Wednesday, June 1, 2005

Flags, informants, and fun
Life is just one damned thing after another.  -- Elbert Hubbard 

Look well into thyself; there is a source of strength which will always spring up if thou wilt always look there.  -- Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after.  -- Anne Morrow Lindbergh, 'Gift From the Sea'

Medicre Haiku of the Week

I love to wear it
Pretty, girly, springy, bright--
It's better than black!


My perfect snack food
Cheerful, bright, sweet, portable
Let's monkey around!

Of the weekend
Just an excellent party on Saturday night for Greg's 50th birthday, our 30th anniversary, and Jayme's college graduation. I felt like all I did was haul food from one place to the other all weekend! haha! But all went well, it was great to see family and friends, and even the smart shower at 4:30 could not dampen the festivities.
A fine shopping trip on Sunday with Dad, Reeny, Jayme & little Caroline to Crocker Park in Westlake. A Trader Joe's is there! I came away with three bags of good stuff--the prices are very low. Three bottles of wine...brie...whole-wheat crackers...olive spread...wasabi mustard...cookies--just delicious  treats! Then on to Avon Commons and some bargain hunting at Marshall's.
Dinner in the evening at Dee's but not before a  tragedy. A terrible motorcycle accident just outside New London on Rt. 162. Jayme arrived before me and of course got out to help and found a horrible scene. One motorcyclist beyond help in the middle of the road and one being kept alive by CPR.Another, unhurt, sobbing because of the injuries to his riding buddy. According to the stories I've read, alcohol may have been involved. Jayme was quite shook up -- both guys had lost legs--and I don't blame her. I just saw it from a distance, and that was bad enough. She was very brave to go try to help. She is not used to working traumas--not that you would ever really get used to a scene like that.
Sunday was go-home day--Dad and I made a quick trip to Walmart. They're upgrading the Norwalk store and it's almost done--it's huge, of course. We left about 1 following an tasty lunch by Chef Mom, who generously sent some leftovers home with me, and which are in my lunch bucket today!
The weather was super in Ft. Wayne (we heard it rained in Ohio, later) and we filled the day with unpacking, laundry, various chores, dinner at Fazoli's, and just a little TV to collapse by!
Will Watergate never end?
The background music of my teenage years, capped by the resignation of Richard Nixon the summer I graduated from H.S. Now the mysterious Deep Throat surfaces--91-year-old Mark Felt, ex-FBI guy. Anticlimatic, I guess--and that anyone would criticize this gentleman (John Dean? Puh-leeze!) is beyond me.
Now here's great news:
The comet is the largest, and therefore most potentially devastating, of the 70 objects now being tracked. But while it appears to be bang on target to cross the Earth’s orbit, the timing means the chances of an actual collision are very low. Click for the full story on
Book club wraps up
Tonight is our last book club meeting for the year. It's our annual dinner planning meeting. I'm suggesting, as I said I would, all National Book Club Award winners.
Here are synposes of them:
The News from Paraguay -Lily Tuck. Beautiful Ella Lynch left her native Ireland at 10 and married a French officer at 15; by 19, she is divorced, living with a Russian count and struggling to pay her embittered maid. Thus she's in prime shape to appreciate the quick and ardent attentions of Francisco Solano Lopez, aka Franco, the future dictator of Paraguay, when he spies her on horseback in a Paris park in 1854. Rich, generous and not unhandsome, he makes an appealing lover, and soon Ella is off with him to Paraguay, which he vows to make "a country exactly like France." The story unfolds through Tuck's elegant narration (she flits from one character's point-of-view to another in short segments) and Ella's impassioned diaries. The author's research is impressive (Ella was a real 19th-century courtesan) but never overbearing as she explores the life of a spoiled kept woman in a foreign land, as well as the lives, both high and low, of those around her. Established as Franco's mistress in Asunción, Ella bears Franco many sons, while Franco succeeds his father as ruler and acquires mistress after mistress. Tuck (Siam; Limbo, and Other Places I Have Lived) weaves in the stories of Franco's fat, jealous sisters; a disgraced Philadelphia doctor; Ella's wet nurses; and a righteous U.S. minister, among many others, in a richly layered evocation of a complicated world. When Paraguay finds itself at odds with neighboring countries, the novel chronicles the various tragedies and defeats with a cool and unswerving eye. Tuck's novel may not be for the faint of heart, but it is a rich and rewarding read.

The Great Fire - Shirley Hazzard.
Despite this Australian writer's absence from the world's fiction stage--since the 1981 publication of The Transit of Venus, which earned her great acclaim, including the National Book Critics' Circle Award--her readers have continued to hold hands in devotion and anticipation. Their thrill over her new novel will be completed; the long days and nights of waiting will be forgotten. Time and place have always been exactly evoked in Hazzard's fiction, and such is the case here. The time is 1947-48, and the place is, primarily, East Asia. Obviously, then, this is a locale much altered--by the events of World War II, of course, and, as we see, physical destruction and psychological wariness and weariness lay over the land. Our hero, and indeed he fills the requirements to be called one, is Aldred Leith, who is English and part of the occupation forces in Japan; his particular military task is damage survey. He has an interesting past, including, most recently, a two-year walk across civil-war-torn China to write a book. In the present, which readers will feel they inhabit right along with Leith, by way of Hazzard's beautifully atmospheric prose, he meets the teenage daughter and younger son of a local Australian commander. And, as Helen is growing headlong into womanhood, this novel of war's aftermath becomes a story of love--or more to the point, of the restoration of the capacity for love once global and personal trauma have been shed.

In America - Susan Sontag.
And In America, which chronicles the travails of a late-19th-century actress, shows Sontag in top time-traveling form. What's more, it illuminates her motives for glancing so persistently backward. "Almost everything good seems located in the past," she notes in a first-person prologue, "perhaps that's an illusion, but I feel nostalgic for every era before I was born; and one is freer of modern inhibitions, perhaps because one bears no responsibility for the past." There's nothing, it seems, like the age of innocence--a golden moment before we moderns had the curse of self-consciousness brought down on our heads.

Waiting - Ha Jin. Every summer Lin Kong returned to Goose Village to divorce his wife, Shuyu." Like a fairy tale, Ha Jin's masterful novel of love and politics begins with a formula--and like a fairy tale, Waiting uses its slight, deceptively simple framework to encompass a wide range of truths about the human heart. Lin Kong is a Chinese army doctor trapped in an arranged marriage that embarrasses and repels him. (Shuyu has country ways, a withered face, and most humiliating of all, bound feet.) Nevertheless, he's content with his tidy military life, at least until he falls in love with Manna, a nurse at his hospital. Regulations forbid an army officer to divorce without his wife's consent--until 18 years have passed, that is, after which he is free to marry again. So, year after year Lin asks his wife for his freedom, and year after year he returns from the provincial courthouse: still married, still unable to consummate his relationship with Manna. Nothing feeds love like obstacles placed in its way--right? But Jin's novel answers the question of what might have happened to Romeo and Juliet had their romance been stretched out for several decades. In the initial confusion of his chaste love affair, Lin longs for the peace and quiet of his "old rut." Then killing time becomes its own kind of rut, and in the end, he is forced to conclude that he "waited eighteen years just for the sake of waiting."

Charming Billy - Alice McDermott. Charming Billy is a devastating account of the power of longing and lies, love's tenacity, and resignation's hold. Even at his funeral party, Billy Lynch's life remains up for debate. This soft-spoken, poetry lover's drinking was as legendary among his Queens, New York, family and friends as was his disappointment in love. But the latter, as his cousin Dennis knows, "was, after all, yet another sweet romance to preserve." After World War II, both young men had spent one sun-swept week on Long Island, renovating a house and falling in with two Irish sisters--nannies to a wealthy family--"marveling, marveling still, that this Eden was here, at the other end of the same island on which they had spent their lives."

Sabbath's Theater - Philip Roth. Mickey Sabbath, the hero in Sabbath's Theater, the winner of the 1995 National Book Award, makes a concerted effort to be bad. Like Alexander Portnoy, the famously self-abusing character in Roth's 1969 novel Portnoy's Complaint, Sabbath has an appetite for "acts of exhibitionism, voyeurism, fetishism, auto-eroticism and oral coitus." But while Portnoy's antics were usually comical and liberating, Sabbath often feels imprisoned by his own acts of self-indulgence. Though his frantic pursuit of sex is a desperate attempt to abate his anxieties about death, it only serves to obliterate any semblance of real life he could have had.
These reviews were taken from

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