suicide, at the age of 49. He wrote a great deal during his life and loved the western U.S., but at the end of his life he was in a great deal of physical pain.

Today I spent the entire day in bed!!! I could see early summer beauty from my bedroom all day, our gigantic sugar maples and oaks in full leaf,  but I was so exhausted from the past week, that I chose, deliberately, to spend the day with Penelope Fitzgerald's superb novel The Bookshop, first published in the UK in 1978. Just 123 pages, I do heartily recommend this novel, which makes lots of statements about the world as it is so tragically, so sadly. Yet this is also such a totally satisfying work about individual relationships in small towns and it is about individual loneliness. This town is in East Anglia, in Sussex, by the sea.  So worthwhile.  I know lots of you have probably read it.  Are there other Penelope Fitzgerald novels I should read??

I spent last Sunday reading Muriel Spark's Girls  of Slender Means. This, too, I enjoyed, in bewilderment and enchantment. Muriel Spark has much less sympathy or empathy for her characters than Fitzgerald or Barbara Pym or others writing at this time,  but, in this novel, she captures the lives of single women in London in 1945, immediately post-war, brilliantly. I was entranced by the exquisite details of 1945 rationing and the attempts women took to circumvent it. This is my second novel by Spark--I would like to read more of her, but her appalling distance from her characters does make me shudder at times.