Sunday, March 21, 2010

New Blog!

I've done it again. Another blog! But this time I'm joining forces with my best friend, Katie, for a year-long photo blog project. We started yesterday on the first day of Spring!

So come by for a visit to see how we stay in touch even though there are 1000 Miles Between us.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

My thoughts on Mansfield Park

I'm a bit hesitant to write about Mansfield Park (by Jane Austen, of course) because the foremost Jane Austen scholar that I know is probably this blog's most loyal reader. And it's possible that she will be disappointed to discover that I haven't read it already.

And she will probably also be disappointed further when I reveal that I did not "read" Mansfield Park; I listened to it on my iPhone. I got it very inexpensively from iTunes (Katie, you might like to know that P&P is the top classic audiobook on iTunes.) It was the only Austen that I didn't have in a hard copy. And while I am a strong believer in the value and delight of paper books, I love audiobooks as well. The reader for this one in particular was superb. I don't think it replaces the experience of holding a real book in my hand; rather, it is a lovely supplement. But I digress.

I started Mansfield Park back in the fall, but I'm counting it as a 2010 book because I listened to the bulk of it over the last 2 months. I had seen the movie about ten years ago, and knew bits and pieces of the plot from friends and The Jane Austen Book Club (GREAT book, by the way.) But as I listened to the first lines, basically what I knew about this book can be summed up in 2 statements. It is by Jane Austen (which conveys all manner of things). And everyone seems to dislike Fannie Price. That was it.

So I was waiting to hate Fannie. Or at least be annoyed by her. But it never happened. I adore Fannie Price. I think she's fabulous. I identify with her shyness, which is probably part of what I find endearing about her. But I like her general attitude and demeanor. And while I question her feelings for a first cousin, I guess that was pretty common in Jane Austen's time.

I still prefer Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility, but thoroughly enjoyed Mansfield Park. I still have a few more Austens to get through, but I'll probably do them the old-fashioned way.

Have you ever picked up a book that you had preconceived notions about? Did they affect your reading of the book? Were you surprised?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Writing the Book You Want to Read

Have you ever wanted to read a book that just didn't exist yet?

"If there is a book you really want to read that hasn't been written yet, then you must write it."
-Toni Morrison

I've been toying with this idea for a while now. I have a couple of children's books in my head as well as a devotional for women. Maybe a novel, too? I should probably just pick one to start with. But I love Morrison's directive here. Not just that you might think about writing it, but that you must write it. Like that book needs to exist. Do my ideas need to be books? Will anyone want to read them?

What books do you want to read? Ever think of writing them yourself?

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Books That Keep Going

"A good book has no ending." -R.D. Cumming

Have you ever read a book that was so wonderful, you mourned its ending? A book whose characters are so captivating that you feel like your friends have moved away when you close it for the last time? I frequently feel this way about books I love, but this quotation made me think about it in a new way.

It made me think, are they really gone? Do those amazing characters completely disappear from your thoughts? I find that often the best books stay with me long after I've finished them. I mull over a favorite scene in my head when I'm taking a walk or waiting for my waffle to pop out of the toaster. Interactions with people I encounter in real life remind me of something a character might do or say. Important themes and lessons from a book sometimes pop into my head at opportune times.

Do good books ever stay with you? Do you think that's what Cumming meant? What books were you sad to finish?

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Art Class by James Galvin

Art Class

Let us begin with a simple line,
Drawn as a child would draw it,
To indicate the horizon,

More real than the real horizon,
Which is less than line,
Which is visible abstraction, a ratio.

The line ravishes the page with implications
Of white earth, white sky!

The horizon moves as we move,
Making us feel central.
But the horizon is an empty shell--

Strange radius whose center is peripheral.
As the horizon draws us on, withdrawing,
The line draws us in,

Requiring further lines,
Engendering curves, verticals, diagonals,
urging shades, shapes, and figures...

What should we place, in all good faith,
On the horizon? A stone?
An empty chair? A submarine?

Take your time. Take it easy.
The horizon will not stop abstracting us.

I remember being in art class in elementary school, and watching these videos about drawing. It always started with a single line. This poem immediately brought me back there. But then it quickly took me somewhere else.

I want to read more poetry. I want to share more poetry. I might even want to try my hand at a little poetry myself. But mostly I just want to make it part of my life. Any favorites? Any suggestions?

Three Cups of Tea

Here comes another installment of my favorite books (as listed on facebook):

I read Three Cups of Tea, by Greg Mortensen, a year and a half ago for my Kappa alumnae book group. Reviews were mixed among the members of the group, but I enjoyed it.

It is the story of how Mortensen turned a failed mountain climb into a life-changing project, building schools for (primarily) girls in Pakistan. After failing to reach the summit of K2, Mortensen is lost and quite ill. He stumbles upon a small village where he is kindly taken in by the locals. During his few days there, he notices that the children do not have a school building, but learned out in the open. He promises to come back and build them a school.

He returns to the U.S. to raise the funds, thinking it will be a one-time project. However, this one promise turns into a non-profit organization that produced many schools for children who desperately wanted to learn.

Mortensen puts himself in harm's way on more than one occasion, almost to the point where it becomes exasperating for the reader. The man is intensely focused on his mission, often to the extreme neglect on the other aspects of his life. His work is inspiring, but he's often a frustrating person to follow on a journey, even through the pages of a book.

Overall, I loved the book, even though the reading process was challenging at times.

He also wrote a children's book about the story, Listen to the Wind.

There is also a new book by Mortensen out called Stones into Schools. I haven't read it yet, but I love the subtitle: "Promoting peace through books, not bombs, in Afghanistan and Pakistan." One of the points Mortensen made several times in the first book was that the dearth of schools in Pakistan was causing parents to send their children to the radical Islamic madrassas. The schools Mortensen helped build were secular, which was controversial at times, but they were usually taught by local teachers, and did not push any Western agenda.

If you haven't read Mortensen's work yet, I highly recommend it. It's not light or easy, but so inspiring. It also helped me to change my perspective regarding much of what is going on in Pakistan and Afghanistan right now.

Has anyone else read Three Cups of Tea or Stones into Schools? I'm curious. What did you think?

Here's a brief discussion with Mortensen about his book. Check out youtube for countless additional interviews.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Emily Post: Daughter of the Gilded Age, Mistress of American Manners

Last week I finished reading this biography of Emily Post by Laura Claridge. It was fabulous! I had read about it several months ago, and thought it looked interesting. I read some favorable reviews, and put it on my public Amazon wishlist. Then I pretty much forgot about it. Until, that is, my sweet sister gave it to me for Christmas! (Thanks again, Lauren!)

It's long. It took me a while to get through (and I started a few books in the meantime), but it was great. Claridge is a talented writer, and the biography almost reads as a novel. Also, the chapters are short, which keeps things moving along nicely.

Before I read this book, all I knew about Emily Post was that she wrote a big book about etiquette. But there is so much more to her life!

Did you know, for example, that her father was a famous architect and that she was, by all accounts, very talented in that field as well? Or, did you know that she wrote several successful (and a few less successful) novels long before she published her etiquette manual? There are more delightful tidbits about her life as well, but I don't want to spoil them all for you! You need to go read it!

More than anything, I closed this book with an appreciation for all that Emily Post accomplished later in her life. At the ripe old age of 26, I am already starting to feel like I have missed the boat to achieve some of my goals. And I also lament the fact that I don't know exactly what I want to do yet. Emily Post didn't write about etiquette until she was well into middle age. She redefined herself multiple times, and that was so inspiring to me.

Has anyone else read this book yet? Does anyone else have a copy of Etiquette? Any Emily Post fans out there?

image from