In the High Peaks

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Hosting a Readalong for Peace in Nov.(Dec.) or 2019?

I heartily apologize for not responding to comments in a timely fashion within the last 11-12 days. I've responded to all now, thank goodness, and I want you to know that I thoroughly enjoy comments--I was just temporarily overwhelmed with life.

Since last Saturday, October 27, I have thought and thought about what I could do, as an individual, to do something positive to help ourselves and our world in the light of the increase in violence against people who are judged to be "the other," those who are not only the target of demented individuals, but are also the targets of well-organized groups who seek to diminish them, eliminate them, or banish them from within our borders. 

I am thinking, most recently, of the 11 Jewish men and women who were slaughtered last Saturday.

I am thinking of the immigrants to this country who fear deportation--both legal immigrants and illegal immigrants. I am thinking of black Americans and Latino Americans who are being prevented from casting their ballots and who are forced to lead diminished lives.

I am thinking of the Jewish children and teens in this country who are asking since Saturday, "Why did this happen?" And I'm thinking of the children of immigrants who ask, "Why are we in so much danger? Why do we have to hide?"

Do I believe that by merely reading a book and discussing it with other readers that I can affect what's happening in this world? Of course not.
But I do believe that by reading specific literature I can reaffirm my values, that I can strengthen myself, that I can reconnect with the impulse to say openly, or to shout out loud, "No, not here!"

1. This is the most difficult suggestion I've had to offer to my fellow bloggers.

2. My proposition may flop, completely, and I accept that I may be the only reader who will participate. I know what it is like to be overwhelmed by what's happening because I have been overwhelmed myself.

3. This suggestion is offered with U.S. readers in mind, although I'd heartily welcome any reader from any country to join in. Because these issues affect people in all countries. We are not the only country to be experiencing an increase in anti-Semitic crimes and activities.

Now comes the complicated part: Selecting a book to read. Will you read on?
1. The book, fiction or nonfiction, can be any title that you believe might inspire you to feel engaged  in the current struggle to maintain and promote human dignity and decency. It might be a novel (historical or contemporary or classic). It might be nonfiction about people trying to help others, to reach for peace, to do anything  that  strengthens the soul for standing up against prejudice, hatred, and evil. It very well might be none of those things. And that's okay.

Notice that what you personally choose to read is left  intentionally vague. Because this is for you.
We all need something to inspire us now.

I have been resorting to escapist literature. There's nothing wrong with that, and I believe that I will be continuing this habit as this year passes and the next comes along. But it doesn't strengthen me.

As for my choice, I haven't totally decided, mind you, but I'm inspired to read a non-fiction book I own that's about Christians who risked their lives to try to save Jews during WWII. I haven't done much research on this topic, but I'd like to know more about these people. I think it would strengthen me.

If you are interested, let me know about your scheduling conflicts. Are you too busy reading other things in November? Would December be better? Would January be even better?  What do you think?

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Reading Status as of Late October

Snow and ice fell all this past weekend and I for one did not venture out, because the snow was so ridiculously drenching wet. The snow poured down in huge clumps and globs. We stared out at it and absolutely refused to go outdoors.

This past weekend, with all the terribly sad, horribly bad! news and the bad weather, I dug into finishing Alaskan Holiday by Debbie Macomber, new this year (2018) for the Christmas season. I must confess that parts of it I enjoyed, BUT I don't think it was one of her better books. From my perspective, I think it's been a while since one of her better books has been published. Alaskan Holiday was very short, just 166 pages, and could have been a novella, which would have been fine. The Alaskan parts were not atmospheric Alaska at all. Not a bit. I disliked that aspect of it. It was superficially Alaskan, very superficially. The romance was pleasing. But I gave this a very limited 3.0 stars., because it was cheerful. And cheerful counts for something right now.

I also finished The Child in Time by Ian McEwan, which had such depths,and painful material, too, but it ended on such a joyful note, which made the whole novel come together for me so that the reading of it was a very meaningful experience. Maybe now I can finally view the Masterpiece version of the novel.

So now where am I? 
I'm really embroiled in a novel by Olivia Goldsmith. I had never heard of her, but she was the author of The First Wives' Club and many other popular novels published in the 1990s and very early 2000s.
I am deeply into The Bestseller, published in 1996. It has 680 pages or so, but I've managed to whiz through the first hundred pages, a page-turner par excellence. Five (actually six) different individuals are desperate, just desperate for all kinds of personal reasons, to have their novel be the next great bestseller. According to the blurb, only one of them will make it.  All the hopeful novelists have problems and obstacles blocking their paths to the top despite their indomitable wills to succeed.
Olivia Goldsmith knows her stuff. She has the 1990s publishing scene down pat, with all its warts. I was working in publishing and bookselling during this time, so I think it would be realistic to call them HUGE WARTS. This is not pure fiction, but fiction backed up by the reality of publishing in the 1990s. Definitely the real thing.
And entertaining to boot! So glad that I discovered this one for a mere $2.99 via Early Bird Books.

I am also reading Elin Hilderbrand's Winter in Paradise, the first novel in a trilogy, published in October. Again, very clever plotting and fascinating, totally unpredictable characters. The action takes place in St. John, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, but before the devastating hurricane of 2017.

Saturday, October 20, 2018

A Child In Time and Ian McEwan

I've been outdoors a great deal since I last posted, which has made me tired in the "before dinnertime" hour, too tired to compose an entry. I feel the same way this evening, but will try to do just a little catch-up.

I'm currently reading A Child in Time, a short novel by Ian McEwan. I did not watch the recent broadcast of the Masterpiece Theatre version of the novel. Although the novel's precipitating event is the kidnapping of the protagonist's very young daughter in a supermarket check-out line, the main thrust of the plot does not concern her at all, but rather her father's reactions to the crisis in the weeks and months following, which lead far from the critical event. Most importantly, there is the theme of time, of how time transforms individuals and relationships in Stephen's life, including the relationship with his parents and his memories back to earliest childhood, the tortured relationship with his estranged wife, and his relationships with other important figures in his life, and with his work as a best-selling children's book writer.
What I appreciate most about Ian McEwan's work, and I have read at least eight of his novels, is that in each book, he constructs the overarching theme, then the plot and the characters in such a way that the reader is forced to think deeply about what he, the author, is highlighting. I find his books to be very powerful. I do urge you, if you have tried only one of his novels and then ended up flinging it aside, to try another.
My personal favorites by Ian McEwan: Sweet ToothOn Chesil Beach, The Children Act, Saturday.

Just a note to say that I finished Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George, the second novel in the Lynley and Havers series, published in 1989. I was knocked over and startled to discover who the murderer was at the end. Positively flummoxed. The only problem for me in the construction of the plot: the individual who turns out to be the murderer was described in the beginning of the book to be rather heavy-set, so therefore, I'm wondering how he managed to heave himself over fences and down and around alleys and over all sorts of obstacles and elude Lynley in the final chase scenes?  That was my only real problem in an otherwise five-star book. I totally forgive it as I thoroughly enjoyed this mystery.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Books & Nature Weekend--In Deep, Deep Fog

Our peak foliage this year has come with almost no sunshine. Well, there was a day last week when it was sunny for a few hours... But mainly, we're suffering from a "temperature inversion," which is causing drizzle and fog to hang tough with no reprieve. The higher the elevation, the greater the fog. But the intense leaf colors of gold, oranges, reds, yellows, and greens are all still there--though they appear different. Dazzle in an alternate universe.

I have been venturing forth for miles and miles over the past 3 days, camera in hand, mostly wanting to capture photos of birds, but also taking fog-laden photos of colorful vegetation.

When I finally return home, and rather damp from my tramps, I eat my mid-day snack and then retreat to the bed in my bedroom, turn on all the lights, then light a candle, and read more of the wonderfully exciting Payment in Blood by Elizabeth George. Such scintillating dialogue, causing me to hold my breath. Wow! Fireworks!

Last evening we binge-watched The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, which won a number of Emmys recently, and which streams on Amazon. It's set in New York City, in 1958-59. The young, ebullient Mrs. Maisel is left with two very young children, just a few years after the marriage to her  true love. Her furious anger pushes her to take on the role of comedienne, in small clubs in NYC, with hilarious results. Highly recommended!  I think it was very lucky that we got to bed by midnight. Ken was pushing for watching a couple of more episodes, those night-owl tendencies of his coming to the fore. But I folded. A wonderful night of television. After the past week of horrendousness, who couldn't ask for more???

Friday, October 5, 2018

Friday Night: Nell Painter and Andrew Wyeth

I have been listening to Nell Irvin Painter's Old in Art School for weeks and weeks, it seems. There were interruptions. I always listen to it while knitting, for better or worse for the knitting project should I become too absorbed.

I am within 45 minutes of the end, and it will be very hard to tear myself away from Nell Painter's voice, the variety of her tones of voice, the variety of her subjects. Many a time I have disagreed with her views on issues in art, on race, about white people, about academic historians and scholars. Yet even when I have had strong, strong reactions to what she has said, I've been fully engaged. I've been actually in dialogue with this author just as if she has been in the room with me. (!) I agree with her lots of times and at other times quibble only slightly. But, the point is, she's always challenging me. I feel I know her. I'm so accustomed to her voice that I hate to let her go, I dread finishing the memoir.  She is a SUPERIOR reader, the best I've encountered in the past year, and perhaps for many years. So painstakingly careful of tone, of voice, of diction and erudition, everything. I'm constantly writing her letters in my head as I take walks or when I'm cleaning or cooking.

Fortunately I'm able to stream thousands of programs via the PBS Passport program, provided when a person becomes a member of their local PBS station. Wednesday afternoon I was so very tired. I lugged my laptop up to my bedroom and for an hour streamed the PBS American Masters' broadcast of a documentary about the great and often terribly misunderstood American artist Andrew Wyeth. It's entitled simply Wyeth. Over the course of a lifetime I've seen a number of large-scale museum exhibitions of Wyeth's work: 1) a retrospective that circulated a number of museums in the mid 1970s, and 2) an exhibition of Wyeth's "Helga" paintings in the 1980s,  a collection of his art which had been secret for decades, and which shocked many people when they were revealed. I would never say that Wyeth has ever been "my favorite artist," or anything like that, but he has always interested me tremendously. I find now that I appreciate his art more as I grow older and older. A very stark realism. Not realism realism as has became so ridiculously outdated in the 1960s and later, but realism made more stark with emotions--I suppose that's how I see it. Perhaps for this moment in time he is my "favorite" artist.

In any case, the very next day, I descended on the library in Glens Falls and took out quite a number of books regarding Andrew Wyeth's art, a DVD about the entire Wyeth family, and a biography of Wyeth published in 1996, though he didn't die until 2006, I believe. How wonderful to have that library resource here--so grateful.