Monday, February 19, 2018

The country family heads to a casino

On January 27 we did something we've never done, and never thought we would do. No, not skydiving or ice climbing, but going to a casino! We are so not gamblers. I don't know anything about gambling games, and would never waste my money that way. So, why did we go? Because our beloved daughter got tickets for all three of us to see comedian Jim Gaffigan at Foxwoods. We love Jim G's work. He mostly talks about his family (wife and five kids) and food (the junk/fatty variety). There are five of his stand-up shows streaming on Netflix, and he has also written books, which Margaret has read but I haven't yet. We had a really wonderful time, both in the car and at the place. Foxwoods is huge, probably bigger than the whole area I live in. A couple of things struck me - there weren't any drunks. I somehow expected it to be a big drinking place, but no. We all figured out that probably people stay sober to concentrate on the games they are playing. There were a few bars but the people frequenting them were likely not the gamblers. But my goodness, there were a lot of games and people at them. There were also a lot of restaurants and stores. I expect people go there for all kinds of experiences. It is spread out so much that one has to do a lot of walking to get from a show to a restaurant or to the gaming areas. And here's the other thing that struck me - the people seemed a bit zombie-esque in the walking. All together, all at the same pace. It felt weird to see them. There were people of all ages, from little kids to quite elderly people, several in wheel chairs. We ate at a California Pizza Kitchen and thought it the best pizza we'd had. Our breakfast place was also very good. All the people working there were very nice, answering our questions and just being really friendly. And Mr. Gaffigan was wonderful. We laughed the entire show.

I so love what Margaret wrote on her Facebook page.
This weekend was a thank you for my amazing parents for taking such amazing loving care of Hazel while I work. We didn't gamble or take home thousands of dollars but boy did we laugh ALL weekend!!! #jimgaffigan who knew these old hippies would have such a good time at foxwoods!!
In the hotel room

In our seats (who is that fellow behind us)

View of the stage - no pictures allowed during show

Just before we left. Had to get a pic of the games.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A different and funny take on Valentine's Day

I have the Roz Chast engagement calendar, and I just had to share her Valentine's Day entry with you.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Quote du jour/William Cullen Bryant

We had rain during the night, then a touch of snow as it got colder and colder. 'Tis a beautiful winter's day.

This was in The Old Farmer's Almanac Engagement Calendar for the beginning of February.

Come when the rains
Have glazed the snow and clothed
the trees with ice,
While the slant sun of
February pours
Into the bowers a flood of light.

William Cullen Bryant, American poet (1794-1878)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

January books

Don't faint or have a heart attack, but I am really going to try and write about my reading this year, starting with January. I've added a category to my book descriptions - the nationality of the author and the location where the book takes place. And I've begun capitalizing Kindle. I thought Amazon called it kindle with a small "k" but I've seen them use the capital so I thought I would.

1. Brooklyn Wars - book 4 in the Erica Donato series
by Triss Stein
mystery 2017
finished 1/4/18
US writer/US setting

I have loved every book in this series. As I noted when I wrote about one of the others, there is a great sense of place, much like Cleo Coyle's New York City in the Coffeehouse mysteries only Triss Stein's are focused strictly on Brooklyn. I love the historical information that is offered, and how the past can influence the present. The mother, her teenage daughter, her friend, her boyfriend, and all the smaller characters are excellently drawn, and seem like real people. I hope she continues but I can see how this one might end the series.

2. The Young Clementina
by DE Stevenson
fiction 1935
finished 1/8/18
Scottish writer/English setting

There is a special kind of reading joy I experience within the covers of a book by Dorothy Emily Stevenson. I am in the hands of an excellent storyteller, whose tales take me completely away. It makes me happy that I still have a lot of her books yet to read. This one was so very enjoyable. It is about a childhood friendship that two solitary children share, and their adult lives and what happens to that friendship. I really don't want to say any more because it is better to let the story unfold as you read it. What I will say is that I loved it.

3. Whale of a Crime - book 7 in the Gray Whale Inn series
by Karen MacInerney
mystery 2017
finished 1/13/18
US writer/US setting

I so enjoy this cozy mystery series set on an island just a short boat trip away from Bar Harbor, Maine, a place I have visited twice and really love. As with the the Triss Stein Brooklyn series, there is a strong sense of place and also some historical connections. Highly recommend for light, but terrific reading. A bonus is the author includes recipes, one of which I made already. Stay tuned.

4. Blandings Castle
by PG Wodehouse
short story collection 1935
finished 1/21/18
English writer (who moved to the US)/England and US setting

A confusing thing about Wodehouse's work, and that of many other writers is that the name of the work is sometimes changed. When I wrote about it here, it was called Blandings Castle and Elsewhere really a better title because the stories aren't only to do with Lord Emsworth and his home. I love the Blandings stories, and the one about Bobbie Wickham, but I don't care for the Mulliner tales that are about his Hollywood relatives. In general, I'm not as interested in Wodehouse' stories that involve Americans.

5. Him & Me
by Michael and Jack Whitehall
nonfiction 2013
finished 1/22/18
English writers/English setting (with a few vacation spots)

It all began with a show I watched on Netflix called Jack Whitehall: Travels with my Father. I recognized Jack Whitehall from another program I had seen called Very British Problems, but I knew nothing about him. Well, I must say that I have fallen in love a little bit with this father/son team. I've watched Jack's live stand-up show, also on Netflix, but, as funny as he is, I really think he is funnier with his father. They play off one another in this wonderful way. Jack is a very modern young man, and his father is an older man with very conservative, non politically correct opinions. Yet, they love one another deeply. They can also be seen on YouTube in some television programs they did together called Backchat. I have now bought two books, this one, and another by only Michael called Backing into the Spotlight, a memoir which I haven't read yet. I find them simply hilarious. In Him & Me, the authors alternate chapters, with little notes from the one who didn't write the chapter. When Michael tells a family story, Jack is right there with his own memory, and vice versa. I laughed and laughed as I read the book, and mildly chuckled or smiled when I wasn't laughing out loud. My caveat must be that everyone has a different sense of humor. What many people think is funny often leaves me cold. And my Margaret who very often shares my nutty sense of humor just can't get into these two Whitehall men. But I can't get enough. I want them to take another trip together. I follow them on Facebook and Instagram. What can I say except laughter is good for the soul.

6. After the Wake: Twenty-One Prose Works Including Previously Unpublished Material
by Brendan Behan
fiction and nonfiction published posthumously 1981
finished 1/26/18
Irish writer/Irish setting (mostly)

Brendan Behan was the January entry for my new Irish calendar which I wrote about a couple days ago. I had never read him, and really only heard his name from my Irish friend, Eddie. His best-known work is probably Borstal Boy which you may read about here. I am finding it a little difficult to write about this book. There were times when I thought the writing was lively and even brilliant, and other times it seemed to be rambling and a bit incoherent. Behan was famously quite the drinker and probably this influenced his writing. Perhaps I'd have done better to read Borstal Boy, but I'm not interested in reading about a boy in prison. And maybe that explains why I didn't care for this collection. The subject matter just didn't appeal to me. By the way, Behan is pronounced like bein'. There's quite a good piece on the writer here, if you are interested to know more than I have told you.

7. Silence - book 3 in the Inspector Celcius Daly series
by Anthony J Quinn
crime fiction 2015 (first time I've used this term, I think. A better description than mystery.)
finished 1/31/18
Irish writer/Irish setting

Now this is an Irish writer I really like. The setting is Northern Ireland where the past is always lurking. The Troubles are just under the surface. There's a fine article from a few years ago which talks about this. Celcius is a lonely man who lives in the cottage where he grew up, and is a man who is a serious thinker about the present and the past. This book tells us Celcius' back story and explains so much about the character. I really love this series and am so happy there are two more I haven't read. I hope it goes on and on.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Quote du jour/Brendan Behan

Some friends went to Ireland last year (one of them was born there) and brought us back an Irish Writers Calendar for 2018.

Each month has a picture of the writer, his dates, and a quote by him. Yes, him. All men, as you see in the picture. I've only read some poetry by Yeats, two stories by Joyce, a play by Beckett, a poem by Kavanagh, and quotes by Wilde. So, I have a lot of new-to-me writers to look forward to. January's author was Brendan Behan, and these are his words:

"It's not that the Irish are cynical. It's rather that they have a wonderful lack of respect for everything and everybody."

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Today's picture/Beginning today

On the 136th anniversary of Virginia Woolf's birth,

I am beginning to re-read Jacob's Room.

 It has been a while since I've read it, as you can tell by the price of the book!

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Jacob's Room is Full of Books - January

I have read Susan Hill's other book about books twice. Howards End is on the Landing is one of my all time favorite books. I've written about it twice in my letters, here, and here.

Because Jacob's Room is Full of Books is divided into months, I decided to read it that way. But I'll tell you, it was very hard to stop when I reached the last page of January!

Again, I feel like this woman is inside my head. I called to Tom twice as I read her January entry because she put into words thoughts I've had for a long time.

One is about the Kindle.
I had a Kindle. I read books on it for maybe six months, and then I stopped and went back to printed books. I did not do this for any reasons whatsoever other than organic ones. I prefer holding a real book.
But this is the part that got to me.
I gave up reading on a Kindle because I found I wasn't taking the words and their meaning in, as I do those in a printed book. They went in through my eyes but seemed to glide off into some underworld, without touching my brain, memory or imagination, let alone making any permanent mark there. I was puzzled by this, until I learned that if we use an e-reader or a laptop before going to sleep, our brains are affected so that we are more likely to sleep badly. It is something to do with blue light. I've forgotten. The e-reader is cold, and what I mean by that I cannot put into words or explain. I can only feel that it is the right way of describing the experience, as against the warmth of a physical book.
Well, even though she says she can't really explain, I understood. I have gone on probably too much in various blog entries about my relationship with the Kindle. I began using one, and a Nook, though I didn't like it as well, for one reason alone. Well, really for two, I guess. The first was because I got a shoulder injury from lying on the same side, holding my book the same way. It was so bad that it was a few years before I could sleep on that side again. The little e-reader is perfect. It just sits there and I don't have to do anything but 'turn' the pages. So, for that I am completely grateful that it exists. Before the Kindle, I listened to audio tapes for years and years. Yes, tapes. Once tapes weren't around anymore, I tried books on CD but I couldn't control it like I did the tape. I'd go too far forward or back. I know a lot of people now use their phones and listen via Audible or some other company, but I just can't do it. I'm not a phone person. I don't have many apps. I use it mainly for texting and photographs. I have Instagram, but I don't have Facebook on my phone. I hate doing searches or going to web pages on the phone. I like my big screen on the desktop computer.

My second reason why I am so very grateful that e-readers exist is all the old books that are available for them. Books I used to search all over the internet for, and often not find, are right there in the Kindle store. I have discovered so many older authors and my reading life is much, much richer.

Still I understand what she means about not "taking the words and their meaning in." I simply don't remember what I read on the Kindle as well as what I read in print. Maybe it is the blue light thing Susan Hill talks about. When I'd fall asleep listening to audio books I never had this trouble, so it can't be drifting off as I read on the Kindle. I remember the audio books almost better than print books. " 'Tis a puzzlement." But I feel like I understand a bit better after reading her words.

The second time I called Tom into the room, she was talking about May Sarton. Now there's an author I've always thought I 'should' like. I've read a few of her books, and try as I might I don't like them much and I especially don't care for the author, but yet, I continue to read her occasionally. Susan Hill is re-reading Sarton's Journal of a Solitude.
I have never known such a self-regarding, self-indulgent author. Yet isn't writing a journal bound to be an outpouring of self? No. I can think of so many diaries and journals that of course are about the writer and her or his life and experiences, feelings, thoughts, beliefs, friends... but which do not seem self-centered in this way. May Sarton was, by all accounts, including her own, the most infuriating woman to know. She believed she was a major poet, that poetry was her form. She was wrong. She thought she was a fine novelist. She was an OK one. How harsh this is. But she is dead and cannot read me.
She was a woman tormented by her own temperament, by her rages, storms of tears, hysterical outbursts, jealousies, passionate, possessive love affairs with other women; a woman who complained about the interruptions from her readers, her friends, her daily domestic routine and said all she longed for was to be left alone with her art. But when she was, she was lonely and miserable and craved company, as she had always craved attention and affection. Her well was so empty, no one could ever fill it.
But I am enjoying this one of her journals all the same. She has an eye for beauty, an ability to describe a sky, a snow storm, a plant, a bird, a wild cat, the antics of her parrot Punch, so that one is there with her, and she was respectful of her country neighbours, whose lives were rough and poor and harsh but who had a dignity and a pride in manual work and an honesty she valued. 
There you have it. I quoted the whole portion on May Sarton because she is writing what I've so often thought. And yet, we both keep reading her for those reasons in the last paragraph. If you type her name into my search bar, you will see several poems I have put up over the years. I do like them, and she does capture the natural world in a way that I admire. I've waited for many years to read a book that I plan to begin on February 25, the day I turn 70, May Sarton's At Seventy.

The January entry isn't all about books. Susan Hill has a wonderful section about a particular type of British comedy, " the sort of humour beloved of old-fashioned vicars and their wives." This American had never heard of Joyce Grenfell or Flanders and Swann, but I will be looking them up on YouTube.

Walking outdoors and seeing a woman picking up trash reminds her of a friend of her aunt's who, in her retirement used to go out for two hours each day doing the same, "with a black sack and a stick with a prong on the end." And then as she remembers this woman, she thinks of two women who taught at the same school, one of whom is the poet U.A. Fanthorpe whom I have heard of, and her partner Rosie Bailey, whom I haven't. More to look up.

She ends by telling the reader that she receives many questions from prospective writers on how to write. They all want to know how to do it. I won't tell you how she writes, but she ends with, "I would never achieve an MA in Creative Writing."

I've been wondering why it was hard for me to stop at the end of January, but not hard for me with Gladys' book. I think the reason is that though Gladys Taber writes of many things, she does spend a lot of time on the actual weather and life in a particular month. Susan Hill mentions the outdoors a little, but mostly she is writing about literature and people and memories. I did love this bit.
The last day of January, apropos of which a friend said, 'Now that can't be bad.' Yes and no. Yes, we are on the right side of the year - a little lighter in the mornings and evenings, more birds singing. And yet February and March and often April ('the cruellest month') can disappoint, and even May can be wet and windy and cold.
Her England sounds much like my New England.

Although I didn't re-read Howards End when I read Howards End is on the Landing, I do intend to re-read Virginia Woolf's Jacob's Room this year. I haven't read it in a very long time.