Sunday, September 18, 2016

On Joining the Lone Star Book Blog Tours Team

In addition to my regular posts, you'll soon be seeing me post blogs here and there about books written:

* By a Texas Author; 
* About Texas / with a Texas Setting;  or
* By Texas Publishers.

I'll be doing this as a part of the Lone Star Book Blog Tours Team.  I am excited about it, and here is why.  

I've noticed over a number of years that Texas seems to be pushed further and further from our national literary scene.  If I only obtained my book recommendations from the New York publishing scene and those that support it, I'm not even sure I would know there was much more to America than the come of age NYC story, with the occasional fiction or nonfiction current hip offering, the last Oprah pick, the last mega star memoir or biography, and the attempt to chase last year's big book. 

If I sound a bit bitter about this, I am.  

I love my country, and all those types of books I just mentioned, but I also think we Texans are not done exploring ourselves, and the world is also not done with us. But if we all can't find the material, if we don't know it is out there, then we have all lost out. Our voices are not heard and are disregarded.  We then become completely invisible to ourselves and to others.    

It seems that the mega literary scene answer to this is that they can't sell our books.  And yet, this year, with same book after same book being offered and touted by those folks, there isn't a national break out best seller.  

Hmmm.  I wonder why. 

I have also noticed that, for a while now, just about the only thing it is alright to be racist and bigoted about is the South.  This is disappointing at best.  

And the West?  It is just forgotten, or its history ignored and rewritten. We should resist this; we must fight this.  If we rewrite our histories, if we ignore them, then we have a chance of repeating our failures instead of growing from them.  We have a chance of not understanding our victories, and then we can't carry those "can do" moments with us. 

Take this example:  I recently was excited to pick up a non fiction book about the persons who were influential in making American a shore to shore country.  But, the above thought was already planted in my head, so I checked out the index before purchasing it, just in case.

Would you believe that Sam Houston isn't even mentioned?   

Unbelievable. I'm not quite sure how NY/California think they got connected, but I am without a doubt that without Sam Houston, they would never have been. He was not a fluke. He was the real deal.  His life experiences created him for the Texas moment, and for the US expansion moment. Texans, it is wrong to forget him or discount him, and we should not sit back and let it happen.  

And that is just one example. 

So, I have noticed this, but didn't know what to do about it other than to make a big effort to find books that speak to me and my fellow Texans, even while I am also reading the "popular" darlings. 

That is when Twitter somehow connected me with Lone Star Literary group, who run the Lone Star Book Blog Tours Team.   

I checked them out and really liked what I saw.  They are dedicated to helping the world know that Texas does still have literary offerings. They are dedicated to connecting Texas readers and writers with the publishing scene and all that goes with it.  I definitely want to be a part of that.  

My first official blog with the tour won't be until October.  But they are already re-broadening my horizons back home, so I've started sharing the material that I am seeing.  It's good stuff, books that I think you all will be interested in reading and seeing, probably even more so than the ones I work so hard to bring to you. Through these books, we will be able to connect to our own experiences, and know that we are not alone. 

So that is why I am so excited about it.

Here is a link to my new friend Kristine Hall's blog that shows what is currently on tour. Also you can check out the new blogs I am following that I found through this group.

The tours offer both freebies and information. Take advantage of those offerings because entering is a breeze, and you just might win one.  Even if you don't, you may end up deciding you can't live without purchasing that book, which will make me glad that together we've supported the literary scene of our great State. (Be sure to tell me if you read anything you end up loving!)

Our Texas is worth it. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

What is History? And do we ever forgive ourselves?

Everyone Brave is ForgivenEveryone Brave is Forgiven by Chris Cleave
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There was so much that I loved about this book, I couldn't put it down. Themes were about bravery, forgiveness, hope / hopelessness, and British fortitude. Other theme that surprised me was racism / prejudice, and the black minstrel entertainment industry in London during the war, (which I think played out exactly, exactly, exactly right). Also there were the rejected children, the outcasts.

I couldn't put the book down and have so many quotes I want to tag.

Here are some similar, though not exact, comparisons: All the Light We Cannot See, the English Patient, also even Birdsong and the first couple of seasons of Downton Abbey (but WWII).

There is one thing the author chose to do that would never fly in America, in fact publishers and citizens are erasing our current histories because it is too painful for us. It was shocking to see/hear, and yet the point of the author was definitely emphasized. Is it true that the British were skin-color prejudiced? That in fact the whole world is and was prejudiced in one way or another? That it is not just the sin of America? (Particularly the South?) Was it alright to use the historically accurate descriptions, or does it do more harm than good? Do we try to bury the past, or do we look it in the face so that we can know we don't want to ever go there again?

On a bigger scale, I don't see younger generations read these kinds of books. Will this change? How can we be safe if we don't read these stories, too? How can we know where we are going if we don't know where we have been?

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Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Best and the Worst and Summer Reads

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of reason, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going directly the other way--in short, the period was so like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."

We all know where this comes from, right? It is brilliant. I can never forget it.  

Especially when, from time to time, I feel we have come to one of those times of insistence upon the superlative. People see it either one way or another, and we are all waiting for the ax to drop and only hind sight will probably prove both sides wrong. Probably. 

I can't even begin to answer those questions, and I don't want to.  It is the age of information, and you all believe what you believe. So don't worry, I'm not going there. 

Instead, I'm thinking of the infamous opening sentence because I'm officially an Empty Nester. I've made it through the best week and the worst week, the happiest week, the saddest week, the strangest week, the coolest week.  Ok, you get it. 

I find I have free time to just . . . waste.  And I have.  Point in fact, I have just wasted about three hours creating a Bitmoji, and playing with Snapchat, and more.  Lord, I hate myself for having so much fun doing absolutely nothing.

I guess it is a good thing, but it is also a weird thing.  I almost know what it is like to be a kid with my phone-friend and no other worry than whether it is charged and I am not cut off on data.

Anyway, I'm back!  I'm officially back to blogging, since I've done a big part of my duty (not done yet, and duty is somehow the wrong word. I've met the desires of our hearts, that is more like it. We love our babies, we love the people they are growing up to be, we take consolation that they are happy and thriving, and that we are only a phone call or car drive, (or snap chat) away).

The highschool vortex is done, and I'm free to blog again.  Here are a few of the fun pics I created which also show you some of the fun books I've read and enjoyed this year.  

This book on "Grit" is AMAZING, for adults, parents, teachers, and students.  It has so many tips on what Grit is, what it does, and how you get (or foster) more of it.  I'll probably be writing about this one next in The Book Snob Column.  I came to it because it has stayed on the best seller list for so long, and I am glad of it.  (Also, Don't you love my BitMoji?)  

"The Nest."  I resisted this one for awhile, but its a fun rompy voyeuristic view of sibling love and dysfunction.  Tricky author because she writes sneakily well, so the shades are definitely appropriate.  Thumbs up.

I'm a sucker for all things "Pride & Prejudice," especially this year since I'll be Directing the play at PCT in the spring. (If you think P & P is beneath you, I challenge you to sit down and just write out the dialogue.  Pretty tight, right?)  So, P & P is coming to Paris, and I'm asking you to brush up on it, anyway you can.  "Eligible" is a fun modern take on it, re-pleat with Skyline Chili and everything, which I only know about because The Paris News publisher is from Ohio and has cooked it for us.  Being Texan, we politely ate it. It's good, but it ain't chili, folks. It's pasta. Pasta tipped on its head with some good old Southernish chili with a hint of cinnamon.  
Cool, but weird, a little bit like this fun book.

Ah. "Homegoing."  Pure, pure gold.  This is the book I just wrote about in my column that is out this week. It is definitely a book club book. The stories quickly get under your skin and hook you, and though it is about slavery from both guilty coasts (America and Africa), the stories of all the descendants are told in a way that you can take it.  Don't miss this one, book club or no.  

Yes, I know, I'm so behind the curve here.  I just didn't think I could stomach it, so it took one of my book clubs to make me do it, and I'm glad.  This is the purpose of book club. (Ok, I freely admit that wine and laughter are the purpose of book club night, so what you do building up to it is up to you.)

"Room" is another story about something really awful that doesn't look at the awful from the camera lens.  Instead, the story is told in the voice of the child who is the product of the crime.  He's such a sweetheart that you just wanna love him  home. It is still devasting, but not gut wrenching.  
The audio book is stellar, and fully narrated by multiple voices.

So I made it through the best and worst week.  And though I played on my phone, I'm still advocating reading.  Parents, I can't say this enough:  let your kids see you read.  And read to them.  Make them put that phone away, turn the TV off, and build vocabulary, empathy for others, and knowledge of other worlds.  I promise you won't regret it. I don't. 

Did you guess it?  Thank you Charles Dickens, for your wise words in this book about a true time of Terror.  We will make it through, one way or another.

Thursday, June 30, 2016

Reading and writing and writing and LITSY

I have still been reading and book reviewing for Paris Life in my Confessions of a Book Snob column -- but I find what they say is true, you can't blog and seriously write at the same time.  I've been seriously writing, having a great deal of fun with it, and am at the "All In" phase.  But I'm almost to my goal, and will definitely be back here soon.  In the meantime, I'm doing short snippets about what I'm reading on the LITSY app -- such a fun app for book readers, and of course with the old standby, Goodreads, so if you are needing some book thoughts, you will find me there.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Opera Zinger -- Jay Hunter Morris

Posting this review from years back on Goodreads, in honor of Jay's amazing singing and Master Class today. If you missed it, you missed out, but don't worry he's coming to Dallas next year about this time for Moby Dick. In the meantime, you should read his book. Order it on Amazon or get you a kindle edition. It will make you smile whether you have been to one opera or fifty (or even none).

Diary of a Redneck Opera ZingerDiary of a Redneck Opera Zinger by Jay Hunter Morris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is such a fun book.  Funny and inspirational.  Glad I read it.  I suggest it for anyone who loves performance arts, or for anyone who likes Texan humor (esp. about adventures mostly outside of Texas), for anyone who has ever dreamed big, and esp. for anyone with connections of any kind to Paris, Texas, where there are an amazing number of artists.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

A List of Gems

I DID NOT have time to blog this summer due to being involved as Marmee and as Music Director in PCT's production of Little Women the Musical (and yes I need to blog about that).  But I DID read!  Of course!  So here are a few gems I experienced and discovered this summer, old, new, classics and not, the spice of life:

The Dream Lover: A Novel of George SandThe Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I devoured this book.  I haven't read Sand's books, but I've been intrigued by her for a long time.  I'm practically devout on Chopin, so it was interesting to read her side of the story.  Well done imaginative look into how it all could have happened, I felt like a fly on the wall.  This book is an excellent example of show / don't tell.  Glad I didn't wait too long to read it.

Even today, I see women hesitating, holding back, doing and saying what is "expected" rather than what is in their hearts, simply because they are afraid.  I'm astounded and amazed at Sand's bravery.  I'm in love with the French, yet again. They completely embraced her.  And the author clearly gets the inner turmoil of the writer/ artist.  Oh to have been in that set, and to write to that music live.

I'm not much of a Balzac fan, but Hugo is near the top of my list.  Guess I need to read Sand to see if what they say is true.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to the new recording made by the infamous Games of Throne Littlefinger, Aidan Gillen.  Pure wow.  Precise, succinct, crafty.

Rush out and by your audio copy today, and spend an hour listening.  You won't be sorry.

HausfrauHausfrau by Jill Alexander Essbaum
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

**SPOILERISH ALERT*** (Meaning, if you haven't read many classics, these references will mean nothing, and I'm not really giving anything away if you do read classics).

Interesting.  The cover didn't prepare me, but the first line, and then the set up, made me wonder.

Anna.  Unhappily married (Bored).  Train fettish.  Loves one of her boys -- a sweet little angel -- too much.  Likes sex with players.  Runs into a player while with M-I-L.  No family. No where to go. Self Deconstructs.  And I'm thinking the whole time, is this author really gutsy enough to go for it?

Very thought provoking twist on a famous classic. Some things were different, but the important shell was there and the writing, and lit devices, were excellent.  I think the lit world is going to make a huge deal of this one, for good reason.  Lots for a book club of brilliant women to chew apart.

And I wonder, will some people read this and not know what they are reading?

Why Homer MattersWhy Homer Matters by Adam Nicolson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For a Homer devotee, (My name is Sydney Young.  I am addicted to Homer), this is somewhat like reality TV, only better because it isn't reality TV!  This gave me an insiders view, satisfying my curiosity and giving me even more to digest about these remarkable stories.

The RocksThe Rocks by Peter Nichols
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of the best new books I've read this year.    A literary tour de force of a modern day Odyssey, this story also takes on a life of its own.  And made me want to sail to Ithaca and Majorca.

It's a Homeric journey that Peter Nichols knows and delivers with adept punches.

"As you set out for Ithaka
hope the voyage is a long one,
full of discovery.
Laistrygonians and Cyclops,
Angry Poseidon -- don't be afraid of them . . .

Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you were destined for.
But do not hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you are old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to make you rich.

Ithaka gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you would not have set out . . . "

NOW, lest you think I don't read anything just for fun, here are a couple of books that I've enjoyed purely for fun.  Yes, I'm a proud fantasy reader, so long as it is well written and devoid of cliche.  Here is a new series that is just that:

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)The Invasion of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #2)The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I honestly don't know how I came across the first book, but I picked it up and started enjoying it (I think to my surprise), so I kept with it.  Liked it enough to read the second book (especially since the divine Davina read book two).  It honestly started off a little rough for me but then the pacing, world and story from the old American new age began to leap off the page.  Fun series, what's coming next? Davina Porter read divinely, as usual.

AND, I don't just read new books and classics.  Here are a couple of books out in paperback that I had missed the first time around.  They were worth reading.

Everything I Never Told You  Interesting book.  Here is the goodreads blurb:

Lydia is dead. But they don’t know this yet . . . So begins this debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation.

I'll just add the Author's video instead of a review, just for fun.  Author video

The Light Between OceansThe Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Hautingly beautiful story about a couple who finds a baby adrift in the sea.  Caught in the middle, caught in a lie, caught in life.  Everyone loses but everyone gains.  This book makes you think.  And is a story to get lost in.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Thoughts on Gone With the Wind

I did not set out to listen to this once again. I just wanted to check a passage at the very beginning of the book, and so I decided to listen to that point. Probably about 150 pages in. I got sucked in to this story ONCE AGAIN.

My eyes and ears were much more attuned to the story outside of Scarlet and Rhett this time, which I have to confess is what must have been the only thing I paid attention to in times past. The sugar coated, slavery is a good institution pre war attitude almost made me put the book down. Then the post war, hateful, name calling, one sided -- south was right north was wrong -- attitude was excruciating, but by then I was too vested, and before long it got bearable again. I do remember hating the second part of the book when I was younger, and this must have been why. It's a far cry from even the new Harper Lee book and is just shocking.

As to the whole Scarlet (and Rhett, etc. etc.) thing, I think my view on her (and him, them, etc.) has not changed, but has definitely deepened. I'm perhaps more amazed that her POV was written when it was. We tend to think that that feminist revolution made women, but the fact is that it didn't, it just made a lot of women realize that there were others out there. (That is not to deny that legal changes didn't make sweeping changes for women's lives, both good and bad, but that isn't what I am talking about).

What an interesting story. Now, I confess, I'm scared to read the new Mammy version. What an indictment that must be. But I want to. Maybe I shall. 

However, if it is being told from that generation, I do think it is what the plantation owner class, esp. women, did. How else could you live with it, without sugar coating it -- no, no slave was ever beaten or mistreated in the whole county, etc. etc., our way was better, they are going to kill us all, the Clan is required, etc. etc. I guess I worry that this book will be torn down from the libraries, and I hope it won't be. We need books like this to show us where we truly were so that we can never ever go there again, and so that we can understand how the true anguish caused by the sins of the past do still reverberate.

Books don't tend to be written one sided any more, if anything they are politically correct and show both sides so you can see that the truth is somewhere out there and dependent upon your vantage point. But if we are too politically correct, especially in times past, then we are not being honest. How do we tell these stories? How do we keep these old stories from being ripped away, just because they make us hate what we are hearing and experiencing when we read them? I don't know.

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.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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!