Books

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.” Cicero

I believe this quote is true. I cannot imagine life without books or a room without books. As you’ve noticed I have blogged a lot of book reviews over the past several months. I cannot imagine a pandemic without books! This past year of being locked-down would have been unbearable without books to read.

What books have been especially important to you over this year of inactivity? Please share with us how books have helped you get through the COVID months since March of 2020.

Photo by Pixabay

Here are some other book quotes to think about.

“Books are funny little portable pieces of thought.” Susan Sontag

“Every book is like a purge; at the end of it one is empty . . . like a dry shell on the beach waiting for the tide to come in again.” Daphne DuMaurier

“Fiction reveals truth that reality obscures.” Jessamyn West

“The pleasure of all reading is doubled when one lives with another who shares the same books.” Katherine Mansfield

“Good books like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.” Louisa May Alcott

“Do give books – religious or otherwise – for Christmas. They’re never fattening, seldom sinful and permanently personal.” Lenore Hershey

“Truly each new book is as ship that bears us away from the fixity of our limitations into the movement and splendor of life’s infinite ocean.” Helen Keller

Photo by Pixabay

Still Coping

Covid Calamity

Here we are almost four months in and things are not improving. I’ve posted my thoughts and feelings about the isolation involved with staying safe and I must admit that my resolve to stay productive is waning a bit. As a result, I’m reading a lot of books. You’ve probably noticed all the book reviews on Crooked Creek.

Thanks for bearing with me. I cannot believe that I have all this time and suddenly I have so little to say. I’m not sure what this means for the future of this blog, but time will tell.

Meanwhile, be safe. You know the drill.

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Graphics by Pixabay

What’s Your Status?

Stay inside! Wash your hands! Wear a mask! Stay 6 feet apart!

I realize all this is essential. As an extra high-risk senior, I appreciate the guidance, but it is sure getting redundant! I have been mostly inside since March 16th and I am bored. Yes, I need a haircut and a visit to the nail salon. Yes, I’d like to eat out. Although I’m not a big shopper, I’d like to go to a mall. But, still, the biggest complaint is boredom. I know that’s a small price to pay for being safe from COVID-19 and I’m ashamed to be complaining so I’ll stop now.

Thank goodness for books! I have been reading one book after another and it sure passes the time for me. Folks have loaned me their books, I’ve ordered online and I’m even re-reading books that I’ve read years ago.

So, that’s my status, I’m grateful for books and for every ray of sunshine that I see from my windows. I enjoy the flowers in my courtyard and I also take an occasional walk in the neighborhood and that is pleasant. Oh, yes, and I’m eating a lot of chocolate.

How are you coping during these unprecedented times? 

 

“Since boredom advances and boredom is the root of all evil, no wonder, then, that the world goes backwards, that evil spreads. This can be traced back to the very beginning of the world. The gods were bored; therefore they created human beings.” Kierkegaard

Poem: Find Me

Another Poem by Sylvia ADBE4DB2-4E24-46F1-A184-6945C10916DF

find me
look among my wealth of nature’s bounty…
among feathers, acorns,
and a harvest of dried leaves…
among the marbles and arrowheads
that i plucked from the ground…
and the skeleton keys and old coins
that rose from there as well
look among my treasure chest
of cherished things…
the photos of loved ones
both living and gone…
the shelves of books
that house a hundred voices…
and walls of art
that feed my hungry soul
look among my memories of
timeless things…
loves and friendships
that know no end…
places ventured
that echo a thousand footsteps…
and unknown journeys
whose steps are yet unknown
look among these things
and that’s where you’ll find me…
divided between the present
and the fragmented pieces of time…
between nature, relics, sentiments
and written words…
only look…
look among these things…
and find me

written by: Sylvia L. Mattingly, August 18, 2019

Dianne Bynum’s Book Review

“The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek”

This book was a fun surprise. My friend got me interested in this book when she asked me if I’d ever heard about the Blue people of Kentucky. I had, of course, I’ve lived in Kentucky my whole life. We’re known for moonshine, young brides and horse racing. The Blue people were another odd piece of our crazy quilt history. I knew that they had existed but they were just another cringe causing claim to fame for my home state.

I live in Kentucky and have spent some hot summers in the Appalachian Mountains. My family helped with several church ministries in the mountains. I’ve driven on narrow roads created by heavy trucks burdened with dirty coal. I’ve seen tiny houses tucked in dark hollers. I know the suspicious eyes of people that didn’t trust anyone but Mountain people. Those summers taught me a respect for these proud people that lived difficult isolated lives. It was my first experience with real poverty, but it was a financial poverty, not a poverty of spirit. Their beautiful voices, meticulous gardens, and pride in their beautiful mountains were things I never forgot. I was curious to learn more.

The author tells a beautiful story of a strong woman sprinkled with some interesting facts about the Blues. She is respectful of the subject with reliable documentation and photos. I’d never heard of the Book Women and I was touched to know that was a part of our Kentucky heritage. I’m glad I was curious enough to give this book a try.

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Staying Alive 3 of 6

Now we all have a puppy and female doctors . . . . . 

Next: Read 

Obviously, you are reading at the moment, but this blog post is too short to meet the recommendation for “Staying Alive.” Research shows that reading a book for one-half hour each day has a significant survival advantage. Other reading counts such as blogs or magazines but books are best according to a study by professors at Yale University. 

Several books have been reviewed here on Crooked Creek and many readers shared their favorite authors and books in an earlier post. So, I know there are readers out there. If you are not one of those it’s time to grab a book off the shelf and start prolonging your life. It’s never too late to start good habits. 

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“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”  Marcus Tullius Cicero

Theme graphic and photo by Pixabay

Book Review – The Book Thief

“The Book Thief” by Markus Zusak

A few years ago someone told me about a movie entitled “The Book Thief” (released 2013). At the time I pictured a professional thief stealing valuable books from museums and universities. This Christmas I was given the book by the same name (published 2005). 

I was so surprised to learn that the thief is a nine-year-old girl in Nazi Germany. Having books unapproved by the party was a crime and put the girl and her foster family in danger. 

At first, I found the writing style a little disconcerting, but I quickly fell into the rhythm of this prolific award-winning  Australian author. Interestingly, the book’s narrator is death. Death is very busy during WWII as he comes for people of all ages. 

This fiction novel is listed as “Young adult literature” but I am glad I did know that or I may have missed a very good read. I loved the book and look forward to seeing the movie. 

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Looking Back

Do You Remember?

  • Sprinkling laundry and refrigerating it in a plastic bag before ironing? Do you even remember ironing?
  • Cars not having air-conditioning, turn signals, seat belts nor heaven help us, cup holders?
  • Dialing a telephone, i.e., spinning that dial with one finger?
  • Car hops who delivered your food order which you then ate in the car?
  • Visiting folks without calling before dropping in?
  • When you kept up with relatives and friends by writing letters, known today as snail mail? 

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  • Blue Laws which required businesses to stay closed on Sunday? And, then later when they were allowed to open only after church “let out” at noon?
  • Women not wearing pants to church or much of anywhere else? I remember the first nurse who wore a pants uniform in our city. There was an article and photo in the local newspaper!
  •  When cameras had both film and flashbulbs? 

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  • When schools had recess?
  • Books were not audible?
  • When passengers smoked on airplanes during flight?
  • Farmers (usually the wife) killing their chickens for food? 
  • When unwanted pets were “dropped”?  Sadly, it still happens today. Here’s one named Jackson that was fortunate enough to be found and adopted.IMG_6272

I Remember

And the list could go on and on.  I make no judgment. For the most part, I like the ways things are today and I love technology. That does not mean I don’t grow nostalgic at times thinking about how some things were in the past. 

Soul 7

I Believe

I believe my Mother’s essence is in many objects that I have in my home. Not so much in the antique dishes or her personal jewelry, but in the things she infused with her love. I believe that her soul speaks to me through the stitches she loving put into place over the years of her life. I feel her love in the baby quilt she embroidered for her children, the ring pillow she made for my wedding, in the yarn she transformed into beautiful pieces of art and the scraps of material from the clothes she made for her granddaughters and their dolls, later quilted together.

I believe that my Aunt Thelma’s essence is strong in items she left behind and that she must be happy we find both uses and joy in them today. They are things that were dear to her and I have the privilege now of calling them mine. I love them not for themselves but because I loved her so much and I feel her presence when I see them.

She was taught by her church that it was a duty to bear children and it was probably her greatest disappointment in life that she did not conceive. She loved me and other nieces and nephews, she loved my daughters, too. How sweet her smile must be as she watches my granddaughter, who Aunt Thelma never met, sew pieces of lace from her 91 year old wedding dress into the wedding dress that Kate will wear next month. I know her soul is happy today. 

I believe my husband’s essence is the flowers that grow in our courtyard where he planted them. In caring for them, I continue to learn from him about the effort it takes to give beauty its fullest potential. His soul lives on nourishing the plants, keeping me company and giving me purpose. 

I believe that my maternal Grandparents’ essences are present when I pick up one of their Bibles. I know how important these books were to them and not just as a place to record family records of births, marriages, and deaths. They also recorded other important information such as their Social Security Numbers and the date of their last tetanus shots!

Seriously, the Bible was holy to them. They each read from it daily and they carried it with them to their little country church, Mt. Vernon Baptist, twice each Sunday and usually at least once in the middle of the week. Their souls are close by those worn and precious books. 

 

Nature is not only all that is visible to the eye… it also includes the inner pictures of the soul.” Evard Munch

Part 7 of 7

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Beauty 4

Beauty Four       

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 Fairy tales can come true? 

           It could happen to you. . .music-2570451_1280

Please don’t let it be true!

 

Beauty and the Beast

In spite of learning so much more about Beauty and the Beast, I still suspect that Beauty and many other females in fairy tales suffer from Stockholm syndrome.  I would prefer this story: 

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Fairy Tales

A close review of old stories for children, even nursery rhymes, and songs, contain thinly veiled topics that few would find healthy for young children. Some subject matter that comes to mind includes poverty, patriarchy, arranged marriages, cannibalism, incest, and beastiality. (I sure wish I had not used Google to find the correct spelling of that last word!)

The country of origin seems to have little influence on whether the tale is age appropriate. Beauty and the Beast was written in France as we learned in the last post, Aesop’s Fables are from Greece, Hans Christian Andersen was Danish and the Brothers Grimm were German.

Nursery Rhymes

Again I am guilty of jumping to conclusions without complete information because when I started reading full versions of many nursery rhymes I found that I was only familiar with part of the story. For instance, I had only heard the first verse of Baa Baa Black Sheep. Did you know that the last verse is about a zebra? There are workable theories that this rhyme is based on slavery or unfair taxing, but we won’t go there today. 

Again I had not read or heard all of Little Bow Peep. Did you know that when she found her sheep it “made her heart bleed” because of the loss of their tails? I’m not sure what it is about tails but The Three Blind Mice had theirs surgically removed by the farmer’s wife! 

Poor Humpty Dumpty is mortally crushed in a fall. Everyone knows I suppose that Peter held his wife captive in a pumpkin shell and Jack sustained a skull fracture which Jill tried to replicate as she came tumbling after.

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Courtesy of DLTK

Maybe it is the nurse in me, but I see emergency departments filled with these casualties. Perhaps you’re seeing it reported on cable news or from the viewpoint of law enforcement. 

Songs

I would be willing to bet that you have either sung “Rock-a-bye Baby” or had it sung to you. Did you, like me, picture that sweet fragile baby crashing to the ground when the windstorm breaks the limb upon which its cradle was hung? Could it be that the words really do not matter at all? Is it conceivable that the only thing that matters is that someone is lovingly singing a lullaby?

Final Thoughts

You may wonder what these four posts entitled Beauty are about and if so my job here is done. I want you to wonder, to question. I am interested in thoughts this series might have prompted. I would like to know your opinions, your favorite or least favorite children’s story, whether you reached any conclusions. Please share in the comments. Thank you.

My Favorite?

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Emperor’s New Clothes is brilliant. It seems much more like an adult tale than a child’s, but regardless there is such a valuable lesson contained in this story. It isn’t sing-song verse nor does it rhyme. It does not frighten but manages to carry a profound message. 

 

Part 4 of 4

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

 

Beauty 3

Food for Thought from “Beauty 2” Quotes

 https://wordpress.com/post/crookedcreek.live/3480

I have thought about those quotes from well-known men and my thoughts follow each in red:

“A beautiful woman with a brain is like a beautiful woman with a club foot.” Bernard Cornfeld    This crook millionaire is dead now.

“The highest prize in the world of men is the most beautiful woman available on your arm and living there in her heart loyal to you.” Norman Mailer  And besides all the women he had relationships with, he married six others, one whom he stabbed twice in the abdomen.

“There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.” Tom Wolfe He has a Ph.D. from Yale and has had an outstanding career as a writer. Since he has only had one wife one would assume she must be a really good cook.

“It’s the combination of marrying a beautiful woman three decades younger and my iPad that keeps me young.” Bruce Forsyth    He was married three times and lived to be eighty-nine so apparently, his last young wife, a beauty queen, did keep him young. Or perhaps it was just the iPad?

“Surrounding myself with beautiful women keeps me young.” Hugh Hefner
This old fart finally died in spite of all his beautiful Playboy Bunnies.

“My addiction has always been to beautiful women, being surrounded by them.” Corey Feldman   Yeah, well okay, but you are no prize and you are also only 5’5” tall so it is doubtful they surround you for the reason that you believe.

BEAUTYMaybe only skin deep, but so very essential for the female it seems. 

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BEAST –   Was he really?

As I said earlier I often come to my conclusions and hold steadfastly to them without knowing the whole story. All I knew was that Beauty fell in love with a big hairy animal. I saw that as unacceptable on every level. Why must a female be so needy as to accept this as her fate? One reader pointed out that Beauty was good-natured and kind and that her virtues were rewarded. I had not gotten close enough to give much consideration to anything except what I saw as inequality.  

My Granddaughter (the same one who insisted I watch Frozen) knowing my strong feelings about the lack of egalitarianism in fairy tales as well as life, in general, asked me recently if I knew the backstory of Beauty and the Beast. I did not, but I do now. She explained that he was not really a beast, but a young prince who had been cursed by a wicked fairy. Only the love of a beautiful young girl could break the curse, but he was not allowed to tell Beauty that. She referred me to a group of podcasts that tell an earlier “non-Disneyfied” version of the tale. As I listened to the podcasts I learned that this was a complex story involving multiple cultures, families, communities, and fairies both good and bad.  https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/tales/id1345709834?mt=2

It was shocking to learn how long this story has been around and how much it has and yet has not changed over the centuries. My interest being kindled I began to research more about the origins and found that the original was written in France in 1740. The original author was Gabrielle-Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve but in an interview with the BBC http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-35358487  Dr. Jamie Tehrani stated: “Some of these stories go back much further than the earliest literary record and indeed further back than Classical mythology – some versions of these stories appear in Latin and Greek texts – but our findings suggest they are much older than that.” If this researcher is correct then such stories began as oral tales perhaps as long as 4,000 years ago. 

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Photo Courtesy of Google

Another interesting theory is that the Beast was based on a true story. There are paintings from 1580 of a man named Petrus Gonsalvus who had long hair on his entire body and face, a condition called “hypertrichosis”  or “Ambras Syndrome.” Gonsalvus as a child was abducted to the court of King Henry II who was reportedly interested in peculiarities. He was kept on as a court jester until the death of the King. After a marriage was arranged by the late King’s wife through trickery he was allowed to leave with his surprised (horrified?) wife.  They had seven children, three of whom had the same genetic syndrome and who were removed from the home to please other wealthy royalty.  

The original tome by Barbot de Villeneuve was first abridged in 1756 and then again in 1889. Since that time it has evolved through books, on stage as an opera and ballet and in movies. It has even been on television including The Hallmark Hall of Fame. When I’ve considered The Beauty and the Beast up until the past couple of weeks I had no idea that its history went back perhaps to the Bronze Age. Does that make its story better? Does it make it more acceptable? Apparently, it does for it to have endured so long and to have been enjoyed by so many. 

Number 3 of 4

Theme photo in title by Pixabay

Beauty 2

Fairy Tales

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Google Photo

 

In the last post, I promised to give you my “idea” for a children’s book. https://crookedcreek.live/2018/03/20/beauty/

Some reader comments indicate you may be expecting an actual book, but I am sorry it does not exist. I’ve only gotten to the title because I know that actually writing the book would be an enormous waste of time. No publisher would be interested in a book with my title.

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Handsome

Handsome guy, right? My book would have him falling in love with an ugly hag. Can you picture him dancing with or kissing such an old woman? Of course, you can’t because it has never happened and it never will. There’s no money in that story! There is no reality in that story.

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and the 

For centuries, however, the opposite plot has been accepted and even expected. The book Beauty and the Beast has been read to children for generations. The three movies by the same name have been attended by families since the first one was released in the 1940s. I would love to know how many children may have asked their parents why the beautiful girl was in the arms of the big hairy monster. I wonder how many parents were uncomfortable with the storyline.

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HAG

 

 

        

 

 

“Handsome and the Hag”

 

Some food for thought:

“A beautiful woman with a brain is like a beautiful woman with a club foot.” Bernard Cornfeld

“The highest prize in the world of men is the most beautiful woman available on your arm and living there in her heart loyal to you.” Norman Mailer

“There is no spectacle on earth more appealing than that of a beautiful woman in the act of cooking dinner for someone she loves.” Tom Wolfe

“It’s the combination of marrying a beautiful woman three decades younger and my iPad that keeps me young.” Bruce Forsyth

“Surrounding myself with beautiful women keeps me young.” Hugh Hefner

“My addiction has always been to beautiful women, being surrounded by them.” Corey Feldman

Number 2 of 4

Theme photo in title and others by Pixabay

Beauty

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Painting from Beauty and the Beast                                                                                                  Courtesy of Pixabay

Fairy Tales

As a parent, I have often felt quite guilty about not watching cartoons and other animated children’s programs with my daughters while they were growing up. A few were acceptable, but those based on fairy tales definitely were not. A reader recently commented here that fairy tales are often very dark and I agree, however my main objection has always been that females are portrayed as weak and submissive and their value equated with their physical beauty.

Snow White wasn’t even alive until a male came along and brought her to life with a kiss. At least I think that’s what it was about. Sometimes I take a quick look or hear a few words and then establish my emphatic opinion. I’ve recently learned that is often the wrong approach. Regardless, I am sure that black and brown little girls find it difficult to identify with Snow White

When our daughters were small their Father watched cartoons and children’s stories with them on TV. I don’t think I ever watched even Bambi all the way through, but I remember the word “twitterpated” and was surprised when I looked it up just now and learned it did not have the sexual connotation that I had always believed.

I did not have patience with musicals either. A couple of years ago my grown-up granddaughter asked me to watch the animated movie, Frozen, with her. It was not her first time to see it and I felt she wanted to see if I’d softened up any over the years so I agreed. Perhaps it is because our family is not musically inclined but I’ve just never heard any of us break out in song. It is unnatural! The main characters, Elsa and Anna were undeniable beauties, of course. 

Beauty and the Beast

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Photos courtesy of Disneyclips.com

That brings me to the story Beauty and the Beast which I detested long before the smash hit Disney movie was released last year.  I loathe the very name. Why would a beautiful young girl fall in love with an ugly hairy monster? Each time I heard the title I would think, “How could they in this day and age? Aren’t we even trying to encourage little girls to be strong and independent?” Of course, I have not seen the movie. Aware that it was an age-old children’s book I even felt a little superior that, as a parent, I had not read this book and others like it to my daughters. 

For many years I have fantasized about writing my own children’s book and it would definitely have a different theme than those relying on beauty to determine a girl’s worth. I’ve had the title for so long that if I even begin to talk about it my granddaughters chime in with it before I can get it out.

My children’s book idea coming up in the next post! Stick around. 


“Beauty and the Beast” Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MmWBIxbn7Nk

Number 1 of 4

Books 5

“So many books, so little time.” Frank Zappa 

Do you have a book inside yourself?

Many, if not most, readers feel they could write a book. I bet that you have considered it or attempted it. One of my daughters has encouraged me to write for so many years that I am surprised that she hasn’t given up. She has provided many texts for guidance and even a little sign that hangs in my office which says “Award Winning Author at Work.” In spite of all the encouragement, I haven’t made an attempt as an adult. 

Do you journal?

If not, you should probably consider it now. I have never been very faithful in writing daily in a journal, but when I traveled for work, I often wrote down thoughts along the way and they have been one source of material for this blog. Many of the scribblings I still run across are valuable to jog my memory and prompt smiles or sometimes tears. 

Poetry               

https://crookedcreek.live/2017/07/29/challenge/  

We discussed poetry and some of you took the challenge to write a poem a long time ago. I also happen to know that more than one of the readers of Crooked Creek are very talented poets with years of work to their credit. You know who you are and you should definitely publish! I am not a poet by any stretch as my lines below will demonstrate. Had it not been for my attempt at journaling, however, I would not have these lines from 1993.

Waves of Time

Time, like waves upon the sea, though predictable, may catch one unaware. 

The same, be it waves of time or tide, possess the power to generate joy or pain.    

A rare and special friendship, though far away, burns steadily through time like a lighthouse glowing through the tide.                                                         

Good Reads 

https://www.goodreads.com

Although I admit that I have not kept my Good Reads account up to date I still believe that it is a useful website for readers. Even if you do not want to catalog your books in one of the many ways provided it is an excellent source of book reviews.  If you have not already check it out and see if it would be worthwhile. If any of you readers are active in Good Reads and would like to share the advantages that would be great!

“A room without books is like a body without a soul.”                          Marcus Tullius Cicero

 

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Confessions:

  1. When in the eight grade I naively started a book, entitled “Tennessee Ten” and completed about 10 handwritten pages! It was awful of course.
  2. I have a few books by authors who I greatly respected until some current event, such as the #MeToo movement, changed my mind. 
  3. One of my blog readers has told me privately that I should concentrate on writing humor, but honestly, sometimes things just aren’t that funny, at least not on a regular basis.

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Reader Feedback

Another reader weighed in with their earliest book memories: Clifford the Big Red Dog”, “Jack and the Beanstalk” and “Ferdinand the Bull.” 

Part 5 of 5

Books 4

Reader Feedback

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First Book Memories, Favorite Books and Authors

So many of us remember our reader, Dick and Jane from first grade! Nancy Drew mysteries are another favorite among Crooked Creek readers. This chart lists your first memories and your favorites according to comments made regarding the past three posts: 

1st Book Memory

“A Tree for Peter”  by Kate Seredy

Dick & Jane (elementary school book)

Nancy Drew books by Carolyn Keene

“Little Women” by Louisa May Alcott

Favorite Books

“A Tree Grows in Brooklyn” by Betty Smith

“The Good Earth” by Pearl S. Buck

Scriptures from the “Good Book”

Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Miss Julia series by Ann B. Ross

Favorite Authors

Mary Higgins Clark

Harland Coban

Shakespeare

Nickolas Sparks

Jodi Picoult

James Patterson

Francine Rivers

Dean Koontz

Stephen King

Lisa Gardner

Access, Storage and Disposal

Most of you indicated that you love books today even though many of you did not have books readily available in your family growing up. Some obtained books from the library or a “Bookmobile” operated in rural areas. I, too, remember those visiting libraries, but I do not if they still exist. An interesting concept today for urban readers, according to one of you is the placement of small repositories where books may be borrowed or added.

You are a generous group, mostly passing your books on to others or donating them. Some of you resale at Half-Price Bookstores. And, it seems that there are always books with which we cannot part. Only one person shared how their books are arranged and that was by alphabetical order. Readers were about 50 to 50% in preference of paper books versus electronic or audio books.

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Pixabay Photo

Genre

Whether you are reading for self-improvement, to learn new skills, to broaden your mind with history or poetry or simply to be entertained or thrilled you are engaging in an activity that will forever be a part of your life. Even if, like one reader, we need to keep a list of the books read so that we don’t buy them a second time, there are passages that affect us in ways of which we are unaware. 

Thank You Pat, Lula, Rose, Kay, Sylvia and Others

I am honored that this blog is one of the things that you read!  

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“Good books, like good friends, are few and chosen; the more select, the more enjoyable.”  Louisa May Alcott

Part 4 of 5

Books 3

Favorite Book and Favorite Author

For the avid reader, this can be a difficult question to answer. This asks one to consider everything from the classics to beach reading, fiction, and non-fiction, history, poetry, and prose. Rather than doing a detailed evaluation of your reading over the past, let’s make this easy. Which author comes to mind at this moment? Which book?

Fine. That is asking too much, so please share with us your top three favorite books. Likewise, your three favorite authors. That should be easier and the books and authors should coincide, right?

My Favorites

You know I would never ask you to do something that I am unwilling to do, right? You also know I love sharing with you, the readers, so here goes in no particular order.

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The first book that comes to my mind is A Prayer for Owen Meany. I read this book by John Irving many years ago and it has remained a favorite of mine to this day. In fact, after a few years, I simply remembered that it was a fun read and recalled only a few parts of the storyline, so I read it again and then later again. Naturally, the author became a favorite and I have read many of his books and now that I write this wonder why I have not read all of them.

It may be that I especially enjoy Irving’s writing because he is my contemporary. If you are not familiar with his work, you may recall some of the movies based on his writings. The first is The World According to Garp (1982) and another very popular one is Cider House Rules (1999). Do either of these ring a bell?

Irving’s mind and imagination are astounding. They might also be described as bizarre. In my opinion, he is more imaginative than Stephen King another favorite of mine. Warning, if you are offended by sexual content, Irving is not the writer for you.

“Imagining something is better than remembering something.” John Irving in The World According to Garp.


 

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Another writer that I have great admiration for is William Styron who died in 2006 at the age of 81. Styron wrote many award-winning novels and essays. Most are familiar with the movie Sophie’s Choice which is based on Styron’s book of the same name. Being born during WWII, I have always been interested in reading about that era and particularly the Holocaust. Styron received a fair amount of criticism because the main character in his book was not Jewish, but Catholic. I can understand some being sensitive to that since over 6 million Jews died in the Holocaust, however, there were others who were targeted, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, Romas (then referred to as Gypsies) and the handicapped to name a few. That controversy aside, Sophie’s Choice is a spellbinding and at the same time heart-rending book.

The Confessions of Nat Turner, which won the author a Pulitzer Prize is another of Styron’s that I particularly liked. This historical novel tells in first person the narrative Turner’s leadership of a slave revolt in VA in 1831. 

Styron was a prolific writer and his works included accounts of his own challenges living with depression.

“A good book should leave you… slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.”  William Clark Styron


 

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John Steinbeck was born in Salinas, CA in 1902 and was known for both humor and a strong social conscious. Four years before his death at age 66 he won a Nobel Prize in Literature. Two of my favorite Steinbeck books are described briefly below. 

East of Eden, my favorite book by Steinbeck, was published in1952 and set in his homeland, the Salinas Valley of Central California. It was originally written for his two young sons so that they might know the valley he loved in detail. The writer tells about the entangled lives of two families one of which is believed to have been his maternal ancestors. Steinbeck is reported to have considered East of Eden to have been his masterpiece stating “I think everything else I have written has been, in a sense, practice for this.” 

The Grapes of Wrath published in 1939 won Steinbeck both a Pulitzer for fiction and the National Book Award. It is about a family of tenant farmers living in the Oklahoma Dust Bowl during the Great Depression. Because of both their financial distress and the years of drought hundreds of families fled their homes to look for a future in California. 

One year after this historical novel was published a movie was made by the same name, starring Henry Fonda.

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”  John Ernst Steinbeck


It was not until I started writing this post, that I realized all these favorites are all American writers. There are others who I love to read, but they are predominately American, too. As mentioned earlier I enjoy Stephen King, but also Tony Morrison, Maya Angelo, Rebecca Wells, and poet Niki Giovanni. 

Before wrapping this post up I must add Gabriel Jose’ Garcia Marquez, a Columbian journalist who became a prolific novelist. He too has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. There is so much more I want to say about Garcia Marquez but will stop by recommending these two books, Life in the Time of Cholera and One Hundred Years of Solitude. 


 

Part 3 of 5

 

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Books 2

First Book Memory? 

What is the first book that you remember? For this exercise, the Holy Books such as the Bible or Qur’an do not count. Many children are read these sacred books at home and/or in religious classes. Such books contain many stories suitable for young children and they may actually be the first memories of a storybook. Let’s think outside that genre looking at books that are a few centuries more current.

My First Book Memory    fullsizeoutput_13f2

It was a long, long time ago when living on Crooked Creek that I remember https://crookedcreek.live/2016/08/30/first-blog-is-coming-soon/ my Mother reading a book to my older brother, Norman, and me. The book that I can see her holding had a soft cover and was very worn. It looked nothing like the copy I bought a few years ago (pictured above). I wish that as an adult I had discussed Toby Tyler with Mom or my brother, but I don’t recall that I did and it is now too late. I vaguely remembered that Toby was a little boy who ran away with the circus, but that is all that I could recall.

Buying and reading the new copy in 2003 was upsetting in so many ways. First of all, it is one of the saddest books I have read. I just cried again today re-reading it all the way through in a few hours. It seems cruel if it was intended as a children’s book, which it seems to be. Funny, though that I do not remember being traumatized hearing it read as a child. Perhaps my Mom didn’t finish it or made up happy parts to cover the cruel events in Toby’s life. Minnie was fully capable of doing that.  https://crookedcreek.live/2016/12/10/minnie-ii/  

Regardless, I have a feeling that many times memories are simply better than the event itself. Perhaps it was that time of closeness, hearing my Mother read that made it so special.  

Do You Have a Bookshelf?

Where do you keep the books you’ve read or plan to read? Do you have bookshelves and if so how do you organize them? I often see books organized by similar color, especially in magazines and home furnishing stores. It does look nice, but unless I remembered the color of a particular book, I might have trouble finding it easily. I think that arrangement is more for decor than utility. I hang my clothes in the closet by color, but my books are organized by genre, more or less. This works for me, a person often accused of being obsessively organized. 

My bookshelves (above) are very traditional but apparently there are more creative ways to store your books. By coincidence our local newspaper advertised bookshelves the day after this was written. Here are some other options.

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How do you feel about Coffee Table Books?

I have to admit that is not a question I would have thought of presenting, except that I heard someone say recently that they were not that into coffee table books. I won’t say who it was (my firstborn), but it caused me to pause. After some thought, I realized that I might love the book and appreciate its wonderful photography and still not want it to live on my coffee table for long. You? 

Confession

  1. I feel it necessary to tell you that my therapist daughter says my organizational skill is all an “illusion” but what does she know? 

Coming Up: Your Favorite Book/Author

Part 2 of 5

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Reader Feedback

After the first post on February 19, I was amazed by the immediate feedback from two book lovers! They shared many of their family memories, favorite books, and reading habits. I was especially touched by one sharing that she was reading to two separate family members when their lives came to an end.

Please read the comments of Pat and Lula in the last post. (Note: the only two at the time of this writing, certainly more may be added later.)

Books

Do You Still Read Books?

Do you have books or do you use a Kindle or other eReader? Do you read or listen to electronic books? Since all the information in the world is available on the Internet, do we even need books anymore?

 

 

If you still have real paper books where do you store them? What do you do with a book when you’ve finished reading it? Do you loan it to a friend? Do you donate it or sell it for a fraction of the price you paid for it? Or can you not part with it at all?

Exploring Books

Over the next few blog posts let’s talk about books and what they mean to us in today’s world.  Let’s discuss how and what we read and how that has changed over time. I look forward our discussion and will start out with a brief confession about my reading.

Confession  

I have always been a very slow reader. I cannot scan. I cannot rush and still comprehend written material. For some reason, I seem to mentally pronounce each little preposition and I often must go back and reread a sentence or paragraph because my mind has wandered onto some earth shattering issue or maybe my grocery list. 

Coming Up: Your First Book Memory and Your Bookshelf

Part 1 of 5

 

Medicine 2

Sexology

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It seems to me that Dr. Scholl and his writers hedge their bets in giving advice on Courtship and Matrimony. The recommendations are pretty emphatic but then a little wiggle room for the exception exists.

Those reading this post on a device smaller than a computer may not be able to read the print on the copied page above so I will paraphrase it for you. In summary:

  • Dispositions should be studied before falling in love. To do otherwise is blind folly. 
  • Run around long enough to be sure about the person you are settling on.
  • Courtship shouldn’t be rushed.
  • Long engagements are a spectacle of the couple getting on each other’s nerves.
  • Affinity (vs. aversion?) is essential.
  • Don’t marry someone dumber than you.
  • Grow up before you get married.

I am sorry to report that a page or two of Sexology seems to be missing, but have no fear there is more information to convey. I was both surprised and concerned to learn the following: 

  • Courage in a woman is illustrated by how well she cares for her children, especially when the children are ill for “weary hours, days or weeks.”
  • The mood determines whether pregnancy occurs, i.e., there will be no conception without “sexual emotion.”  
  • Life itself should be a sober hilarity” whatever that means and homes that approach sex with “holy fidelity” . . . prepare children to “dwell in heaven.”

Now that we have all that cleared up we will in the next post move on the section entitled “Can Parents Control the Sex of the Child?” Most parents of teens today would quickly answer, of course not, they will do whatever they decide regarding having sex, but on closer scrutiny, I believe that the advice refers to choosing the sex when a child is conceived.

https://crookedcreek.live/2018/01/23/medicine/

Part 2 of 4

Medicine

The Bookshelf

Bookshelves barely exist today. Those that remain often contain old books left over from a former era or perhaps ones with some sentimental memory attached. I must admit that I still like the feel of a real book and I like to highlight and make notes in margins. I can do that with my Kindle but it just does not feel the same. I will admit though that clicking on an unfamiliar word and having the definition pop up on the screen is a valuable feature of electronic readers. 

1970s Print

This framed print from my office is a drawing by Robert Conley.  Conley’s art was in tribute to nurses who cared for his terminally ill wife in the 1970s. I love it for many personal reasons, but I’m sharing it today to point out two essential medical books of that era. The Physicians’ Desk Reference (PDR) and The Merck Manual seen here were essentials in any clinical area. The PDR was published each year and contained page after page of details about each prescription drug available.  It was heavily used by doctors and nurses alike. The Merck Manual explained diagnoses and treatments. I am willing to bet that you do not recall seeing either of these in the past thirty years and younger readers will not likely remember ever seeing a doctor referencing a book of any kind. 

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The reason, of course, is that now all this information and so much more is available and up to date electronically. This easily accessible data saves time and, no doubt lives. One only needs a handheld device to answer any inquiry. 

1910 Manuscript

Recently I ran across a few pages I had photocopied from an old book at some point long ago. I have no recollection why I had them or had kept them, but I’m glad that I did. Especially since that out of all “Twenty Books” in the “One Volume” I had chosen to copy Book VIII entitled “Sexology.”

Library of Health – Complete Guide to Prevention and Cure of Disease

Edited by B. Frank School, Ph.G, M.D.

Graduate of Jefferson Medical College and Philadephia College of Pharmacy

Table of Contents:

Anatomy, Physiology and Preventive Medicine, Curative Medicine, First Aid Measures, Diagnosis, Nursing, Sexology, Simple Home Remedies, Care of the Teeth, Occupational Diseases, Garden Plant Remedies, Alcohol and Narcotics, Treatment by Fifteen Schools of Medicine, Beauty Culture, Physical Culture, the Science of Breathing and the Dictionary of Drugs. 

Historical Publishing Co.          Philadelphia, PA


In the next few posts, I will summarize some of the wisdom contained in this 108-year-old manuscript. So if you have questions about courtship, matrimony, procreation and more HANG ON! The answers are on the way. 

Part 1 of 4

 

 

Death – to Bury or Not

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To Bury, Cremate, Donate, Plant – Disposal of Human Remains

Another decision that must be made concerns disposal of bodily remains. For many years burial in a family or church cemetery was the norm, however that is changing for both environmental and economic reasons. In 2015 cremation rate in the US was 48.6% and expected to rise each year into the future. Rates vary across the country with over 60% in the West and as low as 25% in southern states.  There are other options, of course which actually increase the cost, such as cryogenics, ashes blasted into space or adding ashes to an artificial reef in an ocean. 

Cemeteries 

Interment in a cemetery has fallen into disfavor due to cost, but also because of what many see as misdirected use of land. While I personally prefer cremation and scattering of ashes (also called cremains) back into nature, I must admit that I have always found cemeteries interesting to visit. In old cemeteries I would go further and say that reading tombstones can be fascinating. I know that I am not alone, because many books have been written on the subject including:  9781586853211_p0_v1_s192x300 “Stories in Stone: A Field Guide to Cemetery Symbolism and Iconography” by Douglas Keister  and  “Gone to the Grave: Burial Customs of the Arkansas Ozarks 1850-1950” by Abby Burnett which was reviewed in The Courier Journal  in November 2015. Some of my favorite epitaphs from this book are these: “Killed by a live wire” (1905), “Revenge is my motto” (1869) and “This can’t be death. I feel too good” (1906).

 

When I was in Russia a couple of years after the fall of the Soviet Union, I toured a large old cemetery that was, according to custom there, divided into sections by profession or status. There were sections for the arts with subsections containing poets, musicians and actors. fullsizeoutput_a21.jpeg There were others for military, government officials, Communist Party members, working class (the proletariat) and even the Mafia.

 

I noticed many tombstones that bore the skull and cross bones symbol and inquired of the interpreter what that meant. Her response? “They’re dead”.     IMG_4036.JPG

The skull and cross bones, while perhaps peculiar to Russia, are part of the monument period of Terror which represented symbols of fear of the afterlife. This was followed by the Romantic fullsizeoutput_a13.jpeg and then Personalization Periods.  The Contemporary period in which we now live, leads to what are often attempts at humor. A word of warning about being too creative however, as what is funny today may be confusing or fall flat when it has become outdated. A couple of examples come to mind: A monument depicting a rotary and corded telephone simply said, “Jesus Called”. I’ve seen photos of others that show a calculator, an expired parking meter and even a brownie recipe. 

One of my favorite tombstones is from Clay County, TN which explains that the deceased was “killed by bushwhackers” in 1862 in neighboring Fentress County. Unfortunately the photos taken and provided for this post by Steve Baugh have been lost due to my error.

I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it” Mark Twain. 

 


Note 1/1/18:  Another Option for Disposal    https://crookedcreek.live/2017/11/06/infinity-suit/

To Read

He was 70 years old and had never read a book. Living with severe, classic dyslexia was a struggle which left little time or energy for unnecessary activities.  Trying to determine if a story was about God or dog should be easy enough, but just to keep it simple he mostly tried to read the Bible. That way it was pretty clear that the subject was God and he already knew the story line. He attempted to read the King James Version in spite of my suggestion that he try simpler translations. Since words were a challenge, why make it harder by reading the KJV written in formal prose centuries ago? Still, he struggled on with what was most familiar, a verse at a time, mostly relying upon the words he remembered hearing in church or Sunday School.

After retirement from thirty-four years working as a butcher for one company, he began to use a tape recorder to play cassette tapes of the Bible.  After many months, or perhaps years, he had listened to the entire New Testament in this manner at least once. Next, he decided that perhaps he could listen to other books, those that told a story that did not span the ages.  With help, he visited a secondhand book store and there discovered books on CD. Armed with a new CD Walkman, he began to listen to westerns and then books like “Tuesdays with Morrie”. He even completed a biography about the life of Abraham Lincoln.

In failing health, after his 84th birthday, he was less able to do the thing he loved most, which was growing flowers in our little courtyard. Imagine his delight when he learned to use a Kindle, which came naturally, because of his skill in using his hands and his strong sense of touch. By touching the symbols, pictures and logo windows on the screen he could make things happen magically. Books that were downloaded for him to the Kindle came alive when he plugged in the ear buds and a narrator began to read. During the last year of his life he listened to many books including “Twelve Years a Slave”, “East of Eden” and “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and enjoyed discussing such well known books with his family for the first time. He was able to understand, finally, why people spent so much time reading so many books. He was amazed when he would watch a movie that was based upon a book he had just heard on the Kindle.
On the day before his death he discussed “Unbroken” with one of his visitors who told him of the planned movie release on Christmas Day and with pride and passion in his voice, he said, “I read that book!”

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Note: Two weeks later on Christmas Day our daughters, Dianne and Allison and I went in his honor to see the movie, “Unbroken.” 

Written April 29, 2015 and Edited for the Blog 9/7/16 & 1/1/18