Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A little leap day treat

This one won an academy award.  Life should be so magical!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Encyclopedia of an Ordinary Life

I have not survived against all odds.
I have not lived to tell.
I have not witnessed the extraordinary.
This is my story.

I found a pristine copy of this book at a used book fair about a year or two ago and eyed it on the pile for a long time.  Amy Krouse Rosenthal had an interesting idea:  write about your life as a series of entries in an encyclopedia, alphabetically.

I approached it warily, thinking it would be annoying and uninteresting, but I found quite the opposite.  Ms Rosenthal is funny and observant and has a unique sense style.  Parts made me laugh out loud; other parts were thoughtful and bittersweet.  An ordinary life can be interesting and even at times profound.

Also,  she poses some interesting interactions between writer and author via the website she sets up.  She simply asks you write her and let her know you read the book and she will thank you.  Since the book was published in 2005, she is not as fast about responding--not even sure she will respond.  I was hoping I would hear from her before I wrote this, but at press time, e-mail silence.

Still it is a nice idea, thanking your readers.

I found a lot of the entries would prompt my own writing.  What entries would I choose for my list of an ordinary life?  Would you?

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Self Righteous Man

Readers know I love a good social experiment:  a year without this, a year doing only that, living elsewhere, behaving differently.  I am always curious as to how those experiences play out within the confines of the modern world.  I spotted The Moneyless Man by Mark Boyle on a library thing list of recommendations for me and requested it from my library.

While it was an interesting story and informed me greatly of how one might live with no money, I found the author and self described Moneyless Man to be self righteous and annoying.  His basic premise--the goal to live in a Moneyless Society is unsustainable in about every way.  Easy for him to throw great parties and live off the land and use grocery store refuse to feed himself--but it is not a sustainable practice.

Yes, I would agree that our current laws that push stores and wholesalers to throw away perfectly good food are an anathema to people that try to put food in everyone's mouth, and we do live in a wasteful society that is quickly giving up every resource on our pretty (and only) planet.

But one man's social experiment in moneyless living is not the pathway to Utopia and answers to all the planet's ills. Rather it is one man's social experiment in how to be better than the rest of us.  I think people who advocate this lifestyle and this kind of thinking are forgetting that in a free society we all have different needs, wants and priorities.  I thought it was especially insulting that he had a side bar addressing  how I should manage my periods using no resources.  (PS at least have a female friend write it for you.)

I hope Mark can put his energy and ideas to coming up with some more practical ways of living sustainably than teaching us how to forage for wild mushrooms and dumpster dive.  Computers, heat, electricity and warm water are not bad things.  We need to learn how to manage them responsibly.  Please get off your high horse.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

We the Animals by Justin Torres

This lovely book--novella really--made a lot of must read lists for 2011.  I heard the author interviewed on NPR last fall and have been trying to get to it for awhile.

Three boys come of age in an abusive, slightly crazy household.  The boys have an unquestionable love and regard for each other even as they fight and endure abuse and begin to ask the questions all boys ask.

You should read this book because it is simply very very fine writing.  It is, in a nutshell, why we read: to discover lyrical passages, profound insights, concise metaphors, and description that can take your breath away.

You can read We the Animals in one sitting.  You may want to re-read it just to experience the imagery and story again. The second to the last story/chapter is guaranteed to make you want to pick up a pen and tell your own true story.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mud Pies and Other Recipes

As a child this was my favorite book to check out of the library.  It is a collection of doll recipes made from ingredients found outside: dirt, mud, leaves, dandelion fluff.  I loved it and I always remember the pages were stained with others' attempts at doll cookery.

I had forgotten all about it until recently when sitting down to play in the dirt with my daughter.  I did not bother to see if the local library still carried this, I simply went straight to Amazon.  The receipts and pictures are all still there, just as Marjorie Winslow created it.

I can't wait until Tessa is old enough to read and make these timeless recipes on her own.  I hope this copy gets very dirty.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The stack next to the bed

I cleaned my room today and made two large stacks of books that had been collecting under the bed. They are from a few years of books fairs, borrowings, and shopping sprees--when Borders went out of business.  I am humbled by all the reading I have to do: great stories, poetry, memoirs, how-to books, diaries, cookbooks, and curiosities.

I loved stacking these up and picking out which to read first.  I sorted them by genre:  took the writing books to my desk, the kids books to their rooms, and everything else placed on shelves in my bedroom and study.  I left a small stack of 5 books for my current reading.

I found a lot of treasures under the bed, things I had forgotten about.  It sparked some imagination and intrigue.  Its a rainy day and it felt good to visit old friends.