Week’s End Notes (33)

Vase of cut zinnias and sunflowers And so we’ve arrived at the first August weekend. I may have said last post that about this time of year it always feels as if summer’s almost (practically) over–and indeed, two area schools (individual schools, not districts; they are experiments in student learning improvements) started classes this past week.  But today it certainly feels “summer” – hot and humid. I don’t expect much variation between now and mid-September–this is what late summer usually is like around here. But I won’t complain. We don’t get wildfires, we don’t get serious drought.

Cover: Tess of the D’Urbervilles (Penguin cloth bound edition)My classics spin title ended up as probably the one I least wanted on the list–indeed, I hadn’t even realized it was still on the list. (Oops.) Tess of the D’Urbervilles. Not because I don’t want to read it–I’ve read and liked Hardy previously. But I have serious doubts as to the likelihood of being able to finish it by the end of the month. (And no, I haven’t started yet. I’ve been trying to finish up other things first.) So we’ll see how that goes. Maybe the deadline will prove the needed inspiration.

And there’s this, too, that helps: I haven’t gone a single day since May 20 without reading for at least five minutes! Some days it’s only been that five little minutes. But it’s become a streak that I am so reluctant to break, that there was even one night when I had to work late on a deadline–so late I was up past my bedtime–and even sleepy as I was, I wouldn’t let myself fall asleep before I’d read for that five minutes. On the other hand, while reading always seems a good thing, perhaps I should question my priorities…

(But the streak!)

I haven’t kept up with blogging as much as I’d like; that has been one of the casualties of busyness. I’d hoped to be able to participate in the Spanish-Portuguese Literature Months hosted by Stu and Richard, but that doesn’t look likely now. (Though there’s still time…maybe if I skip work for a week–think anyone would notice?!)

In some ways I feel the last few months have been absorbed all in work. And yet, when I think back to all that I’ve done, that’s not so, I just have had very little “do-nothing” time. I’ve finished seven books since early May. I’ve been to four movies, a rate higher-than-normal for me. One of them was the delightful documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor, which I was able to see thanks to a colleague telling me about a local independent theater that I didn’t even know existed. Apparently the documentary is quite popular–they sold out every showing (in an admittedly small theater) over at least two weekends.

I also got to do something I haven’t done in years–I went to a performance of the Cleveland Orchestra, featuring Audra McDonald, at Blossom Music Center, their summer home. I’d forgotten how wonderful those performances could be–and McDonald was so impressive. She truly can sing anything.

So summer hasn’t been a complete loss, even if at times it feels that way. In fact, as I write this, I’m sitting on the back screened porch, enjoying the breezes and sounds of birds and insects, glancing up to see fresh-cut flowers and the greens of the trees and shrubs. I don’t stop to enjoy the sounds of the world around me often enough, too busy with music or other distractions.

Hydrangea (white/green)

Sometimes I think our fully air-conditioned protected world prevents us from knowing the seasons as fully as we ought. Those hot lazy days of summer disappear without us even noticing how hot they are. We don’t take the time to appreciate the breezes or the humming of insects or trilling of birds when we stay inside our climate-controlled bubble. We scramble around in a world of pavements and buildings instead of meandering though forests and fields and streams. And so time passes us by because we let it be filled and busy and stressful instead of taking a deliberate pause and engaging in a world where a clock holds no meaning. It is certainly something I am guilty of.

Perhaps if there is one thing I hope for my coming months more than anything else, it is that I remember to pause. To meander. To be.

Happy Reading!

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Mid Week’s Notes

March Crocus
Early spring Crocus

I can’t believe we’re over halfway through March already! (Although the cantankerous weather and stubborn bulbs prove it so.) This year has been so busy–every week I add “write blog post” to my to do list and more often than not it gets shifted to the next week. And I’ve been even worse about keeping up with reading other’s posts. Hopefully I can get back to that here soon…

Looking towards Cuyahoga River and downtown Kent on a snowy day
My view today

On the other hand, the reading’s been mostly good. There was the Olympic lull in February, which I expected, but otherwise, the reading pace has been faster than last year. I guess that’s what happens when I start the year with children’s literature and classic mysteries! But I’m also eager to start my title for the current Classics Club spin, Cold Comfort Farm. (Aside: surprisingly, no one pointed out that I only listed nineteen titles instead of the standard twenty! That’s what happens when I write a drive-by post on my lunch break…) I want to finish up a couple library books first, and then it will be back to the classics, as well as my year of Madeleine L’Engle.

Speaking of which, my mom and I went to see A Wrinkle in Time opening weekend and quite enjoyed it. It’s not entirely the same as the book–which I could tell from the trailer–but I felt they kept the characters true to those in L’Engle’s novel.

*Slight movie spoiler* I was a little disappointed that Aunt Beast (and her planet) were not included, though I’m guessing that’s mostly about movie length *end slight movie spoiler.*

It did seem to me, however, that the Camazotz scenes were not as effective as in the novel. This might be one of those instances where it’s difficult to convey ideas on screen as well as on page. It also occurred to me to wonder–while IT was visualized in a way I found very appropriate to the spirit of the novel, was this representation understandable to someone only coming to the story via the film? Maybe it doesn’t matter; after all, even as readers we all approach the same material differently. But all-in-all, I’m quite glad I saw this and the first half, especially, was magical.

Clay pot

I’ve also been continuing to enjoy an activity I first took up last fall–pottery classes. If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen my Instagram posts of partially-finished ceramics. (Instagram is also a newer endeavor – I’m simplerpastimes there as well–no bookish posts as yet, but I’m sure some day…) After about 18 weeks of classes I’m finally starting to be able to make the clay do what I want instead of the other way around. Victory! (And such a good thing I’m doing this for fun and not a grade–that would have been way too much stress in my life!)

Add in work and work-related events, and that’s pretty much been life lately – busy, fun, trying not to get over-committed (a fine line some days). If only I could figure out how to be two places at once, I’d be all set!

Happy reading!

Week’s End Notes (32)

Cuyhoga River in Winter - Kent Ohio
A view of the Cuyahoga River just over a week ago. Would you believe I took this from a busy bridge facing downtown Kent? It’s all about the framing…!

I feel as if I’ve been shamefully neglecting the blog. Neglecting reading other’s posts. It’s a Sisyphean task, that–keeping up with everyone, everything. Especially when I already have the feeling of being underwater elsewhere, at work most especially. I keep plodding away at the reading, though, my Sunday morning reading the one constant. I’m only one week behind (and intend to catch up) on the Deal Me In Challenge. I finally finished Chronicles of Avonlea, which happens to be a short story collection, and which I believe I actually started over a year ago (maybe even in 2015!). Yet I feel as if I’m moving quickly nowhere. Perhaps the long list of unblogged books bogs me down. So many I don’t even properly remember now, not well enough to write about. And perhaps that is why I’ve written nothing.

But I’ve had enough of feeling their weight on my shoulders. Somehow, I’ve managed to dash off a few short posts here this afternoon. Those will be forthcoming. And for those I don’t feel I can prepare a proper post for (but those I still wish to say something about), a few thoughts:

His Last Bow – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Scotland, 1917)

A collection of Holmes stories I read last fall on vacation. A diverting read, though I fear that I don’t remember the stories that well.  This leaves just one collection left and I will have finished all the Holmes stories!

The Girl on the Train – Paula Hawkins (Britain/Zimbabwe, 2015)

The publicity surrounding the movie prompted me to pick this one up. A psychological thriller, I found it much more unputdownable than Gone Girl, but I didn’t feel the need to run out to see the film version. Though I did like the end much better.

Tuck Everlasting – Natalie Babbitt (U.S., 1975)

On learning of Natalie Babbit’s death late last year, I immediately had to pick up Tuck Everlasting for a reread. I had last touched this one in late elementary school, and so both found that I couldn’t remember the story and yet it was completely familiar. A sweet story of a young girl who accidentally meets up with a family who has drunk from the fountain of eternal youth, it is in a way a touching meditation on death and life and the consequences of immortality.

She folded her arms and nodded, more to herself than to Winnie. ‘Life’s got to be lived, not matter how long or short,’ she said calmly. ‘You got to take what comes. We just go along, like everybody else, one day at a time.’ (Chapter 10)

Although I read it as a nostalgia piece/for my Children’s Classics project, Tuck Everlasting could also be assigned to my Reading Ohio project, as Natalie Babbit was originally from/grew up in Ohio. It’s also a nice segue to add a little reminder that the 5th Classic Children’s Literature Event is coming up in just a couple weeks! I’ve already a collection of books waiting for me temptingly…

Happy Reading!

Purple Orchid in Full Indoor Bloom
Who says winter isn’t growing season?

Week’s End Notes (31) & Classics Club v2

I just realized that I haven’t taken a single photo this year, excepting some really exciting work pics (of markups on drawings – see exciting). Not helpful in learning to use my camera better this year. I will have to add that to my February priorities. I made a list at the start of the month of my January priorities, and so far it’s been really helpful in keeping me focused. I also just this week finished listening to Laura Vanderkam’s 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think, and that’s really the point of the book: you have to prioritize and focus your time. I wouldn’t call it life-changing for me–I already knew that was my problem–but her suggestion that we need to plan even our leisure time in advance if we’re to maximize it really hits home, because that’s exactly what I’ve been doing lately. (And no, she doesn’t mean planning out every minute, just knowing what activities you want to do so that instead of frittering away hours online or in front of the TV or what have you, you actually read that book you’ve been meaning to get to.) I’ve categorized every weekend so far this month: one for DVR catch-up/knitting, one for reading, one for misc. to do’s (this weekend!), and it’s left me feeling a lot more productive. Even if I feel like I haven’t actually managed to read all that much this month so far.

Part of that is the season: winter is for knitting and I don’t knit and read at the same time. I do knit and TV watch at the same time. I suppose I could knit and audiobook… Part of it is the general sleepiness winter seems to bring. Part of it is the Deal Me In Challenge. So I’m reading, but short things, and it doesn’t feel as much of an accomplishment. But I’ve been keeping up so far!

  • Week 1: Q of Clubs – Fray Luis de León, “Oda III”
  • Week 2: 8 of Clubs – Francisco de la Torre, “Soneto V,” “Soneto XX,” and “Soneto XXIII”
  • Week 3: A of Diamonds – Ben Jonson, “To the Memory of My Beloved Master, William Shakespeare”

The first two weeks were challenging as both were from Clubs, which are all Spanish poems. I have a copy of Renaissance and Baroque Poetry of Spain (ed. Elias L. Rivers) which I’m reading from and it does have prose translations, but those are…okay. So I’ve been challenging myself to really read the Spanish closely, which takes a good chunk of time. “Oda III” was the easiest, a poem in praise of Francisco Salinas, a music professor at the University of Salamanca. The Sonnets by de la Torre were more challenging, especially as their language included words (or spellings?) that the online translation dictionary couldn’t always find, I assume obsolete or archaic. I also have never done as well with Sonnets as with other poem types. “To the Memory of My Beloved Master, William Shakespeare” I read with much greater pleasure. Both as it was far less work and as I was familiar with the subject. I was amused to find that Jonson predicted that Shakespeare would continue to be performed/read for centuries to come – how prescient! It also seems that Jonson’s words could be used in the who wrote Shakespeare battle as pro-William Shakespeare, as Jonson both praised Shakespeare’s words (over contemporaries) and clearly refers to him as the “Swan of Avon,” though also, famously, reminding us that Shakespeare “small Latin and less Greek.” I have yet to read this week’s selection (a short story – finally!).

I’m also in the middle of two longer reads, a reread of Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Maggie Stiefvater) and The Epic of Gilgamesh. Which brings me to the next topic. I’m fast coming up on the deadline for my original Classics Club list, in March. Five years! Already! And…well, it hasn’t gone so well. Of the 125 items on the list, I’ve only completed 14 (nearly 15). I’ve read 26 individual books/plays, but a number were combined into one list item. (Or 28 books if one counts the volumes of The Lord of the Rings separately.) At the same time, I’ve been itching to update/revise the list. I’ve read some books for my Ohio project that could have counted on a Classics Club list, but I hadn’t included them. And there are others I still want to read. I also have a Great Courses series, “The Western Literary Canon in Context,” which has added other (admittedly white male) titles to my TBR list. Then I also seem to keep dipping back to rereads that weren’t on my original list. Not to mention quite a few other books lining my shelves that never made it to/were purchased after the original list was made.

So, in the spirit of the New Year (it’s still early enough to say that, right?), and in the excitement that list making always brings me, I announce The Classics Club v.2, my ten year reading list. It’s long, at 150 items, so I’ll spare you scrolling through. But if you really want to read it, it’s HERE. I had some trouble cutting down (ha!), and it’s longer than the original list. Even assuming that the revisions/additions help me stay more focused, I’m still never–based on current reading rate–going to get through this list in only five years. So I’m blithely disregarding the 5-year guideline.

Some notes regarding the list:

  • Most unread titles from the original list are still here. I swapped out some of the Greek plays (largely based on the Great Courses series reading list) and dropped a couple other titles that aren’t actually on my shelves, but I tried to keep the variety of genre/country I had on the original.
  • I’ve added a number of rereads. Mostly Austen. I can’t help it.
  • The only book that I read on the original list that makes a reappearance is Beowulf, which I want to reread in another translation.
  • I’ve added some Ohio reads.
  • Most of the additions are ancient/medieval lit. I’m a little scared of some of those actually…
  • I also added three Faulkner which I’m really looking forward to. I only had one title on my original list because I wasn’t sure if I’d like him. It was a mistake.

I’d ask you what to read first, but current read The Epic of Gilgamesh is item #1. When I’m not mired down in Spanish poets…

Happy Reading!

 

 

Week’s End Notes (30)

Well. It’s been a while. As I sort through photos I’ve taken since I last posted here, I see a visual record of how much time has passed—from long, hot, humid late summer days to the chill and gray of late autumn’s first snow. It is sometimes hard to believe that so much time has flown by, and yet, there was so much packed in those days.

I really didn’t mean to drop off from here, but one week away led to another and a couple weeks led to a month and a month led to…today. And sometimes when you stop doing something it’s so hard to start up again. Indeed, the effort of putting word to screen has seemed extraordinarily intimidating at times. And just for a little blog post.

But though I’ve been busy (work, life) and though I’ve been prioritizing reading over writing, I find I’m not ready to just step back and leave the blogging aside. The task of writing—of ordering my thoughts into a somewhat coherent form—is a good exercise, I think. The recording of my random thoughts on books is a remedy to my forgetfulness—perhaps I may not quite remember a book I read four years ago now, but if I can turn to a post I wrote on it, I have something to hang on to. And of course there are other bloggers—although I am not so good at involvement in the bookish community (and after this lengthy absence may have forfeited what few readers I have), I know that it is so warm and welcoming that with just a little effort I could find myself much more involved.

So I shall try, try, try again.

I started keeping a Bullet Journal this summer, mostly to keep track of work-things—schedules, to dos, and such—but it’s proving instructive in my overall life as well. How many goals/tasks I can set for a week, realistically. How to break up projects into smaller bites so that I can both stay focused on the bigger picture and have small pieces to mark off as “done.” As a record, it’s becoming wonderfully informative, and as a tool, I’ve let it be marvelously flexible. I don’t worry about “mistakes,” or whether or not it’s beautiful (it’s not; I don’t have time or inclination to make one of the wonderfully decorative varieties), I just adjust and alter as I go, learning what methods of tracking and task-keeping work best for me. And I’ve found that just a small record each week of things I’d like to do, be it an overall task for the week or something small to do everyday or every few days, is helping me to keep focused and to not just “have good intentions” but to act on them. It is ever a work-in-progress, but since I added “reading” as a daily goal, I’ve seen my reading rate go up. I can but hope that adding blog-time (reading, writing) to the list will help as well. (Though at some point, it must be admitted, I will run out of time to fill!)

So as the nights grow longer (for just a few weeks more!) and the days colder, it is time for books and words again.  A tentative return, but sincere.

Happy Reading!

Week’s End Notes (29) – At the Half

FuchsiaHappy July!

Where has the year flown?! I’m quite sure that March took a leave of absence and June was on a two-week vacation (likely to someplace slightly cool and with a nice bit of rain; June, why didn’t you invite me along?) and so that I really can’t be held to account for the speed with which this year is zooming by.

But speeding it is. And while sometimes that seems a good thing—every day past is one day nearer an autumn vacation; every day past is nearer the end of what does seem to have become a downer of a year. Every time I turn on the national news or nose around online, it seems there is some new terror or tale of woe; it is no wonder that the escapism of A Midsummer Night’s Dream was so appealing to me. (Though it must be said, here in NE Ohio we had a nice one-week respite after the NBA finals—every day for a week it seemed that to turn on the local news or open the local paper was to find yet another bit of celebration and excitement. In some ways, a sport like that is so unimportant in the grand scheme, yet the magic of the joy that a win—finally, a championship win—brought the region is nothing to disregard in such angry and hurtful and frightening times.*) And it feels that it will only be more so, as the November election, sure to be fraught with negativity and threatenings, fast approaches. I find I can only stomach so much of negative news and politicking, and find the lure of escape (or avoidance) compelling. The internet is dangerous, an opinion at every corner. Television is a hazard; already the political ads are fast and furious. (Sorry, networks, I won’t be watching TV this fall.) So to books I must turn. Certainly not a bad thing in general, and certainly not if I actually expect to finish off my goals for the year, this year!

Actually, considering the real slump I feel like I had around about March, I don’t think I’m doing too badly. I’ve managed to read eleven “books”† so far (plus finish a few I started in 2015), which, while not exactly halfway to my goal of twenty-five, is closer than I might have expected in April. And I’m currently in the middle of three. I’m actually really optimistic about this goal as much of my planned summer reading is of the more relaxing variety. I never said those twenty-five books had to be difficult… (Although, of course, the two books I just impulsively requested and received from the library are both non-fiction. But the read-fast type.)

Looking over my other goals from the start of the year:

Reading Ohio – two so far (Folks from Dixie and Selected Poems, both by Paul Laurence Dunbar). I’d hoped to do better by now, but Dunbar proved a larger challenge than expected.
The Classics Club – four titles read! (The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Pedro Páramo, Titus Andronicus, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream) This is actually a bit better than expected, although it helps that three are plays. Pedro Páramo hadn’t been on my radar at all at the start of the year, but ended up as a Spin title.
Women’s Classics Literature Event – alas, so far all I can count are the lovely Beatrix Potter Tales. The only other women I’ve read this year have been too recent to count as classic. Must rectify.
Bardathon 400 – Well, as you may have noticed under The Classics Club heading, I’ve read three (and watched filmed adaptions of two of those) so far. The Taming of the Shrew and Kiss Me Kate are next, at which point I will count this one “complete.”
Reading England – none yet, but two currently planned for summer reading.
Ancient Greek – oops. Not even anything on the horizon. Maybe I should start thinking about a play or two?
Books in Translation – two so far (Emil and the Detectives and Pedro Páramo), plus The President (Miguel Angel Asturias) in progress. Not too bad for me actually.
Contemporary Translations – but none of the translated work has been what I call “contemporary.” This may actually prove to be the most difficult challenge for me this year, just on a time available basis.
Children’s Classics – well, with the Event in April, I was bound to do well here. Either four or twenty-six, depending on how you count! (Emil and the Detectives, The Jungle Book, the Beatrix Potter Twenty-three Tales, and The Grey King by Susan Cooper) I’ll have a few more by the end of the year, but I never really had a set number in mind.
And finally, Back to the Classics – I’m actually surprised by how well I’m doing, four of twelve so far, without a specific effort. But I was able to count Pedro Páramo for a translated title, the two Dunbar titles for non-white author and short story collection, and The Two Gentlemen of Verona for a place in the title. I would really like to finish this one, but that will definitely take some planned effort on my part.

At only the opening of July, it’s still easy to be optimistic about the reading for the rest of the year, and perhaps even let myself daydream that I might exceed my goal of twenty-five. (Hey, I’ve still got a week’s vacation planned. It could happen!) Of course, I still need to post about a number of the titles I’ve listed above…a challenge for another day.

How’s you’re 2016 reading going? Any exciting plans for the second half? I’ve already been seeing posts for July’s Spanish Lit Month–time to catch up!

*Something also noted by NPR’s Renita Jablonski, who finally found something to cheer for after a dreadful couple weeks.
†It seems more accurate to group the short Beatrix Potter
Twenty-three Tales as one book than to count them separately.

Week’s End Notes (27)

Feb 2016 Crocus
Feb 2016 Lenten Rose
Feb 2016 - Snowy Cuyahoga River
Feb 2016 - Pufferbelly in Snow
Feb 2016 Rainbow

February 2016. Not until I started sorting through the pictures I took this month, did I realize how well the weather paralleled life this month. Up and down, all over the place, restless, unsettled, hopeful. There have been both highs and lows–though at the moment it feels the lows have been deeper than the highs tall, but some things that have been suspended, waiting for resolution, have been resolved. Snow gives way to rain gives way to sun gives way to snow gives way to spring flowers. And so it goes.

My reading this month has been similarly unsettled–and sparse. My New Year’s goal of 5 hours a week has been woefully unmet of late, and I seem to be all over the place with my reading. I have so many books started but seem not to be making much progress on any save for the Shakespeare I read over the course of a few evenings a few weeks back. I’m feeling the need to finish something, yet I can’t seem to settle with anything. I even–quite unplanned–started a new title Thursday night, The Sound and the Fury, which seemed to just jump off my shelves at me. I wasn’t planning on reading anything then–rather, to sleep, but despite the trickiness of the first chapter (and I’m only a short ways in), I must confess I’m currently quite captured by the book. We’ll see if it holds.

Hopefully, though, all the partially read books means at some point I will be finishing like crazy. And then of course, have the difficulty of too many blog posts to catch up on. I’m a little behind right now as it is…

I am however looking forward to April and the Children’s Classic Literature Reading Event! The official announcement/sign-up post should go up this week, and I’ve begun pulling books off my shelves to read. I also already ordered Emil and the Detectives from the library, as it won the vote for the readalong title. (If you’re thinking of joining in, you may want to start looking for it now, as it doesn’t seem to be as readily available as some of the other titles–I had to order it from outside my library system.) Truth to tell, I will probably start reading for the event in March, and continue into May!

Speaking of non-challenge Spring Events, Richard at Caravana de recuerdos is hosting, now through May 15 or so, a Mexican reading event. The only requirement is to read a (fiction) book by a Mexican author or a (nonfiction) book about Mexico. My impulse is to join in, but I honestly don’t know what I would read just now or when I will have time to add another book to the pile. (See above about too many books started…) Still tempted though, and I did vow to read more in translation this year.

As far as the challenges I joined at the start of the year, it’s been slow-going (see above about being all over the place), but I feel I’m making progress. I’ve finished a Shakespeare play and watched a BBC adaptation of it, so that will be one down for the Bardathon challenge, and, if I choose, it could double for one of the Back to the Classics titles. (I haven’t decided yet if I’ll count it for that.) I’m also working on a couple titles that will count for both my Ohio reading projects and Back to the Classics plus there’s another Shakespeare play sitting next to me, and of course the Children’s Classics may count for some titles as well. And The Sound and the Fury could be the 20th Century classic. Phew. No wonder I’m all over the place with my reading – too many good options.

So how’s Februry been treating you and your reading? Better than me, I hope!