Category Archives: Reading and Writing

BE AWARE AND BEWARE

So here is something I remembered as I read about the Democratic sit-in. It is how much impact the Polish Solidarity movement had on the USSR. From there the thread lead to how controlling the GOP wants to be over all aspects of the US economy, land, and people. It’s not a democratic POV, but is closer to the USSR POV which disallowed disention.

Now, Solidarity began as a non-violent sit-in by Polish laborers. I remember reading and hearing about it as it happened. Here’s a link to a Wiki article about the movement:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Solidarity

Since I’m encouraging a bit of light reading, here is another link. This one is to a book I read when I was in my early twenties, The Gulag Archipelago. Because of this book and the book How to Lie With Statistics, I have ever since questioned authority even when in a position of authority.

Here’s a link about The Gulag Archipelago. After checking it out, I encourage you to read the book.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Gulag_Archipelago

Keep On Keeping On

Wednesday, my gardening friend Nancy and I went to our plots to check our babies. My tomatoes looked confused, I expect because of the hot, cold, hot, cold, wet, dry, wet, dry, etc. weather.

Not confused were the slugs and cut worms. Ninety percent of my beans had been devoured. Out of 8 hills of squash and cukes, only 1 had any survivors. The corn that was popping up had holes in the leaves.

So I replanted, surrounded everything with organic slug bait and Dr Earth insect deterrent, and did a ceremonial dance to the gods-of-good-eating.

Like writing, gardening takes more than patience. It takes persistence, and persistence is my long suit.

EMMA – I CHANGED MY MIND

I confess to not reading Jane Austin, and Emma was never on my list of must reads. But this summer I’m taking a writing class at Oxford, and Emma is on my suggested reading list.

Wanting to make up my own mind, I avoided the Intro and Preface and all the notes. I went straight to the story. It only took me a few pages to dislike the main character. She was shallow and thought too highly of herself. I expect if she lived today, she’d be a like-like girl, like you know, like, like. She was a person with too much time on her hands and not enough experience with real life.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t until after my declaring that I hated the main character to an agent and railing about Emma’s uselessness in a world full of grief and uncertainty, that I had my epiphany.

Yah. It’s satire. It’s a comedy. Austin is making fun of the lifestyle. Head thunk.

In my defense, I believe my knee-jerk reaction is because I just finished, The Great Gatsby, another book on the list. It is also about the culture of those who are wealthy and bored and choose to live a life without goals, needs, or purpose.

Adding to my cranky attitude, I have come to the conclusion that one of the presidential candidates is running because he is wealthy, bored, and causing an uproar is a fun, Ha-Ha game. However, to me the idea of him as POTUS is not amusing and leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

Having realized where my reaction was coming from, I’m going to do an about face. I may dislike the character, but the story is well written. I’ll finish Emma today. And then I’ll read all the notes, intros, and prefaces. I expect had I done so before reading the story, I would not have put both feet in my mouth this last weekend.

Gak. It’s a classic YA.

Questing Minds.

So here I am auditing a college freshman lit class — Survey of Western Lit. I had been rereading Gilgamesh this last fall and find out that is the first story we’re covering. Several times the prof looked right at me, so I came up with some insights.

Today was the 5th class and we were sitting in groups. The prof came up to me and said, “May I talk with you for a minute?”

Ye gads. Here I am umppity years old and being called out of class by the prof. So I do the walk of shame and we go out of the class room for a chat.

But I guess what I am saying is okay except this is a FRESHMAN class. Enough with bringing up the Hero’s Journey, etc. It’s a bit too sophisticated for this class. Don’t stop commenting, but can I please help the students to search for the answers themselves? Ask them questions?

“And,” she says, “I have some good books on myths I can loan you.” (She doesn’t know I’m a book hoarder. But that’s okay. I’d love to see what books she has).

Sure. And I go back to my group I (By now I’m feeling both possessive and protective of these four freshman). They were trying to come up with their arguments for a paper. They had chosen the gods and supernatural as their topics.

They all talked and then looked to me for guidance. I told them I needed to not give them the answers but point them in a direction. So I asked them questions and listened, and asked other questions. When the prof wasn’t listening, I threw in a bit of cultural anthropology and number of times something is done. I’ve always been into going across disciplines and it will get them looking at other sources for material.

When the class was over, our group was the last to leave. And the four young students with their wonderful young minds all said they were so happy when I sat down with their group and they loved to hear my comments in class.

Wow. What a rush when the young want to listen to what I have to say.

And as the whipped cream and sprinkles on my chocolate cake, one of the students wants to be a writer. And from the first day of class, I picked her out as a person with a writer’s mind by the comment she made when we we moving the tables and chairs around the room. — “And so there begins the thundering of chairs.”

So I’ll be helping her make connections to our wonderful world of writers. It’s time for her to meet her tribe.

My New Cure for Writer’s Block — Which I Normally Don’t Suffer From

A seemingly long and exhausting mid-morning shoot of a cooking show and a frantic editing of a cover letter and synopsis to get some pages in the mail to beat a deadline left me starving. So after dropping off the envelope at the post office, Dick and I had lunch at a Thai restaurant on Hawthorne.

We came home and I was dragging my ass, so a nap was in order. Normally my naps last about an hour – at most an hour and a half. But this one was three hours.

Oh, my goodness. Did I have strange dreams. The first was about people who built a house in the middle of a house like the one we had on the farm. Perhaps they were human wasps. We ended up hog-tying them and having them hauled off by the police.

I roused, rolled over, and fell back asleep.

So I had a second dream about Dick and I being turned into aliens. This one I had to take control of because the aliens kept besting us.

So I woke up. Yikes!

With the weird dreams and three hour nap, I expect I’ll be up late writing. And next time I have writer’s block, I’m going back to my Thai restaurant for some Sweet & Sour and Spicy Green Beans followed by a nap.

Books Do Change How We Think

A few weeks ago, FB folks were listing the ten books they feel have greatly influenced how they think or perceive the world around them. Ten is a limiting number, but here are ten I still think about as I muck my way through life. A couple like How to Lie With Statistics and Gulag Archipelago may explain my cynicism when listening to … well … lies passed off as fact.

The Island Stallion Races – Walter Farley
This was my first science fiction novel and I didn’t even realize it. The better known, The Black Stallion, is the first in the series, and I read them all. What I remember the most about The Island Stallion Races is incorporating aliens and space ships into a horse story.

John Brown’s Body – Stephen Vincent Benet
I read this in high school. I don’t know if anybody today has it on their ‘read’ list. It is an epic poem about the Civil War by one of America’s great poets.


How to Lie with Statistics
– Darrell Huff
Show me your data! I chose this book to read for one of my upper division archaeology classes. Even today, when I look at percentages, I wonder about how and how much data was collected and how it was interpreted.

QB VII – Leon Uris
An awakening about law, justice and the British half-penny.

Gulag Archipelago – Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
During the cold war, many people living in The Soviet Union disappeared. The USSR media were masters at putting a spin on what was happening and pitting neighbors against neighbors. Today, I see the same thing happening in the United States. Read this book and see how it is done.

The Hobbit – You know who.
So visual.

The Color of Magic – Terry Pratchett
The beginning of the Disc World series. I love them all. Pratchett is my hero. He is so good at presenting all our human foibles, biases, prejudices and making us laugh. And even his second, third, forth tier characters are memorable.

The Cobra Event – Richard Preston
A fictional version of bio-warfare. Preston mostly writes non-fiction like The Hot Zone
and The Demon in the Freezer.

Ganja Coast – Paul Mann
In the early 80s, I was in India and spent time on the Ganja Coast. When I read the ending of the book, I froze up. I met the killer, but did not know it at the time. He asked me if I was Catholic and if my folks would have my body sent back to the US if I died. All the bells were ringing, when he asked me that and I told him no, my folks would be so mad at me they’d just let me rot where I died. On instinct alone, I took the next train out of there. Turns out, he was shipping bodies stuffed with drugs back to the US so he could start his own Ashram. I never knew that until I read the book.

Snowcrash – Neil Stephenson
Incredibly intelligent SF with linguistics, the metaverse, biomass, and the Deliverator. This is the best Science Fiction book ever.