Monday, April 28, 2008

and, oh yeah by the way, we're moving, too...

You'd think I'd be too busy to be doing frivolous things like reading books and watching movies and listening to music. You'd think, but you'd be wrong. Maybe it's procrastination. Maybe it's just plain old laziness. I don't know. Either way I thought I'd write a couple quick notes on this stuff so I can throw them into a box and add it to the pile in my empty dining room.

from the book pile:
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott
This is the fourth book I've read by this author and it is her most recent title.
She is a liberal.

And a feminist.

And a Christian.

And, an excellent writer.

Having said that, this is not my favorite of her works. It felt a little bit contrived, possibly formulaic. Like she took the template of what has worked so well for her in her previous essay writings on faith (Traveling Mercies; Plan B) and laid it over new stories. Don't get me wrong...she is an excellent story teller. By no means boring. But it felt like all of her punchlines were predictable. This just seems like the antithesis of Ms. Lamott.

Ironically enough the major thread woven through her stories in this book was the transforming power of grace. That it shows up in ways unexpected and, often, without announcement.

"That's me, trying to make any progress at all with family, in work, relationships, self-image: scootch, scootch, stall; scootch, stall, catastrophic reversal; bog, bog, scootch. I wish grace and healing were more abracadabra kinds of things," she writes in one of her essays, "that delicate silver bells would ring to announce grace's arrival. But no, it's clog and slog and scootch, on the floor, in silence, in the dark." (these are three of my favorite, favorite sentences she's ever written!)

And Ms. Lamott tells a variety of tales to underscore this truth -- from trying to get some money back from an unscrupulous carpet salesman to searching for her lost dog in the California foothills to her attempts at mothering her seemingly apathetic teenage son.

It's honest sentences like this that keeps me in the Lamott fan club:"It made me laugh about my bad dieting days, like say, my thirties....During the worst of it, if I discovered that I had gone from 140 to 139.6, I felt triumphant; if the opposite happened, panic rose in my throat, and I had to stuff it back down with food."

and, "God was most show-offy when things did not go according to my plans, which was approximately ninety percent of the time."

also beautiful ones like this:" The air smelled grassy and warm and clean, like oats that had just come out of the dryer. There was a mild breeze that did not have an objective, the way the biting winds of winter do. It was breathing the cool air, too, draping you lightly in itself."

So, while I was somewhat disappointed with this book, it's kind of like saying I'm a little bit disappointed with the newest episodes of Lost. I'm still recording it every single week. And I will continue to read Ms. Lamott's works. I think I'll just dive back into her fiction for awhile.

Care of the Soul: A Guide For Cultivating Depth and Sacredness In Everyday Life
by Thomas Moore
I read somewhere a comment from this famous librarian a rule that freed me to enjoy reading even more (hard to believe, I know!). She says that no one should feel responsible to finish reading a book they are not enjoying. She suggests a reader subtract their current age from 100 and read that many pages in a book before deciding to commit to it or not. For me that would be 63 pages.

When I was reading this book, I found myself wishing I was 87 years old.

I felt a little bit like a failure. I mean my author-hero, Brennan Manning, is the one I got this title from. I figured if I loved Manning's work; I'd love his reading list. I guess not.

If you are interested in reading the behind-the-science stories of psychotherapy you might love this book. I did enjoy the way the author wove in Greek myth -- the Odyssey, Narcissus, and the divine mother - daughter relationship of Demeter and Persephone. (and that's all within the first 63 pages!).

Life is short and my reading wish list is long. Thank you, Thomas Moore for your intelligent and imaginative writing. May you continue to add many intelligent and imaginative readers to your fan club. And, thank you, Nancy Pearl, for your wonderful reading rules. I am moving on....

By the way, I found a wonderful new site, Swaptree, that provides a simple, fast and fun way to trade in books, music, video and games for different titles for only the cost of shipping! I'll be swapping in the last two titles and will keep you posted.

from the Netflix queue:
Lars and the Real Girl starring Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider.

I can try to explain it, but really you should just Netflix it.

Yep, right now.

Go ahead. I'll wait for you.


OK. Here's what I think.

It's brilliant. It's original.

And, it got sadly overlooked for Screenplay and Best Actor at the Academy Awards.

Ryan Gosling is amazing. My ameteur test for amazing acting is if I can forget who the actor is because I get so caught up in the story. Gosling passed the test.

My whole family watched -- including Brian. I watched twice. It's that good.

We'll be passing it along to our colleagues in this work and life that is the Church. Wrapped tenderly and subtley in the story of a delusional young man and his concerned family is one of the best pictures of true community I've ever seen.

And since you're going to be watching the movie soon yourself, I won't say anymore. I'll just leave you with one of my favorite pieces of dialogue from the film:

Sewing Circle Lady 3 : Well that's how life is, Lars.
Mrs. Gruner: Everything at once.
Sewing Circle Lady 2 : We brought casseroles.
Lars Lindstrom: Thank you.
Lars Lindstrom: [Lars looks around the sewing circle. The three ladies are knitting and doing needlepoint] Um, is there something I should be doing right now?
Mrs. Gruner: No, dear. You eat.
Sewing Circle Lady 2 : We came over to sit.
Sewing Circle Lady 3 : That's what people do when tragedy strikes.
Sewing Circle Lady 2 : They come over, and sit.

Since I mostly catch up with films once they hit DVD I have to pick my "big money" films carefully (meaning the big money I'd be spending for tickets and popcorn!). I probably won't catch Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed for awhile, but my friend Earl posted an interesting and thought provoking review at his site. Check it out and let me know what you think.

my latest download...
Ampersand - EP, Derek Webb & Sandra McCracken
Twenty-two minutes of imaginative songwriting by husband and wife musicians who had never recorded together before this EP.
I've only been able to listen through twice and was busy packing both times so I haven't been able to give it a great listen yet.
So far I know I love the sound and can't believe that I have never heard McCracken before. I will be checking out her solo recordings also.
Anyone out there listening to this? Thoughts?

What about books, music or movies you've spent time with lately? Anything interesting, beautiful, excellent, horrible? We'd love to hear all about it....

(top pic - our current home at 19 Camilla Street;
bottom pic - our home as of Monday, 106 Jefferson Ave)
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