In September I had the privilege of visiting Imagine Art in Austin two times. Once when they shared table space and wi-fi so I could work on an article and once for the opening of their exhibit This Ability. There is good work happening here!
My friend Laurel commented her current reading list on the July edition of this blog post. Laurel's the kind of reader I want to be more like so I pretty much copy and pasted her book list into the online library catalog search bar.
This was my favorite recommendation of them all. I've never read Bradbury (for shame) and it's been way too long since I've read a compilation of short stories. This was the perfect way to get back into both.
My favorites short stories from this title: "The Golden Apples of the Sun", "The Golden Kite, the Silver Wind", "The Garbage Collector", "The Big Black and White Game"
Excerpt from "The Big Black and White Game" to demonstrate Bradbury's pithy and marvelous way of description:
"The people filled the stands behind the wire screen, waiting. Us kids, dripping from the lake, ran between the white cottages, past the resort hotel, screaming, and sat on the bleachers making wet bottom marks. The hot sun beat down through the tall oak trees around the baseball diamond. Our fathers and mothers, in golf pants and light summer dresses, scolded us and made us sit still."
30The War of the Worlds, by H. G. Wells, illustrated by Edward Gorey (New York Review of Books, 1960. 251 pages)
Another recommendation from my friend Laurel. Not that I'd never heard of this book before, just never considered reading it. Even though the plot is intriguing, my favorite part of this book is the illustrations by Edward Gorey. The cover on my library copy is so, so fun.
Also, anyone out there confuse H. G. Wells, Orson Welles and George Orwell?
I'm not sure anything by the former US poet laureate will match the first crush I had on his work in Sailing Alone Around the Room. At the same time I know I'll never get tired of this man's voice. He manages to combine a wit -- both friendly and dry -- with splashes of boyish imagination that allows the reader to feel like they're getting in on his joke. He's a friendly poet -- not one to leave his reader feeling dull and out of the loop.
I like his words, but every once in a while I wish he'd reach a little bit higher -- deeper? -- for the transcendence washing over all of us.
One of my favorites from this collection: "Cemetery Ride"
My new copper-colored bicycle
is looking pretty fine under a blues ky
as I pedal along one of the sandy paths
in the Palm Cemetery here in Florida
wheeling past the headstones of the Lyons,
the Campbells, the Dunlaps, and the Davenports,
Arthur and Ethel who outlived him by 11 years
I slow down even more to notice,
but not so much as to fall sideways on the ground.
And here's a guy named Happy Grant
next to his wife Jean in their endless bed.
Annie Sue Simms is right there and sounds
a lot more fun than Theodosia S. Hawley.
And good afternoon, Emily Polasek
and to you too, George and Jane Cooper,
facing each other in profile, two sides of a coin.
I wish I could take you all for a ride
in my wire basket on this glorious April day,
not a thing as simple as your name, Bill Smith,
even trickier than Clarence Augustus Coddington.
Then how about just you, Enid Parker?
Would you like to gather up your voluminous skirts
and ride sidesaddle on the crossbar
and tell me what happened between 1863 and 1931?
I'll even let you ring the silver bell.
But if you're not ready, I can always ask
Mary Brennan to rise form her long sleep
beneath the swaying gray beards of Spanish moss
and ride with me along these halls of the dead
so I can listen to her strange laughter
as some crows flap in the blue overhead
and the spokes of my wheels catch the dazzling sun.
A few Sunday evenings ago, our friends Jodi and Bernie came for dinner. I asked Jodi how she'd spent her weekend. She told me she got her pre-ordered copy of Grammy award-winning singer/songwriter Ashley Cleveland's memoir and couldn't put it down. I said "Oh, I'd love to borrow it". A few days later Jodi texted me, "What's your address? I'm ordering you your own copy of the book. Can't wait to talk with you about it!" The day I picked it up, I read it start to finish in one Saturday morning, texting Jodi intermittently through the entire thing.
So, I've read lots of memoirs. I've read some that I enjoyed and some that frustrated me. I'm sure part of the reason I was drawn into Little Black Sheep is that -- essentially -- I was reading the story in community with Jodi. (also, here sister Laurel plays a special role in Ashley Cleveland's life and I loved hearing that part of the story). At the same time, this memoir hits some important marks on my list of criteria for a good memoir: transparent without self-indulgent translucency by the author, a framework that keeps the reader clear about times, dates and places (in this case Ms. Cleveland takes the story back and forth -- like her own life -- from East to West Coast), enough clarity about the realities of both suffering and joy, and special attention to the number of words the reader can absorb about this particular life. (for example, some life stories absorb beautifully 900 pages, some should probably stick to 150).
I recommend the book heartily, and am so grateful for the redemptive work of Christ. Thank you, Jodi!
In September I enjoyed browsing through the following books:
The only thing better than discovering a film that moves you is to have a friend welcome you to enjoy a film that they love. The last weekend in September we spent an evening with friends, watching a film they love. Our hostess explained that the story of six-year-old Hushpuppy fighting to survive not only Hurricane Katrina, but also poverty, neglect, and hunger helped her articulate some of her own painful growing-up experience. Of course, the aurochs are magical realism, symbolizing any number of predators a child fears. My favorite moment in the film, Hushpuppy stares the beast down, looks him in the eye and whispers: "You're my friend, kind of." Something about that I know to be true.
On TV (via Amazon.com or Netflix): The Newsroom The War (started this seven-part series while I was sick in bed for the week. I'm so glad I watched it. I'd never really understood World War II chronologically before. Also, when is someone going to cinematically tell the story of the Japanese Americans we threw into interment camps for years?)
In my ears
Falling in love with the release of Jason Harrod's newest album Highliner. Buy your copy of the album here.
NEW BEGINNINGS New York City Ballet presents NEW BEGINNINGS on September 12, 2013. Filmed at sunrise on the 57th floor of 4WTC in lower Manhattan, this short film captures an extraordinary and moving performance of Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain. It is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit, and a tribute to the future of the city that New York City Ballet calls home.
In the kitchen
I made this cake for the wedding reception of two lovely people. And, really, what a great idea, right? Friends donated their favorite cakes for a buffet of goodness at the reception. Oh, my, this was yummy....
..... Random thing making me happy
Some kind and generous friends gave Brian and me a little getaway to Horseshoe Bay, TX. I spent one entire afternoon doing this. Ahhhh.....