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Posts Tagged ‘Lydia’s Party’

December 2014

The high points of my December staycation reading was The Seaside Knitters series, which got its own blog entry.

Here are my other favourite bits from the rest of my December staycation reading.  If you scroll down to the last book, and your name is Mr Tootlepedal, you might like the descriptions of mosses.

Dec 2:  The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  I liked the film much, much better than the book (which is unusual.)  This paragraph about lost friendship spoke to me:    “I wish I could report that it’s getting better, but unfortunately it isn’t.  It’s hard, too, because we’ve started school again, and I can’t go to the places where I used to go.

December 11:  I was catching up with the last few books of Susan Wittig Albert’s Pecan Springs mystery series.

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It is a charming cozy mystery series.  It doesn’t grip me like the Seaside Knitters for two reasons:  I have no desire to live in Texas or anywhere away from the sea, and sometimes I think it gets a bit silly with its mystical side (inspired by one of the characters having a new-agey tarot reading magical sort of gift shop).  I like the herbal lore (because the main character, China Bayles, has an herb shop) and the small town setting.

I also appreciate the variety of physical types among the characters.

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On December 15th, after a number of distracting busy holiday events, I settled down to reading again with a true story of miscarriage of justice, Damien Echols’ Life After Death. I followed that with the excitement of a new book in the Tales if the City series.  I re-read the second to last one in preparation.

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The following passage took me right back to sitting on a silky brown easy chair in my grandmother’s living room perusing Christmas Ideals:  “She remembered a magazine called Christmas Ideals that her grandmother had sent her every year when she was a little girl back in Cleveland.  It was sturdier than most magazines, and glossy, and inside there were poems printed on scenes from nature.  If she were to see one today, she would probably find it corny, but back then her easy childish heart had soared at the sight of those snow-laden pines and starlit valleys.

Ideals had been the ideal name, she realized, since what the magazine had offered was the sweet reassurance that life could not be improved upon.  A pristine landscape was perfection itself; it was only when you added people that everything changed.

 

 

Next came the very last book in the series (although I have heard that before).

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To think that back when I began this series in the early 80s, gay marriage was just a dream that I never thought I would live to see.  I am so delighted that I lived to see the day.

Heartrendingly, Anna Madrigal is elderly now, and her caregiver gives her some artificial candles because of the fear that Anna might fall asleep and let her home be set on fire by the real thing.  Anna accepts that with a grace that brought tears to my eyes.

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Another longtime character, Michael, is finding his gardening business more difficult in late middle age.  “Gardeners aged better than athletes, but their bodies betrayed them just the same.” Oh, how I identify with that!

December 19th: After another round of holiday fun, I got back to reading a non fiction book.  A lot of my reading choices come from a book review pamphlet that I pick up at Time Enough Books.

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The author writes for the New Yorker and had that droll New Yorker style that I enjoy:

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Her book was engrossing and made me extra glad that I had attended a home-made garden wedding last summer.

After a couple more days of light reading interspersed with blogging, I was able to return to some days of pure reading.

December 22: Back to Pecan Springs.  I had caught up by reading Wormwood, Holly Blues,  Cat’s Claw, Widow’s Tears, Mourning Gloria, Nightshade, and…

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I always appreciate the herbal lore in the China Bayles series.

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about a particularly annoying weed

about a particularly annoying weed

Later that evening, I turned to a serious topic in a book to which I gave the top rating (five stars) on Goodreads:

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How strongly the book reminded me of the fourteen year relationship that I had with someone who often drank to excess,

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The book has a lot of train travel, so well described that I could hear the wheels on the tracks, and a bit of birdwatching.

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Some more rather randomly collected favourite pieces from the book.

on insomnia (a chronic problem that I share):

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on kindness:

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I had no idea that Raymond Carver had lived in the Pacific Northwest or that he was born in Klatskanie, Oregon, not far upriver from where I live.  Here are some randomly collected snippets about that:

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I think her stunning descriptions of the Port Angeles setting will inspire other Northwesterners to want to read her book.

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She describes how, if you find his headstone, you will find a box where people leave messages.

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Inspiring: “At some point, you have to set down your past.  At some point, you have to accept that everyone was doing their best.  At some point, you have to gather yourself up and go onward into your life.”

More holiday festivities happily interrupted my reading concentration.  I found that if I knew I had to leave the house for any reason, it became difficult to sit and read, so I devoted most of those days to blogging. On December 26th, I slogged through and deeply disliked Jimi Hendrix Turned Eighty. I kept hoping that the tale of rebellious old folks in a nursing home would get better.  For me, it didn’t.

On December 27th I read this, which I recommend even though I didn’t save any passages from it:

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On December 29th, I was able to have some uninterrupted reading time.

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From a character just about my age: “This aging thing had taken her by surprise.  She’s heard tell, of course. She knew it would happen, not just yet, and not all at once.  Of course she’s known in the abstract, she just didn’t know.  She hadn’t understood how bad it would get, didn’t expect these ongoing losses, this sense of parts falling off the wagon as it rolled downhill.  When she was younger, she hadn’t fully comprehended that she was part of this cycle, too, that she too would grow older, then old, and only then if she was lucky.”

“Somehow, all evidence to the contrary, it had seemed for awhile, in her thirties, even in her forties, that everything would stay the way it was forever or at least until some distant time in the future when she’d just cease to exist.  She hadn’t expected this, this process of public dismantlement, this precipitous downward slide, or for it to begin so soon.”

I wrote awhile back on Gardening and Aging, so the problem has been on my mind for awhile.

Another sign of aging:

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Ramones = my favourite band back in the day.  (Now I'd say The Smiths.)

Ramones = my favourite band back in the day. (Now I’d say The Smiths.)

On fear:

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Someone I met recently said to me, when I mentioned my phobia about the Astoria bridge, “I don’t do fear.”  How very nice for him.

on regrets:

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Too late for me.  I can think of all sorts of ways I could have had a better relationship with my mother, now that it is too late.

A trivial point:  I was gratified to find that a character dislikes orange streetlights just as much as I dislike the one outside our front window: “The sky was that awful orange streetlight color the city had adopted in the seventies. It looked like poison gas now, caught in the mist.”

A very favourite passage (not the end) from the book:

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I went straight on to the latest book by Anne Lamott.

You can see that I took down the Christmas tree early this year.  I was just done with it and wanted to move on.

You can see that I took down the Christmas tree early this year. I was just done with it and wanted to move on.

I had hoped it would be a completely brand new book.  It turned out to be a collection of essays, some of which I had read before.  I found plenty of comfort and inspiration thoug;, even though I have been unable to share her deep religious faith, her humanism also has much to offer.

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How very much I love that she refers to “The Margarets”, as in discussions about authors I have often referred to “The Margarets”.  For me, there are four great writers named Margaret:  Atwood, Drabble, Millar, and Laurence.

I admired this about a church member who would not move on from her grief when advised to:

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On December 30th, I moved on to a book that had been highly recommended to me by a couple of friends.  In both cases, they were halfway through with it when they praised it so highly.  I wonder if they felt the same when they finished it?  I would have given it five stars till I got toward the end, with a certain scene in a mossy cave that revealed that the protagonist’s life goal was a pretty trivial one.  At that point, the book dropped in my estimation.

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Still, it had a lot to offer before I got to That Scene in a very long book.  (For those who have read it, and while trying to avoid spoilers, I’m not objecting to the plot because of prudery; I just wish her life goal had been loftier.)

Things I liked:

The well-described sad realization about one’s appearance:

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I especially enjoyed her study of mosses, as those passages reminded me of the Tootlepedal blog and its many close up photos of mosses and lichens and fungi:

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The descriptions of moss are some of the most gorgeous of any writings I’ve found about the natural world.

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Later, here is something enlightening about botany:

“In the world of botany, such confusing language would have been called nomina dubia or nomina ambigua–which is to say, misleading or obscure names of plants that render the specimens impossible to classify.”

I liked the staunchness of a character who completely lives her political beliefs:

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A remedy for sorrow?  “You must endure it—and you won’t be the first.    …This world is not a paradise but a vale of tears.  Look around you, what do you see?  All is anguish.  Everywhere you turn there is sorrow.  If you do not see sorrow at first glance, look more carefully.  You will soon enough see it.”

And a more uplifting note to end my quotations from Signature:

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I entered January 2015 with one main plan: to read more.  Only Allan’s birthday on January 2nd and the beach clean up day on January 24th would interrupt the time of complete leisure, I hoped.  (And I should get the garden clipped back before we re-enter the work season sometime in February.)  I planned to begin with two lengthy tomes of non fiction:  The Warmth of Other Suns and The Talented Miss Highsmith:  The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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