Is It Thanksgiving?

I need a little inspiration this year; how about you?

Emily Dickinson lived most of her life in isolation, and she rarely left her home in Amherst. Lately, I’ve been slowly rereading Martha Ackman’s biography of Emily Dickinson in bits and pieces.  These Fevered Days includes excerpts from Dickinson’s poems, so I looked for her thoughts on Thanksgiving.

 This poem about Thanksgiving suggests this holiday is as much about past memories of the day as about the day at hand – a comfort for this Thanksgiving, as most of us are celebrating in isolation, remembering past get-togethers and hopeful for the future.

One day is there of the series
Termed “Thanksgiving Day”
Celebrated part at table
Part in memory—

And one of Dickinson’s more familiar poems:

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.
Happy Thanksgiving!  Remember the good times and hope for the future.

 

Reading My Way Through Fantasy Land

Although it may seem these days as though we are living in a strange world, with the virus continuing to spread its tentacles, the government in limbo, and hurricanes blowing furiously, advertisers continue to try to lure shoppers into the fantasy land of everything being fine as long as the latest toys, electronics, and clothing can be acquired for gifts, either to self or others.  After all, don’t we deserve a little comfort?  I’ve been telling myself that for weeks as I munch on cookies and chocolate.

A safer and less caloric path to escape is, of course, reading books.  These days I am indulging in two at once, alternately giving my attention to other worlds in The House in the Cerulean Sea on my Libby Library ebook account, and Alix Harrow’s new The Once and Future Witches, a hardback I can hold in my hands and throw at the television when the news gets too frustrating. I do conveniently miss; I wouldn’t want to destroy my source of old movies and fictional drama.

A friendly librarian recommended The House in the Cerulean Sea a while ago, and I was happy to see it appear on my phone with a Libby notification.  Linus is an uptight and meticulous auditor sent to review and write a report on an orphanage for magical children, located on the bluest sea imaginable.  Only six orphans are under the care of Arthur  and each has a specialized talent, both scary and humorous – one is a blob, something I can relate to feeling like lately.  As Linus is getting to know each of the children, his initial fears dissipate and he becomes their protector.

In her review, Colleen Mondor notes: “it is about the false promise of blind faith in authority and the courage it takes to challenge that promise. But mostly, it is proof that such precious books as this can still exist and still succeed and are still, very much, needed. Do not discount what TJ Klune has done with this novel, and do not ignore importance of this marvelous treasure he has unearthed for us all..

I am still reading and enjoying this wonderful distraction from the real world, and today, Friday the thirteenth, seems an appropriate day to finish it.

In her second book, The Once and Future Witches, Harrow explores American history and it is just as entertaining as her first book, The Thousand Doors of January.  The witches are three sisters, reunited after years apart, just as the women’s suffrage movement is becoming a force in America in the nineteenth century.  Klune’s book has priority for me right now, so I am including Jessica Wick’s marvelous review for NPR, to tease you into reading.  If you are a fan of Alice Hoffman, you may want to start with this one: “Once Upon a time there were three witches.”

Review of The Once and Future Witches

My Review of The Thousand Doors of January

 

Comparing The Undoing and You Should Have Known

Caught up in the new HBO series The Undoing with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Grant, I could not remember much about it, despite  having read the book it was based on, You Should Have Known by Jean Hanff Korelitz when it was first published.   Remembering the plot of a book I’d read five years ago was improbable for me;  I had the haunting feeling the young son had done it, but that could have been the plot of a number of books I’ve read since then.

Then I saw an interview with one of the lead actors on the Stephen Colbert Late Show. An older Hugh Grant was still handsome with the well modulated voice of British wealth and privilege; I knew him from romantic leads like Notting Hill but I also remembered his villainous role in Paddington 2. When Grant spoke of what Colbert referred to uncomfortably as “Barbie porn,” Hugh Grant’s suave demeanor suddenly morphed into a smarmy character. He was good at pretending; maybe he was the killer.

Since I couldn’t wait for the episodes teasing me each week with cliff-hangers, I decided to buy the ebook (now only $7.99) and find out for myself.  As is usually the case, the book was so much better.  I recognized the major constructs in the film, finding many conveniently changed, but curiously, Nicole Kidman’s character, Grace, the psychotherapist, was the focus.  Her husband, played by Hugh Grant, was never on stage.  The reader discovers him through Grace, through his fellow doctors, and by innuendo.

In the HBO series, the plot becomes a mystery thriller, chasing down red herrings, looking for the killer.  Most of the books’s tension is changed from introspection, betrayal, and self discovery to the thrill of discovering whodunit.

I won’t spoil the ending of the book for you, but if you are not an HBO fan or have not begun to watch the series, renamed The Undoing, do yourself a favor and read the book first.

I’ll keep watching The Undoing; it has the same delicious thrill as Big Little Lies with the same writer, David E. Kelley, adapting the book for the screen.  Maybe he changed the ending.

A Short but Important Pile of Books

Today I heard the beloved Alex Trebeck died, and his biography is in a small pile of books accumulating by my television – all nonfiction. The white book on the bottom is the reverse cover of Woodward’s “Rage.” I am done being angry but don’t want to forget how easy it would be to slide back into that emotion.

Although this is only a sampling of books on my shelves, they are front and center when I watch the news.

  • David Attenborough’s “ A Life on Our Planet”
  • Alex Trebeck’s “The Answer Is…”
  • Maxwell King’s “The Good Neighbor”
  • Bob Woodward’s “Rage”
  • Ina Garten’s “Comfort Food”
  • Pete Souza’s “Shade”
  • Bryant Johnson’s “The RBG Workout”

Breathing Through History

With fireworks in London, bells ringing in Paris, and Americans dancing in the streets of Philadelphia, Chicago, and  Los Angeles, many are breathing a sigh of relief – the election for the American President is over. The celebrations are momentous but momentary as the pandemic still roars through the world.  But, for now, many of us can stop holding our breath.

As I talked to like-minded friends this morning, two political  books came out of the conversations – books I would not have thought to read, but now am interested:

The Luckiest Man by Mark Salter and The Red and the Blue by Steve Kornacki

And with Kamala Harris now the first woman in the White House, artist Kara Walker came to attention with her silhouette of the first Black and Indian Vice President elect.