Sunday, July 19, 2015

Harper Lee: The Prophetess of PreDesegregated South Post SCOTUS ruling

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

(Via Hardback AND Audio read by Reese Witherspoon).

Harper Lee is Isaiah.  And I think she is the most brave and truthful writer the American South has ever produced.  I wish there were another book hidden in the stacks.

Old Testament prophets served the purpose of convicting the people and pronouncing the woeful truth of the sin of their ways.  Lee's tight novel does the same with all Americans (not just the South), all hypocrites, all prejudiced persons, and all bigots.  Yes, even Christians.

I think about Christians and hypocrites and prejudice often, but I rarely think of bigotry, which Jean Louise reminds us is:  “One obstinately or intolerably devoted to his own church, party, belief, or opinion.”  See any of those lately?  Been one?  Yeah, me, too.

"For thus hath the Lord said unto me,
Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth."

In other words, brace yourselves, because Jean Louise is going to let her rip.  She's going to convict everyone she knows, including her beloved father, and including herself.  She’s going to convict you and me, the South, the North, and all of our parents and grandparents, too.  She’s convicting America.

This short book is told in the same tone as the first famous beloved book, and the childhood moments are just as magical.  The grown moments are extremely tough, but in my opinion, a true representation of the South at the time.  The biggest difference is that the punch comes from Jean Louise, rather than the beloved young scamp Scout (acerbic grown woman verses strange but loveable girl).  It’s a bitter pill to swallow, just as bitter as all the prophet pronouncements in the Old Testament.  The punch also comes through one of the most beloved characters in American literature history: Atticus Finch.

Some will feel robbed of a hero but I do not. Rather, I feel convicted to continue standing firm in my beliefs in a rational way and trying to make a difference in my world, and in fact within my own soul.

On a personal level, this is the story of the disillusionment of the 60s.  It is the story of a child that trusted her parent and sprinted to the finish line, only to realize that another finish line was ahead so that she raced on, to be brutally stopped dead upon looking back over her shoulder because she finds that her demigod of a parent cannot go there as fast as she - if at all.   Surely, we have all been there?  Surely this is what the generations do to each other?  It is change and it is not easy.   We continue to strive to be better, to overcome.

On a legal level, the discussion is the 10th Amendment -- State's Rights. It is a long history of legal theory and has lead to an official bloody war on our soil only once, but the blood and hardship strewn by its theorists across our American ages still reverberate.

As much as we might not like it, I think Lee's version of the events of the southern civic resistance to desegregation is true.  If in fact, the Atticus Finches of the day had been 100% free of fault and the leaders that they could have been, the Supreme Court and the Federal Government would not have had to rule for and enforce desegregation.  I feel sure that given the time to make improvements on its on, the South still would not be segregated.   As Hank and Alexandra show, there were just too many social mores to cross and too few brave souls to cross them.    [As to education improvements, we flounder for one and for all public school students.  Can we PLEASE STOP ALL THIS IDIOTIC TESTING!!!!  Sorry, rant over].

I think the only way this book could be published is the way it was published.   I was not ready to be happy about it.  And honestly it is not a book to make one feel good.  But I’m glad the truth is finally out.  I’m glad we know.  I’m glad we get a chance to self-reflect – ALL of us – and march forward.   It’s surreal that this story was published while racial tensions are at an extreme high, and right after another huge United Supreme Court ruling.  Can we not be brave and be a part of the solution, instead of continuing to be as polarized and bigoted as we possibly can?  Show me the way, someone please show me the way.


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Saturday, May 30, 2015

These are the best kind of Saturday mornings.  Peaceful and regenerative.  The summer ahead, but it's not hot yet.  Even though it is raining, of course it is, there is the promise of sun for an entire week!  I'm dreaming of going on a couple of family vacations -- the Beach and Beaver's Bend, and I'm trying to get a good list of books together to read for the summer.  If you are, too, here are a few books I've read lately for you to consider.  What are yours?  Share with me, here or via any social media, with the #parisreads hashtag so I can find you.

EuphoriaEuphoria by Lily King

Heady and Magical

Evoking a sense of time and place that I remember without having ever inhabited.  At once Out of Africa and Casablanca, and just as worth it.  Easy and satisfying beach read.  This time, instead of it being a woman who owns a farm in Africa,  or the world of Nazi occupation, it is anthropologists caught in the lure that only Africa can cast.

The NightingaleThe Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

Well written historical fiction to get lost in. A story of the resistance, a story of love, courage, women, sisters and family. This is the first book of 2015 to go on my 2015 favorites list. I couldn't put it down!

The Nightengale is a top resister in the Resistance.  But just who is the Nightengale?  And why is this person risking everything to help strangers?  If you liked All the Light We Cannot See, you'll speed through this.  

The Buried GiantThe Buried Giant by Kazuo Ishiguro

The book is called:  "The Buried Giant" and has a chalice on it.  So you know you are getting an old English quest book.  And sure enough, there is a knight, an ogre, even a dragon, a warrior, and a young man.  The monks may be good and they may be evil.  There is even someone who knew King Author.

But there is also a boatman, and an old couple.  And a river.  And ye goode olde Brittany is covered in fog.  Actually, the people have foggy minds.  They can't remember, so they are living in harmony.

Is that a good thing?  What is it that the old couple can't remember?  And, why is an old couple in the quest story to begin with?  Is the boatman going to harm them or do them good?  What, exactly, is the buried giant?  And what is the longed for chalice?

A very different offering, that raises more questions than it answers, enfolded in an entertaining quest.  How is Ishiguro so brilliant at writing about the Brittish?  How is he able to portray the aging in such a light?  

Land of Careful Shadows (Jimmy Vega Mystery, #1)Land of Careful Shadows by Suzanne Chazin

This is detective fiction, told from the POV of the Hispanic detective and several other Hispanics that are a part of the story.  It will entertain you and tug at your heart. Never preachy but way more to the story. Very glad I read it particularly at this time with the current immigration political wars. The author reached out to me after my review of The Book of Unknown Americans and I'm glad she did. Read it for surface level enjoyment or read it for much much more.

I'm not through with this book, but it deserves mention.  I've loved Larson since I read The Devil in the White City  with book club.  No one does suspenseful non-fiction historical narrative like Larson.  I think this one is going to be right up there at the top, so far it's wonderful and fits my need for more information on the WWI era.  Here is a video about why he chose to bring this story to the world:

Finally, did you pick up your Paris Life copy?  Will you join in?  #onecityonebook  #parisreadslittlewomen -- you've got all summer, and then in August there will be a number of fun events.  What will happen if we all read the same book and experience it?  I'm game to find out and hope you are, too.

I'm still searching for that knockout summer book.  Let me know what you think!  #parisreads

Friday, April 3, 2015

On Ulysses -- It is all Molly Bloom! My #parisreads

UlyssesUlysses by James Joyce
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Life Goal Achieved!  You all know that I am definitely not a genius.  And this book is not enjoyable much of the time.  However, it is an incredible, monumental exploration of the written word.  It is important.  And the Penelope (Molly Bloom Soliloquy) Chapter was so divine that it should have been labeled the original Vagina Monologue. (Click link to see our Paris Texas experience with that play).  The audio performance of that was perfection.

I had to read, listen, and study my way through this book. I am so glad to no longer be in the dark.

This is how I did it, and it wasn't the perfect plan, but it worked.

I figured it was finally time to take the plunge when everything in my life kept popping up as James Joyce. (Click link for some info, but come right back!).  Last fall I read The Most Dangerous Book which told me the story of the publication / obscenity battle. That was mainly due to the Molly Chapter, although the middle chapter was also a scrumptous read-between-the-lines tale, in which Bloom encounters a sea nymph posing as a beautiful young woman, and gets his own pleasure from her.  Seriously, anyone wanting to write anything about romance or sex, needs to read this chapter.  Pure genius at saying it without saying it, and leaving the rest to the imagination.

Several months ago I found an old hardcover US Edition of Ulysses at the Library and picked it up for a mere quarter.  I'm not fool; that was sign enough that it was time to plunge in.  (The Greeks would be proud).

So, I pulled out my Odyssey, mainly the audio version but also the Harvard Series, and I also bought an audio of Ulysses, as well as an audio course on it.  My plan was to listen to them all basically a chapter at a time, and that was both a good and a bad way to do it.  It was good because it helped it all make sense while it was fresh.  It helped me keep plunging on.  I'm not sure that I know an American born child of the 80s that would find much to understand or like about the book, except the two previously mentioned chapters. But even had I been Irish born, the course would have been a must.

I didn't really want to study about it before hand, so I didn't realize that the chapters didn't actually correspond, because Joyce presented them as they occurred, rather than as they were relayed in the Greek fashion.  I also didn't realize how very loosely it is based on the great Greek wandering tale. So the course was invaluable, and it didn't matter that much if the timing was off a bit.  Reading it mixed in gave great relief from some of the chapters.  

Some of them were so strange, and long, and puzzling that they even almost put the publisher off.  (Yes, hearing that in the course did make me feel better).  The publisher had Joyce to explain, I had the course.  The whole idea of demonstrating different writing techniques (Joyce, the ultimate showoff) would have completely escaped me, I think.  At least, the newspaper chapter was easy to pick up on, as was the great Ivanhoe romantic style, but otherwise I think I would have just been frustrated, like I came to be in The Luminaries.  (Maybe if it has staying power I will finish that book).

Some of the chapters I actually enjoyed.  Many I hated.  Some of the Odyssey I liked, some of it I didn't love.  It didn't have the same feel for me as the Iliad, even the audio version.  But I loved every single class.  The course was awesome.

And then, there is Molly Bloom.  She made a believer out of me.  That man was a genius.  The audio and in fact the whole journey, was made worthwhile just for Molly Bloom's moment.  My stream of consciousness isn't near so fascinating.

Yes, Joyce, I say Yes.  But John, I say no to Finnegans Wake.  I'm going to take your word for it!
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Sunday, March 22, 2015

My own Challenge #parisreads James Joyce

Since graduating from college with an English Degree, I've made it a habit of going back and reading at least one worthy Classic a year. Ulysses has long been on the list. The signs were too strong for me to resist any longer, especially when I found this lovely "jj" Ulysses hardback at the library for a pittance. It's official, I'm taking the plunge, and this picture shows how my arsenal is stocked.

I posted about it yesterday on FB and Twitter, and got the most wonderful of responses from a Paris Poet that I admire and adore. I've reposted with permission.

I had actually read and thoroughly enjoyed The Most Dangerous Book last fall. It is so interesting to think that Ulysses is the book that broke the mold for publisher's rights regarding pornography / obscenity and The First Amendment right to free speech. My new found old hardback version has the entire court opinion printed in it.

And to think I know someone who "smuggled" his book back to America.

Slade, you are right. I do not and never will apologize for Art.

#parisreads indeed. And #paristhinks ! I love this crazy little redneck artsy town.

Contra muros, mater rubicolla.

(To borrow from John).


-- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Rest of the Story - SHORT

I let myself go yesterday and gushed from the heart about a side issue in regards to PCTs season. Here is the short version - some inside story scoup on Five Women Wearing the Same Dress.

This play has at its center a long lived theological premise, that being the Cardinal Sins.   Yes, the Bridesmaids, each and every one, represents a Cardinal Sin.  Not only that, since this is a comedy, it is quite along the Divine Comedy lines that they are each stuck in their sin.  (Thank you Dante for continuing to edify us!).  In other words, don't expect their problems to be solved as they entertain you.

Just in case you don't have them memorized, here you go:

One Bridsmaid Covets.   She covets things, men, a dead woman's husband, etc. etc.

Another is full of Wrath.  She's fun and funny, but boy can that anger just flip the switch.  Luckily, we get to find out a part of why in Act II.  

One Bridesmaid Lusts.  She is so full of lust that she holds love at bay.  The quintessential (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction!   I have hope for her by the end.

Sloth is all over one of the Bridesmaids.  So much so that she loves garbage, and I do mean loves it.

Finally, the last Bridesmaid is an out and out Glutton.  She's so gluttonous that all she can do is eat and all she can think about is throwing up.

You could say that the usher, who is a really nice guy by all accounts, is perfect, but of course we know better.

So we've accounted for 5 of the deadly sins, the venial sins to be exact (the minor sins).  The last two -- the two that are actually the mortal sins are Pride and Envy.  Those show up in the play, too, so I'll just let you stew on that and decide how yourself.

Tomorrow is your last chance!    

Thank you everyone who supported this production in so many ways, not the least of which by coming and loving it. It's been a joy to see the twinkle in your eye.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

The Rest of the Story -- #5pinksandatux

I knew when I signed up to direct a play over a year ago that it would take significant time, be a huge sacrifice for the family, be a  Great Experience, and keep me from being able to sink into my introverted shell and rejuvenate by reading, writing and thinking.

The sad news is that the play is almost over.  The good news is I will soon have plenty of time to process this event in my life.  But I can't wait, I have to process some of it right now!

The play is Five Women Wearing the Same Dress,  a 1993 play by Alan Ball.  And they do!  Boy do they. 

I'll blog about the process tomorrow (or so), because its pretty fascinating, even for someone who has been very involved in theatre.  

But today, I want to share something about the play with you.  

PCT had two Pre-Show Receptions that were great fun, where I spent 5 minutes or less telling the audience something fascinating about the play to help add to their enjoyment and understanding of the play.  Since we don't have any more of those planned, I'll go ahead and share the information with you, in case you are planning to come.  (We've had great audiences, thank you Paris and beyond!).

But first, in case you are getting caught up in the seemingly innocent pink pink pink, remember what PCT has informed you, the public, in every advertisement and marketing venture.  This play has Adult Content, and is for Mature Audiences.  Parental Discretion is advised.  

The crowds are loving, loving, loving it, but even with those advisories we've had a handful of people who are still upset about the language in the play.  So while I'm telling you the rest of the story, I want to be honest with you about this, too. 

PCT, hopefully like every theatre, is dedicated to honoring the playwrite's play.  And to following copyright laws. That means we don't make material changes to the work.  That, to me, is far more reprehensible than having cussing on stage, especially for purposes other than just slapstick.  As Bridesmaid Georgeanne so clearly reminds us, we all have our standards.  One of my standards is being dedicated to sharing women's stories.  And I am so proud of PCT for sharing this story about women!  We are a fascinating, difficult, fun, irritating, silly bunch.  We women have unique experiences just because we are women.  We should talk about them.  We must continue to do plays that expose them.  

Five Women is about bridesmaids, and one groomsman, at a wedding.  As we know, weddings can be stressful events!  In the words of Tripp and Trisha, they all start out fine, then things get weird and high expectations culminate into the halucinatory.  (Been there!)

So the bridesmaids escape to Meredith's upstairs bedroom.  They are not at their best!  They are funny, they are acting out, they are letting loose in a safe place.  They are acting like adults act.

Ok, to be specific, they cuss.  Among other things, the "F" word is said around 17 times to be exact (but who is counting).  To put things in perspective, American Sniper - with crowds and crowds, used that explicative over 170 times.  

So there it is.  When we did Vagina Monologues  we had a saying -- if you can't say Vagina, you can't come.  The Board didn't want to put the name of the play on the marquee, so we refused to do the play without it.  Not all plays are for everyone.  If you can't stand the word Vagina, don't go see Vagina Monologues.  

I'm going to jump out there on a limb and say that if you can't stand the thought of cuss words on PCT stage, don't come to this play.  It's ok.   You won't be missing out on anything you want to see. Whatever you do, please, please, don't come and just see Act I.  Act I is always fun and enjoyable, hilarious even, but it is just the set up.  If you just come see Act I, you have missed the heart of the story.  You might feel that you have drunk the wine of  crassness and that is all that it will ever be to you.  That breaks my heart because it was made to be so much more.  It's like looking through a glass darkly. 

Irrefutably - there are plenty of people who want to see plays like what Vagina Monologues, Avenue Q, and Five Women Wearing the Same Dress have to offer. The Board that I proudly belong to is committed to serving the entire community.  These plays all have hearts to them, Big Picture points to them.  They are all award winning plays that the nation has embraced.  They serve a point for our community. I keep thinking that if only more mothers and fathers would see this play, maybe it would save my husband's office from doing some of the most difficult work that they do.  Such a play for women.  So amazing how the playwrite explains this situation that happens to too many women.  If you know anything about me, you know that I am dedicated to standing up for women, for helping them find their voice, for helping them find justice, for standing behind my husband's efforts for that, for helping them find peace, even if it is just through the laughter of a play that also happens to feature women that cuss.  (It's real, it happens, it wounds! Let's be honest! Could I pour my heart out to you any more?)

Now, there are also people in this community who do not want to see plays like Five Women. That is their right, we all have the right to choose. 

But it does create conflict between community theatre season ticket holders and attendees, actors, directors, and thespians.  It's an issue that we have to address. I must believe that for every problem, there is an answer.  

PCT has been searching for the answer for a long time.  

Last season, after the unbelievable but absolutely believable success of Vagina Monologues, the Board came up with the only solution that we have seen in other theatres -- the ability to pick your season.  Pick 4, pick 6, pick all.  Instead of five season shows PCT gave season ticket holders six shows.  As is typical to any season there are two family shows -- Alice, and now Damn Yankees (hurrah for baseball!!!!),  instead of one there were two musicals  (Avenue Q and Damn Yankees), a drama and a half (JB -- about Job, as in the Biblical Job set to a modern day parable from the 1950s, and the first play of White Liars / Black Comedy), and two comedies (Five Women, and White Liars/Black Comedy - had to stay for the second play for that gut buster),  Also, PCT has /is producing TWO extra plays this year in case  you don't want to see adult language / situations.  Rabbit Hole, the wonderful difficult play about a family dealing with the grief of a child (We loved it so much we took it to contest)  and Waiting for the Parade, about Women in WWII coming in April.   

PCT did that for those persons who didn't want the other two plays.  Sadly, too many of you missed Rabbit Hole.  I hope you won't miss Waiting for the Parade.  And do not worry!  Just because PCT has done several plays with adult content this year, this doesn't mean the theatre is only doing adult content shows.  Nothing could be further from the truth. Besides the two family plays, we also produce over 20 viewings of the children's production, which is definitely family oriented, and two great choir shows, one dedicated to Christmas music both religious and secular, and the other dedicated to show tunes.  

It's just that this show is one of the adult ones.   My preacher has told me he is coming to this play.  I've forewarned him about the language and I know he can deal with it.  That's just him - he's very into trying to figure out how to take the message to the masses, so this play will be a study in behavioral science for him.  I can't wait to hear what this play inspires him to preach.  But, again, that is just him.  That's why we get along, because we both are irritatingly deep thinkers.  We aren't afraid of ideas, even if they have cuss words.  But if it isn't for you, don't come!  It is ok!  

For the rest of you, who will come and love it, like yours truly, here is the rest of the story. 

A wise man once said there is nothing new under the sun.  Literature majors like me love this.  Every good book has a beginning somewhere!  The same is true of this play.  It's a good play because it has layers.

The first layer is the fun, zany, craziness of the Bridesmaids.  It's not to the level of slapstick, but its just pretty dang funny.  (Alan Ball could be accused of snooping on every female conversation of the 90s and throwing it into the kitchen sink with this being the side splitting result!).

The second layer is delivered in Act II.  And I am definitely not telling you about that, you just must come see it.  If you know anything about me, Tim Wood, Sherry Scott, Melanie Fowler and Jill Drake, you know we are advocates for women (congrats Kacy Mills and Tori Hunt, you are now officially advocates, too!).  There's a real heart to it. 

The third layer is the language issue. There is an argument going on with the creatives as to whether the cuss words are there for a reason, or if this is a true rendering of what Bridesmaids are like (except in the Bible Belt, of course).  I tend to think its both.  But, knowing the play backwards and forwards and sideways, I believe the F word is there for a reason.  I think we are assaulted with the F word.  Come to the WHOLE play, and see if you agree with me.  There isn't a correct answer, you get to decide.

Finally, the fourth layer is the absolute coolest.  Last night at the last preshow reception, one of the attendees had seen the play more than once and was going again.  But she hadn't heard about this, and when I started telling it, she burst out laughing.  It makes so much sense!  So here it is:  

This play has at its center a long lived theological premise, that being the Cardinal Sins.   Yes, the Bridesmaids, each and every one, represents a Cardinal Sin.  Not only that, since this is a comedy, it is quite along the Divine Comedy lines that they are each stuck in their sin.  (Thank you Dante for continuing to edify us!).  In other words, don't expect their problems to be solved as they entertain you.

Just in case you don't have them memorized, here you go:

One Bridsmaid Covets.  Covets Covets Covets.  Things, men, a dead woman's husband, etc. etc.

Another is full of Wrath.  She's fun and funny, but boy can that anger just flip the switch.  Luckily, we get to find out why in Act II.  

One Bridesmaid Lusts.  She is so full of lust that she holds love at bay.  The quintessential (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction!  We have hope for her by the end is all I'm saying.

Sloth is all over one of the Bridesmaids.  So much so that she lovessss garbage, and I do mean loves it.

Finally, the last Bridesmaid is an out and out Glutton.  She's so gluttonous that all she can think about is throwing up.

Now that is only 5 of the deadly sins, the venial sins to be exact (the minor sins).  The last two -- the two that are actually the mortal sins are Pride and Envy.  Those show up in the play, too, so I'll just let you stew on that and decide how yourself.

So there it is.  Now that you are edified, and now that you ought to know for certain if this is your cup of tea or not, I look SO forward to seeing you for the WHOLE play tonight, Saturday or Sunday!  

Saturday, January 24, 2015

And the Winner Is . . . .

It's been a great week!  Full of work -- I don't talk about it often, but I love my job.  I love the people and the puzzles, and helping people dream big.  Of course, when not at work, I love to dream big myself, mostly in ways related to my degree -- that being An English Degree, and also related to my upbringing in a very musical family, who exposed me to theatre early, when my sister played Amaryllis in The Music Man.  

So, this week, I got to go with two lovely friends to Dallas Theater Center's production of The Book Club.  It was so wonderful!  Great appeal to modern audience of readers and -dare I say it - nonreaders of all levels, it explored what we read and why, and who gets to talk about that with us (or drink and eat with us, if they haven't read the book, and do they belong or not??).  I'd read almost all the books discussed and I think had every single one of the conversations -- except the twist of the unhidden camera for a documentary that caught some rather funny things.  Humans are so surprising.  I loved it!!

Of course, I read. I enjoyed my family.  I worked more.  I watched one TV show (yes, Downton Abbey).  One night, I worked with the actresses who have been cast in 5 Women Wearing the Same Dress, and that was so wonderful.  They really took me places.  
On another very wonderful night this week,  I went  with my girlfriends for a girl's night out treat of seeing these charming puppets at Paris Community Theatre's side splitting production of Avenue Q.  (If you aren't easily offended and love to laugh at our humanness, don't miss this!!)

I worked more, enjoyed my husband and father, son and daughter.  It's been a busy and wonderful week.  I even got to write during the holiday.

And now today, I get to participate in National Readathon Day. Hubby asked me last night -- so what are you doing tomorrow?  HAHA!  I'm reading!  I'm reading! 

I decided not to fundraise because I've so vocally fundraised for PCT's building fund
-- (We have raised aprox. $68,000.00 of $70,000.00 dollars to date!!!!  Thank you Paris!!).  So I donated through Books on a Nightstand -- a blog and much more about books and bookish thoughts.  Then, I raised awareness in Paris by starting the fun #parisreads hashtag -- all names and books of thosewho participated were put in a vase that was full this morning.

Just in time for me to draw the lucky winner of this great book -- "Station Eleven" by Emily St. John Mandel.  Even better, the book is signed.

 Congrats Jeannie Plummer -- enjoy your book!  (Hey, if you ever get rid of it, I get first dibs).  Thank you to all who participated, we'll do it again soon.  I'll put a list here of the books you were  reading, in case you need a suggestion for what to read.  Here they are:

The Husband's Secret
The Invention of Wings (multiple times)
To Kill a Mockingbird
Big Little Lies (multiple)
Interrupted: When Jesus Wrecks Your Comfortable Christianity
One Word That Will Change Your Life
The Rosie Effect
Fifty Shades of Grey
Talking from 9 to 5
Astronaut Wives' Club
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Well Played Life
Seige and Storm
The Tuesday Morning Club
E. Aster Bunymund and the Warrior Eggs at the Earth's Core
Killing Patton
Brown Girl Dreaming
My Farm Animals
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Above the East China Sea
Invisible Thread
X vs. Y
To Rise Again at a Decent Hour

Pretty Decent List, I'd say!  Can't wait to do it again, I'll announce the next prize soon.  Remember, you can put it on any social media that I'm on -- Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Google+ or even respond here (you have to be a Google+ member for security purposes). - I'm not sure if it works on Goodreads, but I'd be willing to try and figure that one out, such as by me starting a #ParisReads listmania that we can all access.   And because this is a small enough place, and many of you tell me, if you tell me I'll put yours down for you.  But I've decided that if you put it down yourself it will be worth two entries.  Better yet, if you share a picture of your book (any picture will do if you are listening or using an ebook) with the #parisreads hashtag,  that will be worth three entries.

Anyone can take advantage of this list - which I have already found helpful as I have recently been in a real dreadful lull.  Just search with #parisreads, and you might find something you enjoy.

Also, yes, I did include those of you who are connected in some way, have lived here or are a part of the bookish social media presence spurring on the knowledge that yes, even without a book store, even in the middle of one of the famed No Man's Land, even by the edge of one of the borders of Texas, even two hours away from anywhere, Paris does indeed Read.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

The Great Torture 2014 -- *Spoiler Alert* The Paying Guests

The Paying GuestsThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[BTW already a number of people have entries in #parisreads, and are going to participate in National Readathon Day.  Yay!!  Click Here to Learn More]

Via Audio  -  This may be worthy of my 2014 Best Book I Hated, because that is how I felt 75% of the way through, but in the end I didn't hate it, I was just tortured by it. So I guess it gets the Great 2014 Pure Chinese Torture Award.
It's very well written, and just about gave me a heart attack.  It typically doesn't take me but about 3 or 4 days to read a book like this,  but this one,  about a quarter in,  I didn't want to read but couldn't stop. I almost quit reading about 30 times I'm sure, but in the end I kept having to return.  Curiosity Killed the Cat indeed!  I know it would have been less torture to read by book than by audio, because the narrator did a far superior job of telling the story that I every could have in my mind.  

I can't tell you anymore without spoilers so stop here if you don't want anything revealed.


I picked this up because it made it through several rounds of Goodreads Best Book awards, which is always a great indication for a common reading fanatic. It was in the general lit category, otherwise I wouldn't have read it.   In a way, I feel betrayed by that and place the blame on the publisher label.  Yes it is well written,  so deserving of the lit title, but isn't it also a thriller? Close to an erotic thriller?  Shouldn't the general public have been fairly warned?  I thought I was getting a Downton Abbeyish, Atonement, Brideshead Revisited type book. Instead, I got a torrid love affair -not quite 50 Shades but still- and Crime and Punishment.

The set up is easy: Frances and her mother have fallen on hard times after the War, so they take on lodgers they call "Paying Guests" in order to soften the blow of their slide from the middle class.  The lodgers, both of them, are clearly going to shake up Frances' life by some love interest or other.  You know it could go any old way.

Here is the spoiler - Frances and Lilian fall into each other's arms with a passion that rivals the pain of Helen and Paris, and I say that because it ends up being devastating to all who surround them - and as with those two, you never know if they are truly in love, or just in blinding, selfish lust.  There are several references to Anna Karrinina, and -this being a literary book- you know that no word is wasted so you keep that in the back of your mind the entire length of the book.

An earthquake of an event happens and that is where the book becomes Crime and Punishment.  I won't tell you what happens, that is enough of a spoiler.   It is an incredible rendition of a C&P twist - with its mental gymnastics and mind boggling questions and doubts.  It was devastating and exhausting to me,  I just hate that torment. I'm probably more sensitive to it than most. I know it is because of the life I have.  I choose to not watch it on TV, I'm not numbed to it, I can never be.  So it was torment.  But such well written torment!  So if you can stand all that, it's a real page turner.  And if you haven't read C&P, this will be an excellent mod primer for you.

What is the moral of the story?   Know what you are getting, because if you get vested in this you need to just prepare everyone in your life that you are reading this book that you are going to have to talk about and put down and pick up, ad nauseum, until you either finish it or get therapy over it.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

Putting Jan 24 on the Calendar - #parisreads

The January Paris Life is out, it just keeps getting better and better!  I loved so much of it, (including the closet confidential and the beard grooming tips).   

Here is my book column from December's Paris Life, which sparked a conversation with many of you that January's column answered.  (Go buy your copy or internet access to see that and find out about #parisreads , style, and how to groom that beard).  

I'm wondering if any of you gave or got books for Christmas, and what you are reading?  In the January column, I asked you to let me know what you are reading, with the hashtag #parisreads.  You can do that here (you  have to be on googleplus to be able to comment, to protect us from spam), or on twitter @sydsavvy, or on my Facebook page.  Anything works!  

To thank you for your answers, I'm going to give away a SIGNED copy of this book I love.   

(This is painful, I want to keep it, but I specifically bought it at BookPeople in Austin just for you, so I'm going to stick to my resolve.)  

You can comment through January 24.

Why that day?  

Because that is National Readathon Day, and I am participating!  It is a day when I vow to take time to read from noon to four. 

Permission to READ!!  From noon to four! Yay!

I've already made my donation to the National Book Foundation, but I would like to make a donation to a local book or reading oriented cause or organization.  Does anyone want to sponsor me to read? Anyone want to suggest who I (or we) should donate our funds to?   

Anyone want to join me?  Will you please take #taketimetoread ? And till then, let me know what #parisreads .  I know you do because you tell me you do.  Let's show the world we do.  Give me lots of people to draw from for the very fun, award winning Station Eleven.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Don't Miss This Book! Don't Miss These Immigrants! These Americans!

My rating: 5 of 5 stars -- Via audio.

It's that time of year that book readers start grabbing friends and strangers by the shoulders and saying -- Read this Book! Don't Miss This Book!! We start worrying that the really good books, the important books, are going to get washed away by the tide of terrible or even just standard books.  

This is the Don't Miss This!!  book for me. 
I wasn't expecting much from this book, especially not a trip down memory lane.  I love that it helped remind me of stories from my past, stories I'll soon share. It helped me remember why I have such a heart for immigrants.  It humanized the current politics and taught me things I didn't know. It was interesting to me that the setting was not Texas.  I kept being surprised that Delaware was the location but I think that was a good thing as it gives a fresh look.

It was hard for me to read, because I kept waiting for the axe to drop, but in the end I couldn't put it down.  The sweetest story to me was that of Alma and Arturo, the couple that moves in order to help their daughter get better from a brain injury.  Theirs is just an unadulterated pure love for each other and for their daughter.  There are other stories mixed in,  and I actually liked this, it gave me a break from the story that I knew was going to be difficult every step of the way.  The name of the book comes from one of those stories and by the time it is delivered, you know how true it is.

Confession -- After reading this, I sat there and cried.  It's the first time I've actually wept at the end of a book in a long, long time.  I love my country but we are so screwed up.  Don't worry, I think it was just a self reaction -- remember, when you read you bring your whole self into it.  You probably won't have that reaction.   But maybe you'll carry it in your heart.  I hope you'll carry it in your heart.  I hope you'll think about caring about these people, about immigrants.  

One favorite quote, from Arturo: "I'll tell them what I love about this country."

Here are a few more: 
“We're the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they've been told they're supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we're not that bad, maybe even that we're a lot like them. And who would they hate then?”
― Cristina HenriquezThe Book of Unknown Americans

“I felt the way I often felt in this country - simultaneously conspicuous and invisible, like an oddity whom everyone noticed but chose to ignore”
― Cristina HenriquezThe Book of Unknown Americans

Hilary Mantel can Write Anything!

The Assassination of Margaret ThatcherThe Assassination of Margaret Thatcher by Hilary Mantel
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I hate short stories.  I'm just a long story person.  I want to be given a chance to care about every aspect of the story.  I want something to think about.  I want a chance to laugh, cry, be curious, be surprised, and be swept away. I want something profound.

But I loved this offering of short stories.  I found all of those things I want in it. How does she do it?  I was completely swept up in these stories in all of the above ways.  I want to study them and figured out their myriad meanings. I want to study Mantel's writing techniques.  I want a bit of her brilliant zanyness.

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Tourette's, Strenth Training, and a Librarian

The World's Strongest Librarian: A Memoir of Tourette's, Faith, Strength, and the Power of Family    Love, love, loved this book.  "The World's Strongest Librarian" -- and here is a new quote, and video about it.  I loved it because it told me about several somethings I didn't know much about (Tourette Syndrome, the Mormon faith, and super strength training), while it talked discussed life and books.  Can't get much better!

“I'll never know everything about anything, but I'll know something about almost everything and that's how I like to live.” 

Confessions of a Book Snob -- November -- On Atticus and Ducks

People always ask me what I’m reading. I usually enjoy answering, but recently I had to stammer. It was just too surreal to admit to Atticus Miller I was in the midst of being enthralled by “The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee” by Marja Mills. But he quickly confessed that “To Kill a Mockingbird” was one of his mother’s favorite books, and that he’d heard the podcast of Mills’ interview with Lee.

So off we went, talking Mockingbird and other favorite books the way most people dissect favorite TV shows.
Harper Lee’s novel still has that effect on most of us. Add that to the fact she never wrote another book, except to help Truman Capote redefine the true crime genre, and eventually withdrew from the press and the public, and you have a deep mystery that many hope is answered by Marja Mills’ recent release.
The book falls short of that, but I’m still glad I read it.
I learned a great deal about Lee and her family I didn’t know before, and for that reason alone the book was worthwhile, even though Mills’ writing was not compelling.

Perhaps my expectations were too high. But when reading a book about Harper Lee, one feels entitled to deep thoughts. Here, I just felt guilty for wondering why Mills spent so much time on ducks or “and then we” or “Nell laughed that laugh” or “Alice had that look on her face that meant” and so on. The minute humdrum did not fit the bill.

Don’t get me wrong. There are interesting stories in the book. Some of my favorites are about the friendship between Lee and Gregory Peck, stories on Lee’s father (the inspiration for Atticus Finch), stories on Truman Capote — even if I’m not sure that I believe all of them, and just a real sense of what kind of women Lee and her elder lawyer sister were. Also the 
“One Book One City” program has my mind spinning with possibilities for Paris.

Still, I can’t help but wonder, if the Lee sisters truly encouraged this book, why did it take Mills so long to write it? Why wait to publish it until they were unable to respond? Does Mills protest too much that her own health problems slowed her down? Also, wasn’t it a bit too convenient the way the neighborhood move developed? On the other hand, if the book was not written by permission, wouldn’t it be more of an expose than a mundane memoir?

Perhaps that is the key, after all. The woman who cared so much about wild ducks was observant enough to have penned the quintessential story of the South, with all of our manners, crimes, injustices, villains and small town heroes. She did so at the moment it mattered, so that it caught the attention of our nation and still holds it. Perhaps we would do better to slow down and do the same.

Friday, December 5, 2014

The More Things Change . . . you know the rest

The Miniaturist

*Spoiler Alert*   Review Dated Sept. 13 2014, Just now having time to post!

Interesting book, especially for the fact that the more things change, the more they stay the same. 

Who is the Miniaturist? Why did Petronella stay and help this family? How do we ever learn compassion as a human race? Have we really gotten anywhere? [Based on the bullying that I've personally encountered this fall along the same lines as one of the conflicts in this book, it sure doesn't seem like it.] Why was this book written? Why did I read it at this particular moment? Can I make any sense of it? What is this book telling me? 

In order to tell you about the book, I guess I have to give a spoiler, though I'm not sure why this was hidden as it wasn't a surprise once the book got going. 

Set in Amsterdam in 1686, this historical fiction novel, according to the author: "focuses on two women’s very different journeys to find a slice of freedom in a repressive, judgmental society. There’s a trial, a hidden love, a miniaturist who predicts the fate of her customers, a parakeet called Peebo and a plan to escape to the sea."

*Spolier Alert*

The kicker is that young Nella's husband is homosexual, which at that time and place was a crime worthy of the death penalty. Nella's home and country are full of contradictions. I think that is quite true of life. What I'm not sure of is how Nella was so worthy to navigate them with such grace, when everyone else around her was much more naturally humanly flawed. Also, unanswered is really who or how is the Miniaturist? Why name the book after her? 

I just happen to like books that don't answer the questions for me. I also love the chase of the human contradiction. So even though for the life of me I can't figure this book out, I'm glad I read it, at this particular time. I'm glad the book showed me that, yes, we have made some progress.