Monday, June 22, 2020

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Mark Twain
Published 1884/85
American novel

I finally remembered that I needed to write a post about Huckleberry Finn, which I read with my kids earlier this school year. I chose it for Back to the Classics Challenge: Name in the Title. This was my second time reading this story.

Mark Twain, Utica Park
Due to the ongoing 'Rona' scamdemic and America's typical pre-presidential election-year riots, the last thing on my mind has been to write about this little American novel by a dead white guy. Makes me wonder if he would have his monuments or statues violently removed, too, given that young Americans do not know him, have not heard of him, certainly have not read him, or do not care.
I will try to do my best to share another review, but if you really want to know what I thought of my first read of Huck Finn, I suggest you check out my three short wrap up posts from 2013. I still believe in them, and they represent my sentiments even today.




But in a nutshell, even though Twain warned us not to determine what his moral was, he had a lot to say throughout the story.

For example, civilized civilization was not very civilized. Also education was not a guarantee that people had sense. Huckleberry Finn was a poor, uneducated orphan, who proved to be more sensible and sensitive than anyone who called himself moral or educated or civilized throughout the entire story.

Huck used moral judgment and resolution when determining what was right or wrong, even if society had already decided what was right or wrong. If it meant he had to oppose humanity, the law, or even a religious law that condemned him to hell, he was intent on doing what contentiously he knew was right.

Mark Twain, Monrovia Public Library
Huck's main dilemma was to either return or free Jim, a slave belonging to Miss Watson. According to law, Jim was property, and Huck was obligated under civilized society to return Jim to her; but the more time he spent in society, the more he saw how backwards everyone behaved, and how wrong they were about Jim.

Jim was an uneducated black man, but, as Huck learned during the time he spent with him, he found Jim to be kind, loyal, good, respectable, honorable, and loving. He was a man who had vulnerabilities, and he had a family that he loved and wanted to be with. As Huck witnessed the contradictions of those who determined the value or worth of black slaves and how free society treated each other, he came to understand that society was actually uncivilized, ignorant, and wrong. Huck had to use his own best judgment, even if he stood alone or became an outlaw.

Huckleberry Finn is a great American novel, written by a quintessential American author, Mark Twain. Twain was a bit arrogant and sarcastic and rather egotistical. But he pointed out hard truths, and that's why we love him.

Mark Twain, Hartford Public Library
I wish our young Americans today who are currently challenging law and order, destroying property, and taking down monuments and statues (for what they know not why), would redirect their energy and time to reading great literature and learning from authors who wielded their pen to express arguments, discuss ideas, and influence society -- because as far as I can see, we have not improved from the uncivilized society that Twain highlighted in the great American novel Huckleberry Finn.

Wednesday, June 17, 2020

A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

A Farewell to Arms
Ernest Hemingway
Published 1929
American Novel
The Unread Shelf (Forgotten)

A Farewell to Arms has been on my shelf for so long, and I no longer remember where or when I acquired it. It's an old copy, too.

Understandably, some readers cast Hemingway off as difficult to appreciate. His writing style is unusual and his plots seem too elementary and pointless; but I know there is more to it than appears. Furthermore, his stories, which are told through his flawed and troubled characters, are quite effective (for a reader like me). My preference is to make relational connections with characters and undergo something emotional through their story; hence, I find that this has been my experience, thus far, with Hemingway.

Begin spoilers:

The plot is quite plain: the main character, Frederic Henry, is an American ambulance driver, in Italy, during World War I. He is interested in a beautiful nurse named Catherine. When he is severely injured, he is sent to a brand new hospital, in Milan. Catherine follows him there, where he spends several months in recovery, and cares for him. It is then that their relationship becomes serious and sexual.

Near the end of Frederic's recovery, Catherine tells him she is pregnant, and they plan to spend time off together. Unfortunately, as is typical with Hemingway's characters, Frederic is caught drinking a lot and abusing drugs, and he is sent back to work, away from Catherine.

In one event, Frederic and the Americans are helping the Italians retreat, but the vehicles in the convoy become stuck. Two soldiers won't obey Frederic's orders to help push the vehicles, and one attempts to flee; Frederic makes the terrible decision to fire on the soldier, killing him.

Now Frederic must either run or face the consequences; he decides to abandon the army. He sets out in a disguise to find his pregnant girlfriend, Catherine, which he does. Shortly after, they learn that he is to be arrested; therefore, he and Catherine make a wild plan to escape to Switzerland, by rowboat.

All seems like it is going well since they are permitted to stay in Switzerland, but when the time comes for Catherine to give birth, life takes a turn for the worst. You can only imagine. And that is sadly how the story ends.

End spoilers.

Again, I understand why this story would anger readers and cause them to write off Hemingway. I won't even argue the point. But it was disquieting enough to leave a deep impression.

So, what is the point? 

A Farewell to Arms is partially autobiographical because Hemingway was an ambulance driver, in Italy, during World War I, and was injured, just as Frederic his main character was injured. I think he wrote this book specifically for his generation. The message was clear: war is ugly and corners people into uncompromising situations. War is disturbing and it messes people up. Even romantic relationships are complicated and tricky, especially during war, and it hurts just the same. Neither is there a guarantee that anything will turn out right or good. His point may have been that this is why [his generation] was considered to be so confused and lost.




Hemingway was correct: war is miserable, and relationships are complicated. But Hemingway was an atheist and disliked "religion" because he believed it limited man's personal happiness. He probably only saw religion as a set of rules and restrictions, but faith may have given him different eyes to see life's difficulties, like war, pain, and loss.

Hemingway never found a way to cope, and he committed suicide in 1961.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

Thomas Hardy by Claire Tomalin

Thomas Hardy
Claire Tomalin
Published 2006
English Biography

It was amazing that I found this biography at a used bookstore because Hardy is one of my favorite writers.

Claire Tomalin's undertaking of this biography is well written and meticulously researched, captivating from cover to cover. In addition, I believe she was fair in her narrative of the author. I mean, I believe she was; then again, this is the only Hardy biography I have read.

The book is sectioned into chronologically ordered periods of Hardy's life, beginning with his mother. She was a "modern woman" with personal aspirations until she became pregnant with Hardy -- and out of wedlock, no less. He possibly made her unhappiness his lifetime burden, which may have contributed to his "moods of black depression."

But his mother also enlightened him on the plight of women and mothers and could be the reason he portrayed a feminist sympathy in his writing.

The young man, Thomas Hardy

Some other tidbits about my favorite writer:

Hardy's Young Life

Hardy appreciated music, loved poetry and words, and was 'a born bookworm.'
He did not want to grow up, and had a boyish crush on his teacher.
He was exposed to humanism and lost his faith in Christianity.
He was full of contradictions, especially about religion.
He wanted to be a poet, but needed to write novels to make an income.
He did want to become a serious novelist, and his best novels are great works of imagination, each with its own seam of poetry sewn into the narrative. Even his minor novels are wonderful oddities, amusing, disquieting, distinctive. 
Hardy as a Novelist

His first novel was rejected numerous times, but he sought to learn from that rejection.
When he began to have a successful writing career, his works were imaginative and paid detailed attention to natural history.
Hardy's imagination may have gone too far as he began to explore dark ideas.
Again, the contradictions: Tomalin points out that Hardy experienced a long, happy, well-rewarded life; and yet, he never expressed why he had a "black view of life." But it could have been the company he kept with those who had bleak worldviews.
Tomlin pointed out that Hardy was not always correct about life. She described reading Jude "like being hit in the face over and over again." (Pretty good description.)
And she quoted Hardy's friend, who asked:
What has Providence done to Mr. Hardy that he should rise up in the arable land of Wessex and shake his fist at his Creator?
His novels were "his own summary of his experience of life" (though I would say it stemmed more from a blind ungratefulness of blessings right before his eyes).

Hardy and Women

He married his long time romantic interest, Emma, a free spirited woman.
Emma's parents and Hardy's parents did not approve of the marriage.
Emma and Hardy were never able to have children, and it may have contributed to the rift in their relationship, among other things.
Emma and Hardy were a contradiction as a couple. Eventually, they drifted apart.

Emma

Hardy fell in love with younger women. (I told you: he never wanted to grow up.)
He definitely developed an emotional affair with a much younger woman, Florence.
He hated to be alone...even if he had to be in the house with Emma.
Emma died, and Hardy grieved; he wrote poems about her, which annoyed Florence. Ugh.
He still hid his relationship with Florence, but eventually secretly married her.
And then there was another much younger woman that he obsessed after. By now he was bordering on "dirty old man." Poor Florence.

Florence & Hardy

Hardy as a Poet

After several successful novels, which brought him financial liberty, he focused entirely on his poetry, which added to his fame and success.

Hardy's Idolatry

Tomalin discussed Hardy's idolatry: It was Tess! No kidding! Like a god, he created Tess, his idol.
Marcel Proust echoed Hardy's view of love, who believed: "the lover creates an image of the beloved in his mind that may bear little resemblance to the read person." And furthermore:
Few people understand the subjective nature of love and the way it creates another being, different from the actual person bearing the same name, and endowed with characteristics for the most part imaged by the lover...Desire arises, satisfies itself and disappears - that's all there is to it. So the young woman you marry is not the person you fell in love with.
A Disappointing End

On his deathbed, he asked Florence to read the Gospel account of Christ's birth, and when she finished reading, he remarked that there was not a gain of evidence that the Gospel was true.
I thought there would be a chance he return to the faith of his youth, but alas...



I never let a day go without using a pen. Just holding it sets me off; in fact, I can't think without it.  ~ Thomas Hardy 
Nonetheless, this biography was quite engaging and fulfilling. Also, it was such a pleasure to read Claire Tomalin's work that I will look for other biographies written by her in the future.

Thursday, June 11, 2020

On Reading Well by Karen Swallow Prior

On Reading Well:
Finding the Good Life Through Great Books
Karen Swallow Prior
Published 2018

This book I read for pleasure but thought I would share it with others who may have seen it or heard about it and were curious. It is the kind of book that a reader who reads with intent would be interested. It is the kind of book that investment readers would write about, as Karen did. She took her own personal experiences and illuminated the moral lessons, or virtues, extracted from the books she read. 

I struggled with how to review this book without going too long; instead I will expound upon the Foreward by Leland Ryken. 

This book makes the argument that: 
  • literature makes moral statements;
  • these statements strengthen the moral life of the reader;
  • and literary criticism should explore the moral dimension of literary texts.
This was commonplace in the classical Christian tradition until the Enlightenment made us more enlightened. Moral standards? What are those? 

Ryken notes Hemingway who suggested that "what is moral is what you feel good after, and what is immoral is what you feel bad after." Look where that has gotten us.

Prior takes us back to the Great Tradition, where great literature portrays the moral life, and we, as essential readers, have a responsibility to explore those ideas. The author extracts from literature examples of virtue and vice to examine deeper with a moral magnifying glass. The purpose is that 
our understanding of virtue is increased and our desire to practice it enhanced.

According to Ryken (and obviously anyone paying attention), the modern secular lit guild is continuously rejecting Christian morality. Prior just takes us back to the original great traditions of literary analysis. 

Every chapter, which covers one specific virtue from one book, is supported with ample evidence and resources, as Prior seeks to help readers to dig deeply into the text and draw out a virtue, particularly from the character's behavior, so that we may seek to learn a moral lesson from our reading. 

Following are the virtues and their books:

Prudence: The History of Tom Jones, a Foundling by Henry Fielding
Temperance: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Justice: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
Courage: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
Faith: Silence by Shusaku Endo
Hope: The Road by Cormac McCarthy
Love: The Death of Ivan Ilych by Leo Tolstoy
Chastity: Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton
Diligence: Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan
Patience: Persuasion by Jane Austen
Kindness: "Tenth of December" by George Saunders
Humility: "Revelation" and "Everything That Rises Must Converge" by Flannery O'Connor

Of these, I have only read six books, but Prior wrote in such a way that I desire to revisit them soon; and of those I have not read, I immediately found them interesting and look forward to adding them to my long list of hope-to-read-someday. 

Monday, June 8, 2020

2020 Big Book Summer Challenge


Book by Book is hosting the 2020 Big Book Challenge, and I've got some chunksters on my list for summer. Hopefully this will keep me accountable.

The Details:
  • Anything 400+ pages qualifies as a big book.
  • Challenge runs from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
  • Choose one or more book(s) to participate.
  • Sign up on Book by Book blog post or Goodreads group.
  • Write a kick off post and wrap up post at the end.
  • Write progress posts or reviews of books you've read, if you like.

Hey, and there's an opportunity to win a BIG BOOK! Yay!

Use #BigBookSummer on social media. For more info, visit Book by Book.

Here are the chunksters I'm reading or hoping to read this summer:



Brown: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee [445]
Haley: Roots: The Saga of An American Family [888]
Wells: Crusade for Justice: the Autobiography of Ida B. Wells [419]
Bergreen: Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe [414]
Dinesen: Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass [462]
Bontë: Tenant of Wildfell Hall [489]
Collins: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes [517]

I'm already reading the first three on the list, and I recently added Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.  I'm off to a good start...so, I hope this momentum keeps up. 

Want to join? 

Saturday, June 6, 2020

The Longest Day by Cornelius Ryan


The Longest Day
June 6, 2944 D-Day
When Cowards Became Men and Men Became Heroes
Cornelius Ryan
Published 1959
Non-fiction

Today is/was D-Day, June 6th. 

Earlier this year, I read The Longest Day for my Well-Educated Mind History project. I found a used copy a year or so ago, and by the time I was done reading it, the pages were falling out and it had to be kept together with packing tape and a large fold back clip. 

This war narrative focused almost entirely on the events of one 24-hour/day of history -- that fateful day called D-Day, otherwise known as the Invasion of Normandy, although it included several other beaches. The author used a technique called micro-history to probe closely the chronological events and individual stories on both sides of the history. It made the telling very personal. 

I read the book earlier this year, and knowing how full these last five months have been, it feels like eons ago. I do recall it was enjoyable reading, and I liked the personal stories, including the stories about the Germans. 

Our mandatory stay-at-home lockdown had just begun here and when I read about the bell in Roche-Guyon that rang to end the night's curfew, marking 1451 days of German occupation, I noted in my margin: Imagine 1451 days of isolation. (Trying to get perspective, I suppose.)

The art of intercepting and decoding the Allies' messages, coded messages, fake messages, and finally the real message was truly interesting. The Germans knew about the "invasion." They expected it. But...they didn't know where or when. That was what they did all day every day trying to intercept and decode the right message. Totally fascinating. 

There was an underground resistance of French civilians who helped the Allies get information about the German movement. This was amazing. Sadly, many French were arrested and executed for the cause of liberation, but they also were instrumental in getting valuable specifics to the Allies and for aiding soldiers to escape. What courage!

The operation of paratroopers was frightening. That work was a hit or miss and many over shot and lost their lives due to mistakes and accidents. In other words, many trained for this mission and never even made it to the ground. They drowned or were caught in trees or on buildings. Nature was a menace to contend with.

Once the ships carrying the soldiers made it across the Channel to their destinations, smaller craft took them to the beaches. In the smaller craft, they had to cope with seasickness as the waves crashed over their heads. They were already weighted down with, some estimated, 300 lbs of equipment. Again, some craft sank, and men drowned because of the heavy burdens attached to them. 

The Germans made their own mistakes estimating the where and when of the beaching of the Allies, and were late in decoding the correct message; once they caught up, they were frantic in their counterattack of the landing of the Americans, British, and Canadians. There is no concrete number for those who gave their lives for liberty that day, but estimates for the Allies are close to 5,000 men. 

By the end of the day, Ryan wrote: 
From this day on the Third Reich had less than one year to live. 
And the bell tolled a final time that day, as at the beginning of the story to note the end of curfew, at midnight, signifying what would later be known as a turning in the War for the world.





Monday, June 1, 2020

2020 UPDATE: First Covid, Then Cancer, Now Chaos

Today I wanted to return to my blog and write, to share something personal, and to encourage my female readers especially.

But I feel like my story is insignificant compared to what chaos has descended upon my country...again! My narrative has changed, and I can only try to find new words to share everything.

FIRST COVID

Initially, my personal story was compounded by the wider burden of the invisible virus, Covid, that we were told was killing us exponentially...so much so that we needed to shut down our economy and stay in our homes, avoid interaction with people, and wait for our much wiser authorities to tell us when it was safe to return to the horrifying "new normal." I heard the stories about people arrested for taking their kids to the park, for opening their business or church against shut-down orders, or a grocery store manager calling police because a customer refused to wear a mask. The insanity!

In California, patriots organized illegal assemblies (because permits were prohibited) at the State Capitol to protest the draconian lockdowns preventing people from working, worshiping, and living, only to be forcibly pushed back by police in riot gear. Mothers were arrested. But there were never any riots, or beatings, or burnings either. Just citizens demanding an end to the madness.

For 2 1/2 months this continued, with no end promised. The oppression from loss of work, income, and normalcy was taking its toll on the sanity of those who questioned the legitimacy of what was really going on. The coming new normal, we are warned, will included school-aged children practicing social distancing while wearing masks all day. It is hard to wrap one's brain around this, all because of a stupid virus, though no one really knows anyone who has had it or died from it.

Though earlier last month that changed for me. Four of my relatives, in NYC, from the same household - one a nurse who was exposed to Covid -  came down with symptoms. Three recovered at home, but my vulnerable uncle was taken to the hospital. On paper, he shouldn't be alive; but after 12 days on oxygen and hydroxychloroquine, he got to go home and is grateful to God for sparing his life. When a younger, healthier man in the bed next to my uncle died of Covid after only three days, it was clear to me that God takes whom He wills and spares those of His own choosing.

This madness was passing in the background of my world, while we sheltered at home, mainly because all of our activities had been cancelled and we had no where to go; we couldn't even go to the park to exercise! But a very personal matter was weighing heavily on my mind and spirit. I thought I was going to be faced with cancer, and I felt like falling apart.

THEN CANCER

In late January, I found a small hard lump below my belly button. It was new to me, but I did not consider the urgency. I waited a month, and as it was still present, I made a same day appointment with a PA for an exam. She thought it was probably a muscle, but told me to see my primary in two weeks if not gone. 

Things you think about
when faced with life changes:
listening to my son
playing Arabesque by Debussy.
By the second week of March, it was still there, and my primary, who is always jovial, became solemn during the exam. He had his nurse call GYN to make an appointment for me the following week. That was the first week of California's lockdown.

The GYN gave me an initial diagnoses of a harmless uterine fibroid, and ordered an ultrasound for the first week of April. She did note, however, that it could be attached to the ovary, meaning, it could be ovarian cancer, but she was "pretty sure" it was a uterine fibroid.

By the day of the ultrasound, this little hard mass had grown and protruded from my abdomen when I lied down. The ultrasound tech asked how long I had lived with it; she said it was too large to see where it was attached: the ovary or uterus.

The next three weeks of April were a blur. When my GYN called with the results of the ultrasound, she informed me that she and the radiologist could not determine the attachment of the tumor. I would need an MRI. Furthermore, she had forwarded my case to the oncologist/GYN, but had not heard back, yet. 
More waiting.

My doctor ordered the CA125 test, used to measure treatment for ovarian cancer. When I received my results via email, I was told my number was slightly raised for someone my age, post menopausal. It did not mean cancer but that something was not right. You can be sure that all of this weighed very heavy on my heart. I did not know what it meant, or what was happening to me. It was as if time stopped. I could hardly eat, I could not concentrate enough to read, and with no where to go, it felt like I lost the energy to function every day.
My silly 15-year old 
always in her pointe shoes.

Before the end of the month, I had my MRI, and this tech, too, asked, "How long have you lived with this?" The last Monday in April I received a call from my very sweet GYN who informed me that she could not read the MRI and was waiting for radiology to send a report. However, the oncologist had agreed to take my case, but to wait for them to call me and initiate the CT order.

Up to this point, I had been feeling like a yo-yo, in which one day I was safely clinging to God and the next free falling into a black abyss. When the oncology RN called to introduce herself and make sure my GYN discussed how oncology was now taking my case, she told me radiology would call soon to schedule my CT scan; then I was to call her back and schedule a consultation with the oncologist. More waiting. [sigh]

That next day, Tuesday, my world turned upside down. I woke up very sick to my stomach. No, it wasn't panic. I wanted to vomit, I lost my appetite, my stomach burned, and I felt like my body suffered with fever. I thought for sure I had ovarian cancer, and this is my demise. It is killing me! I immediately emailed the very compassionate RN to tell her that I had become very sick -- "my symptoms have taken a turn for the worse. I don't know what is happening to me."

She called immediately and said she scheduled the CT scan for me, for Friday, and my consultation with the oncologist the following Monday. Done. For the rest of the week, I suffered with this illness and worried that I would not be able to endure the CT scan if I did not get better.

On Thursday night, a friend texted that she was praying and hoping my scan would go well and asked how I was. I told her (without detail) how I had become very sick, and she explained how this week her father had become very sick with pylori, a stomach bacteria. When I looked it up, I was convinced I had the exact same symptoms. What timing! It did make me feel better to think it probably was unrelated. Furthermore, the next morning I woke with zero symptoms and attended my CT with no complication. 

My talented 11-year old doing ballet via Zoom classes in my bedroom.

Unfortunately, the symptoms returned on the weekend, though not as bad. But I like to think it was all God's timing. A different friend suggested that my sudden illness could have been God's way of furthering all of this process along, otherwise I probably would have been waiting longer. And praise God for the RN's quick advocacy for me. 

Monday I met with the oncologist. She was not a people person, which was intimidating. And like all of my scans, I had to attend alone. My husband could only listen in on a cell call while sitting in his car in the parking lot of the medical facility. (These are the new Covid rules for medical facilities and hospitals.) The oncologist explained that the CT looked to be 80% benign. Since I was going to have this tumor removed, she informed me that initial pathology during surgery is 80-90% accurate, but final pathology comes a week later and is 90% supportive of the initial findings. It could still return as borderline or cancerous. 

She asked me when I wanted surgery, and I said ASAP. She scheduled it for May 12, but that was bumped to May 19 because the hospital was not open yet for non-essential surgeries until the third week of May. And...more waiting.

However, during that extra time, I had a change of heart and asked the doctor to remove everything, a total hysterectomy, in case the final 10-20% pathology returned borderline or cancerous, sending me back to abdominal surgery a second time.

Long story short, my surgery went really well. Afterward, and while very incoherent, I remember speaking to my husband on the phone while he told me the initial pathology was a benign ovarian mass. At my one week check up, the oncologist confirmed the final report of the tumor and everything else as benign.

My new granddaughter
born in April 2020.
My husband and I agreed that the initial report of benign was very anti-climatic. One day after surgery I was sitting by myself wondering why I was not overflowing with joy and shouting gratefulness to God for sparing me. There was a point in all that waiting -- it felt like a lot of waiting though it was only four months from discovery to surgery -- when I felt a change in myself, when I completely surrendered everything to God. I was still scared, but all my disappointment disappeared. I knew that if God wanted me to have ovarian cancer, I was going to have ovarian cancer. I didn't like it, but I knew I was in His hands.

I think that is why I had an anti-climatic reaction because I was not expecting anything. It was to be whatever He wanted. Yet, I do not want to overlook His grace, and I want to feel grateful for His sparing me this time and hope to learn what He wants me to from this experience.

One thing I want to share with others is to be aware of ovarian cancer. Some call it a silent killer because there is no test for it and there are signs that seem similar to other conditions; it often is misdiagnosed. Wondering if my core exercises are ever making a difference, I happen to be pressing into my abdomen when I noticed the hard mass. So maybe if more primary doctors and gynecologists consciously looked for ovarian tumors, and even if women did their own self-exam, possibly ovarian cancer would be caught sooner or ruled out first.

My mom drove from Missouri to stay two weeks 
and take care of us while I recovered. 
Here she is teaching my girls more crotchet techniques. 
She left this morning.

NOW CHAOS

Tomorrow is my two-week recovery date and all is well, but my heart is distracted by another matter, and I am sick to death of this turmoil. This is not a right response for a Christian, and I have much needed self-examination, searching Scripture, and alone time with God, in order to straighten out how to look at this mess.

Earlier last week, several Minneapolis police officers abused their power and neglected their duty. Because of it, a man died. Regretfully, he was intoxicated and had been accused of a crime, but if the incident were handled appropriately and professionally, the man, George Floyd, would have still been alive -- with a court date to answer to charges -- but very much alive.

Four of the officers were immediately fired, and one of them is being charged with murder and manslaughter. I'm sure the other three will be charged with something, as they should be held responsible. But none of this matters.

The man who died was black and the officers were white. So now we have protests. Protests are tolerable and even constitutionally protected, but I thought they were invalid, at least in California due to the spread of Covid. Now protests are ok, I guess.

Unfortunately, there is a vile faction of Americans that have infiltrated the protests. They riot, randomly attack people, stop traffic, destroy private and public property, loot and burn things, and provoke law enforcement. They are so emboldened; nothing scares them.

Part of the faction is just low life thuggery seeking destruction for their own pleasure. But there is a more organized and fundamentally dangerous group doing (IMO) much of the property damage, rioting and provoking of the police, and they are the white radical Marxist/anarchist group ANTIFA. They are using the other group, Black Lives Matter, as an excuse to create chaos.

ANTIFA does not care about the man who died in the hands of police. They have a global agenda that does not care about people at all. Many of them, anyway, are just young teen, 20- and 30-year old puppets drawn to violence, destruction, and anarchy. They are controlled by an outside command that supplies them with marching orders, transportation, and bricks. Not kidding. Pallets of bricks are showing up all over American cities. And it is for their use to destroy American businesses.

ANTIFA does not represent America, or black America (for that matter), or George Floyd. They only come in to stir hatred, violence, and chaos. With chaos, they hope to bring in political change. Not that they care or know anything about political change, but those who control ANTIFA have an agenda, and they need chaos to enact that plan.

It does not appear that our governors are doing much to stem the destruction of America's cities. Lawlessness abounds!

If ANTIFA were removed from these protests, then the amount of mayhem, riots, and destruction would be reduced and maybe even manageable. The sooner those who march for legal equality call out and distance themselves from ANTIFA, the faster we can focus on an important issue: JUSTICE.

Justice for George Floyd and his family. 

TWO KINDS OF YOUNG AMERICANS

Juxtapose the lawlessness perpetrated by the young, godless, trashy Americans, provoking hatred, annihilation, and death...with the marvelous privately engineered SPACE X mission that was managed by a diverse group of intelligent young Americans (and maybe a few international employees). Did you watch this amazing project come to fruition? All of those years of work and planning! Young men and women, proud of what they have creatively accomplished. And yet, what a shame it was overshadowed by low life scum who hate their own country and contribute nothing. 

Now, I have said my peace. And I am ready to start living again. I am ready to read. And learn. And write. So long as God gives me breath. 

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Cover Reveal: One Bad Apple by Rachel Kovaciny

Today I am participating in a cover reveal for my bookish friend and author, Rachel Kovaciny

Isn't this cover art attractive, enticing, and spell binding


One Bad Apple is...Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs...reimagined.

Synopsis: Fourteen-year old Levi Dalton is numb. Hands tied behind his back, he's about to be hauled away for poisoning a beautiful girl and her kind father. The woman pointing her finger at him and accusing him of murder is the very same woman he hoped could teach him to heal illnesses, not cause them. The woman he idolized. The woman he trusted. 

Levi knows he should be scared for his own life. But all he can think about is how graves always come in pairs.

One Bad Apple is due out July 28th and is part of Rachel's playful and creative Once Upon a Western Series. For more info or to follow the author, check out her book blog at The Edge of the Precipice.

Other ways to catch Rachel: 

Friday, May 15, 2020

10 Books of Summer via 746 Books


This bookish challenge runs June 1 through September 1. Technically it could be 20 books of summer or 15 books or 10. It's up to the reader. Given the way 2020 has been going, I'm aiming with caution.

So here's to my summer of cautious anticipation...

  • Brontë: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (one more try...)
  • McCullers: The Heart is a Lonely Hunter
  • Brown: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
  • Wells: Crusade for Justice: The Autobiography of Ida B. Wells
  • Dinesen: Out of Africa (one more try, too...)
  • Equiano: The Interesting Narrative and Other Writings
  • Haley: Roots
  • Turner: These is My Words
  • Robinson: Gilead
  • Bergreen: Over the Edge of the World
and one for good luck...
  • Tan: The Joy Luck Club

I'm actually kind of excited to read these books. Have you read any, and which are your favorites? What are you hoping to read this summer? 

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Top Ten Tuesday: Last Ten Books I Bailed On



These are the books I bailed on in the last year or more. I gave them a try, maybe a third or half way, but if by then it did not keep me wanting more, I had to bail.

The Conte of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
This was too long and drawn out for my taste, and given that it was a door stopper,
I could not carry on that way for another 600 pages!



Ben-Hur by Lew Wallace
This one frustrated me. I wanted to like it so much, 
but I could not get invested.



The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Very dark and super weird. 



History of England by David Hume
I read Vol. 5, early 1600s; sadly boring.



The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy by Jacob Burkhardt
Basically, everyone in government is corrupt!
I know.



The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë
This one I started with great anticipation, but I found it wordy and exhausting;
HOWEVER, I do plan to return to it at a better time. Maybe summer.


Friday, April 17, 2020

One Hundred Years of Solitude Read-along Week #6

Today is the six-year anniversary of the death of Gabriel García Márquez. This is my final review of One Hundred Years of Solitude.

REVIEW OF CH. 18 - 20

Chapter 18: Melquíades was fading away and anxious to transfer all of his knowledge to Aureliano Babilonia, who took up the obsessive quest of deciphering Melquíades' parchments. 

Aureliano Segundo was a prisoner in his own home. He and Fernanda "did not share their solitude, but they continued living on their own..." In this chapter, Fernanda conveniently died. 

Soon after, José Arcadio III returned from Rome, but he was no saint, nor did he ever become Pope. He lived a wild life.

A strange man arrived in Macondo; he was the only surviving son of Col. Aureliano, Aureliano Amador. Unfortunately, he was pursued by police and shot in the head. 

One day, while José Arcadio III was hanging out with friends, they discovered the hidden gold that Ursula had buried and kept away from the family; later, the friends returned, murdered JA III, and stole the gold anyway. 

Chapter 19: Amaranta Ursula, the last child of Fernanda and Aureliano Segundo, returned to Macondo with her husband, Gaston, who had no intention of staying in Macondo. Like Ursula, Amaranta took charge and managed the house. She was a modern woman and had high expectations for Macondo.

Unfortunately, in this chapter, we found out what happened to the 3000 dead people on the train; they were thrown into the sea. (This event is modeled after a similar historical event and where we get the term Banana Republic.) 

There are too many prostitution rings and brothels going on, as well, some supported by Pilar Ternera, the oldest person from Macondo.  

And finally, Aureliano Babilonia fell in love with Amaranta Ursula, and they became inappropriately involved.

Chapter 20: Finally, Pilar Ternera died, while Macondo was falling into ruin and being forgotten...
even by the birds, where the dust and the heat had become so strong that it was difficult to breathe, secluded by solitude and love and by the solitude of love in a house where it was almost impossible to sleep...
The only happy ones were Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano Babilonia: "the most happy on the face of the earth." 

Oh, and Gaston? He went back to Brussels. But Amaranta Ursula and Aureliano Babilonia...I'll let Marquez describe it: 
both of them remained floating in an empty universe where the only everyday and eternal reality was love.
They preferred death to separation.
They married and expected a child. But remember, Fernanda lied about who little Aureliano was. This is where your brain has to do the math. What was the relationship between these two? For a while, he thought he was his wife's brother!

When their son was born, Amaranta recognized the resemblance of a "great Buendía...strong and willful like the José Arcadios...the open and clairvoyant eyes of the Aurelianos;" she believed he was "predisposed to begin the race again from the beginning and cleanse it of its pernicious vices and solitary calling, for he was the only one in a century who had been engendered with love."

When they looked him over, there it was: the tail of a pig! But they did not know the fear, nor did they remember the meaning, and so they thought nothing of it.

Amaranta Ursula died after giving birth to her son, Aureliano III. Distraught, Aureliano Babilonia  ran off and got drunk. When he later remembered his son, it was too late. Baby Aureliano III was dead - the last Buendía to be born.

Since Aureliano Babilonia had been able to  translate Melquíades' parchments, he deciphered that it was all a prophecy about the history and fate of Macondo. In it, he learned that Amaranta Ursula was not his sister, but his aunt. And when he sought to know what would be his death, he did not realize that a violent hurricane was brewing in Macondo, one that would wipe the town's memory and the memory of the Buendía family from the face of the earth forever.

WEEK SIX WRAP UP

My brain hurts! Trying to keep all of those family relations straight when they couldn't keep things straight themselves. In the same breath, that last chapter came full circle and brought the Buendía family to a close; it was literally and figuratively amazing! It truly was a whirlwind. 

Trivia: Did you know that on the day Márquez brought his manuscript to the publisher, a gust of wind ripped the pages either from his wife's hands or his, and they chased them in the street, retrieving each one and putting them back together in order again. 

When I first read One Hundred Years of Solitude, in 2014, the year Gabriel García Márquez died, I disliked it very much, mainly because it was ambiguous and insanely frustrating. However, this second read has proved extremely profitable, as I have gained considerable appreciation for the story of One Hundred Years, the characters of Macondo, and the genre of magical realism. 

I, too, like Brona, am ready to read Love in the Time of Cholera. 

QUOTES ON SOLITUDE
Never a lament had been heard from that stealthy, impenetrable woman who had sown in the family the angelic seed of Remedios the Beauty and the mysterious solemnity of José Arcadio II; who dedicated a whole life of solitude and diligence to the rearing of children although she could barely remember whether they were her children or grandchildren...
She became human in her solitude. 
...everything written on them was unrepeatable since time immemorial and forever more, because races condemned to one hundred years of solitude did not have a second opportunity on earth. 

Thank you to my co-host, Silvia, for encouraging me to reread One Hundred Years and for joining together in this read-along. Thank you all who have participated. If you did finish, drop a link in the comments and share your final review. 

ALL REVIEWS:

Monday, April 13, 2020

Eight Twenty Eight by Ian and Larissa Murphy


Eight Twenty Eight
When Love Didn't Give Up
Ian & Larissa Murphy
Published 2014
American Memoir

Eight Twenty Eight is a memoir about a young couple in love, Ian and Larissa Murphy, who were preparing to spend their lives together, when, in 2006, Ian was involved in an automobile accident that changed their lives forever. 

Ian suffered a traumatic brain injury, which affected his short-term memory and speech, as well as other functions. Naturally, he would have to relearn how to walk and talk; but would he remember Larissa? Would he still remember he loved her? Would he still want and need her? These were questions Larissa needed to know because it would determine what she would do with her own life.

Larissa knew she still loved Ian and wanted to be with him, but she needed Ian to decide if she should remain. Doctors had told her that he would not remember her the same way, yet she refused to give up.

When Ian came home from hospital care, Larissa lived with his family, learning to care for Ian, talking to him and helping him remember. Slowly, as his ability to communicate thoughts and feelings improved, Larissa believed she began to understand what Ian wanted. One thing was certain: he had retained his charming humor and keen wit.

Larissa got her answer on Christmas Eve 2009, when Ian proposed. Eight months later, they were married in a beautiful ceremony surrounded by loving family and friends, and they have continued being a testimony for God's grace, mercy, and enduring love, which never gives up. 

Much of Ian's and Larissa's story is about Larissa's transparent struggle with God. Who wouldn't be angry? But God used Ian's injury to expose Larissa's weakness in her faith. After Ian's accident, his love for God was a strong foundation, and it was the kind of faith that Larissa wanted. 

The last chapter is the best because it demonstrates Larissa's maturity in Christ as she learned to make decisions "based on dependence [on] God, trusting that goodness and mercy would follow." She rightly questioned her ability to be an adequate helper for Ian. She had to justify her decision to stay with him when many believed he no longer had value.

Larissa asked Ian, "How are you so nice?" He replied, "I have an incredible Savior." 

Ian's faith perplexed Larissa, and she knew "it was a faith she did not have but wanted to absorb." 
Isn't this what I have been called to? This life of dependency on the One who made me? This life that doesn't make me comfortable, because the discomfort is exactly what I need to make heaven more irresistible?
After the accident and a year before Ian and Larissa were engaged, Ian's father succumbed to his battle with cancer. But before he passed, he wrote about how he saw God's amazing love and sacrifice through Larissa's dedication and loyalty to his son, Ian. In 2008, he wrote:
I see God in the way that Larissa has stayed with Ian through this. I see the Savior in her devotion. When we see Larissa and Ian together, we should not be amazed by her devotion and love. Instead we should be pointed to Christ, amazed by His love for us and the miracle it is that we can reflect even a portion of that. 
Some critics of the book complained that jumping around from past, present, and future was confusing, but I was able to follow along, so that wasn't a problem for me. Others found Larissa's tone very angry, but I appreciated it because I felt empathy for her. She was young and had a future planned with Ian that did not include a brain injury. Marriage to Ian would mean she would be the sole provider, they would need to live with others who could help Ian, and it would never be a normal marriage. However, Larissa learned that there would be blessings even in what she called their "sovereignly disabled marriage." 



In this place, where I look at Ian and see God and the cost Jesus paid so that we could know and experience love, we see clearly that He does work all things -- together. 

Friday, April 10, 2020

One Hundred Years of Solitude Read-along Week #5

REVIEW OF CH. 15 - 17

Chapter 15: Meme was distraught after Mauricio was shot; and, Fernanda sent her to live in a convent, where she later died, but not before giving birth to a baby boy named Aureliano. The nuns brought the baby to Fernanda, and she kept the baby hidden for years, telling everyone she found him inside a basket, like Moses. But she really wanted to drown the baby.

José Arcadio encouraged his workers at the "Banana Republic" to strike because they were required to work on Sundays and were not paid in cash. Ursula worried,
It's as if the world were repeating itself.
The army attempted to establish order through martial law, but the workers organized and caused chaos. When the workers and their families assembled in the square to discuss the problems, they were gunned down, including women and children. Later the bodies were loaded onto the train to be removed; but José Arcadio, who was wounded, escaped alive.

The government lied about the workers going home and instead abandoned the plantation. José Arcadio hid out in Melquíades room for a while, and four years of rain began to fall on Macondo.

Chapter 16:

So, it rained and rained and rained. Aureliano II was stuck at Fernanda's house during the rain, while Petra was worried because all of Aureliano's animals were drowning. When he went back to Petra, he realized he had nothing more to do with her, and he returned to Fernanda where things got worse.

For two and a half pages, in one dragged out sentence, Fernanda complained to her husband about everything in her life, sending Aureliano into a massive violent rage.

The rain finally stopped, but the damage to Macondo was done.

Chapter 17:

Ursula thought she would die as soon as the rains ended, but instead was able to get her house in order. She spent time with her great-great grandchildren until she lost her senses completely. Finally she died on Good Friday, which is today for me. She was 120 years old!

Then came a heat wave, which put the people into a stupor and made them lazy. The gypsies revisited the town with all of their inventions as they did in the beginning.

Rebeca died. She was a mess. Something was wrong with Fernanda's health, but she refused to go to a real physical doctor. Aureliano II became a loner, and José Arcadio developed a pain in his throat, which he thought was caused by Fernanda doing witchcraft against him.

Finally both Aureliano II and José Arcadio II died on the same day, leaving everyone still confused over who was who.


Macondo

WEEK FIVE WRAP UP

What a week! Felt like a month. The massacre of the banana plantation families was very disturbing. And the 2 1/2 pages of Fernanda's complaints do run in one marathon sentence. The only period came on the third page. Pretty amazing. My notes in these chapters from my previous reading included: "weird," "like a weird dream," "so weird," "sick," and even "I hate this dumb book." Márquez may have been wearing on me back then because truly his manner is consistent from the beginning. But, as I said last week, the Buendía family is growing on me, and I was sad to see so much death now, especially Ursula, the wisdom of the family.
The spirit of her invincible heart guided her through the shadows. 
Gabriel García Márquez

QUOTES ON SOLITUDE

But Aureliano himself seemed to prefer the cloister of solitude and he did not show the least desire to know the world that began at the street door of the house.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Hamlet by Shakespeare

Hamlet
Shakespeare
Published 1599-1601
English Play

This is my fifth or sixth Shakespeare play that I read aloud with my kids, ages 11 and 12. I admit that we read the right hand side of No Fear Shakespeare, which, if you are familiar with this edition, gives you the option to read a modern translation. Frankly, in some cases, it probably would have been safer to read the left hand side instead because there were some parts I would stop and say, "Just skip that!" when they were reading their lines out loud. 

And sometimes -- no, all the time, my 12-year old insisted on reading all of his lines in a terrible British accent that just made the reading take a lot longer; but other than that, it went fairly smoothly. And I was always Hamlet and enjoyed immensely reading his famous soliloquy. 

Side note: we are also reading The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and I was able to read to my kids the duke's version of Hamlet's soliloquy. Such perfect timing. So hysterical. 

Anyway, back to Hamlet. This play really bothers me because so much does not seem fair or right. Everything is a mess. Hamlet's father was "murdered," or at least Hamlet had good reason to suspect that Uncle Claudius murdered his father, the King, because that's what the ghost of Hamlet's father told him. To complicate things, Hamlet's mother married King Uncle Claudius.

Throughout the play, Hamlet's plots of revenge change often, and at one point he accidentally murdered his girlfriend Ophelia's father. That's not a good way to get in with the family. He spent much of the time professing madness or behaving rudely toward everyone, including his girlfriend. At one point, she literally went off the deep end and probably killed herself. 

Millais: Ophelia 1851-52

Now Ophelia's brother, Laertes, sought revenge on Hamlet. Thus, he challenged Hamlet to a dual, and in good Shakespearean fashion, this tragedy did not end well for anyone. Except Horatio.

What is this play about?

Life and death. To be...or not to be. Life, on the one hand brings pain, sorrows, and struggles that can be more burdensome than the joys and pleasures; however, the alternative is death, and being an unknown, cause great internal conflict.

Conscience. Hamlet struggled with following through with his plots to avenge his father. He knew what he wanted to do, but conscience always pulled him back.

Reality and Madness. Was Hamlet really mad, or was he feigning madness? I could not confirm.

Consequences. Choices have consequences. Oh, so many bad decisions made by one character that hurt another. Like a vicious cycle.

There are many other ideas and themes to explore, and one day I hope to read this play in its original so I can enjoy it and understand it more. For now, I'm sharing my favorite clip of Hamlet's soliloquy right here:




See a discussion about Hamlet on Prager U: HERE