Showing posts from July, 2018

As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner: A review

Do you ever get the feeling that the universe is trying to tell you something? It's a sense that comes to me not infrequently when I'm in my garden or I'm watching wildlife. Both have much to teach me. And it's an intuition that comes to me often when I am reading books. In the last several months, no less than three books that I have read and that have touched me deeply have made reference to William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying. Clearly the universe was saying to me, "READ THIS BOOK!" I resisted at first because I had, in fact, read this book many years ago and I thought I remembered it fairly well. But after I read Jesmyn Ward's Salvage the Bones in February, I knew I had to read what many consider to be Faulkner's masterpiece once again.  As I Lay Dying tells the story of the dirt-poor Bundren family, led by their patriarch Anse, surely one of the most feckless, worthless, good-for-nothing characters in all of fiction. There are five Bun

Poetry Sunday: My Cats by Charles Bukowski

I had a request to feature poetry by Charles Bukowski here, so I looked around for an appropriate poem and the first one I landed on was "My Cats." Well, obviously, it was meant to be! I looked no further. My Cats by Charles Bukowski I know. I know. they are limited, have different needs and concerns. but I watch and learn from them. I like the little they know, which is so much. they complain but never worry, they walk with a surprising dignity. they sleep with a direct simplicity that humans just can't understand. their eyes are more beautiful than our eyes. and they can sleep 20 hours a day without hesitation or remorse. when I am feeling low all I have to do is watch my cats and my courage returns. I study these creatures. they are my teachers.  Rudy, one of my cats, who teaches me.

This week in birds - #313

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The Sora is a small attractive member of the secretive rail family. I photographed this one at South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center. *~*~*~* There can be little doubt among rational people who accept the findings of science that global climate warming is supercharging this hot and dangerous summer across the northern hemisphere. Even areas near the Arctic Circle are being affected. *~*~*~* The heat wave in Japan has certainly been supercharged and extremely deadly. At least 65 people died from the effects of the extreme weather in just one week.  *~*~*~* Land use changes are a major driver of species declines, but in addition to the habitat to which they’re best adapted, many bird species use “alternative” habitats such as urban and agricultural land. Evolution appears to favor those species, such as Chipping Sparrows , that are able to make the adjustment and thrive in different types of habit

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: A review

Earlier this year, I read Madeline Miller's latest book, Circe , and enjoyed it so much that I put this earlier work of hers on my reading list. While I didn't enjoy this one quite as much, I still found it a rewarding read and could easily understand why it was the winner of the 2012 Orange Prize for fiction. The Song of Achilles is a retelling of The Iliad from the perspective of Achilles' friend and lover, Patroclus. The story is told from the point of view of the love story of Achilles and Patroclus. Patroclus is introduced as a pre-pubescent prince of a minor Greek kingdom. One day, as he is being bullied by another boy, he pushes the boy who falls and cracks his head on a stone. The boy is killed by the fall and Patroclus is exiled from his home, sent to live in the kingdom of Phthia and be raised by its king, Peleus. This was a common practice in the Greek states of that day. King Peleus has a son who is of approximately the same age as Patroclus. That son

In This Grave Hour by Jacqueline Winspear: A review

September 1939. Very soon a state of war will exist between England and Germany.  Appeasement has failed. It will never succeed with a bully; they always demand more. The title of this book is taken from the king's speech at the beginning of England's war. Faithful readers of this series, myself included, have now followed Maisie Dobbs from her late childhood before World War I, through that war where she served as a military nurse and was seriously injured along with the doctor with whom she was in love, and after the war as she began to recover from her wounds and accepted that Simon, her doctor lover, never would, and began to build her business as a private investigator and psychologist. We've seen her fall in love again after Simon's death and eventually marry and become pregnant, only to see her husband die in the crash of the plane he was testing and herself delivering a stillborn child on that same day. After a stint in Spain helping the Republicans in their

Poetry Sunday: Things by Jorge Luis Borges

Earlier this month, I featured a poem by Donald Hall called "The Things" for my Poetry Sunday post. One of my blogger friends, Carmen , commented on it and directed my attention to this poem by Jorge Luis Borges. It is on much the same theme - the things with which we surround ourselves, the things that fill up our lives, and the things that will inevitably be left behind when we are gone. Things that will "never know that we are gone." Things by Jorge Luis Borges My walking-stick, small change, key-ring, The docile lock and the belated Notes my few days left will grant No time to read, the cards, the table, A book, in its pages, that pressed Violet, the leavings of an afternoon Doubtless unforgettable, forgotten, The reddened mirror facing to the west Where burns illusory dawn. Many things, Files, sills, atlases, wine-glasses, nails, Which serve us, like unspeaking slaves, So blind and so mysteriously secret! They’ll long outlast our oblivion; And never know

This week in birds - #312

A roundup of the week's news of birds and the environment : The Plain Chachalaca is a turkey-like bird that is fairly common in Mexico and Central America. It also appears along the Texas-Mexico border where I photographed this one. The bird announces it name with its raucous call which is unmistakable.  *~*~*~* Those in charge of the Interior Department are bent on making it more difficult to shield species under the Endangered Species Act. They want to make it easier for roads, pipelines, and other construction projects to gain approval. They've  also started the process of rolling back the National Environmental Policy Act, an obscure law that is considered the cornerstone of environmental policy, laying out the process federal agencies must follow when considering major infrastructure projects.  After all, who needs all that wildlife and strange plants? *~*~*~* For several years now, there has been a movement in California to restore floodplains , by moving

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: A review

"Women in particular ... I want you to get more involved. Because men have been getting on my nerves lately." - Barack Obama hosting a town hall in Johannesburg this week. Meg Wolitzer has written a book about feminism whose timeliness can hardly be overemphasized. Indeed, its narrative in many ways seems wholly lifted from the news stories of the day. We have the naive young college freshman named Greer Kadetsky who is the novel's primary protagonist. Greer had hoped to be going to an Ivy League college, but because of her incompetent parents' failure to complete all necessary forms on time, she ends up going to second-rate Ryland College, while her long-time boyfriend, Cory, goes to Princeton. Though her college may be second-rate, she makes a first-rate friend in a queer girl named Zee Eisenstat. Zee convinces Greer to go with her to a party at a frat house on campus and it is there that the all too familiar story of sexual assault takes place. Greer is

Prince of Fire by Daniel Silva: A review

The Israeli assassin Gabriel Allon has been outed. His cover as the art restorer Mario Delvechhio has been blown. His enemies know who he is and where he is which puts him in mortal danger. Responding to the threat, the Israeli intelligence service hastily extracts Allon and his lover, who is also an Israeli agent, from Venice and brings them back to Israel where they are given new quarters and Gabriel must go to the "Office" every day to participate in an inquisition as to how the latest debacle happened. There had recently been several terrorist bombings of Israeli facilities around the world, bombings that were attributed to Palestinians, but the Israelis must figure out who is planning and executing these attacks. There is an urgency about doing this before another attack takes place. Meanwhile, Gabriel has made arrangements to bring his wife, Leah, who has been in a nursing facility in England for thirteen years since the explosion that killed their son and serio

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - July 2018/Poetry Sunday - July by Helen Hunt Jackson

July by Helen Hunt Jackson Some flowers are withered and some joys have died;  The garden reeks with an East Indian scent  From beds where gillyflowers stand weak and spent;  The white heat pales the skies from side to side;  But in still lakes and rivers, cool, content,  Like starry blooms on a new firmament,  White lilies float and regally abide.  In vain the cruel skies their hot rays shed;  The lily does not feel their brazen glare.  In vain the pallid clouds refuse to share  Their dews, the lily feels no thirst, no dread.  Unharmed she lifts her queenly face and head;  She drinks of living waters and keeps fair.  ~~~ The water lily does not feel the brazen glare of the hot July rays. " She drinks of living waters and keeps fair." And what else is blooming in my garden this July? The milk and wine lilies will wilt in the hot rays, but in the early morning they are fresh and lovely. 'Ellen Bosanquet' crin