a girl and her boy

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Tag Archives: reading

Reading the Stacks 2011

I have a lot of books. I always have. I’m an English teacher and an avid reader, so it makes sense. With all the moves the last few years, my shelves have been going through a lot of changes and I find myself for the first time with more books that I have not read on my shelves than vice versa. This is unsettling. The books call out to me at night when I’m sleeping, begging to be read. When I sit with one book, another flies off the shelf and lands in my lap and whines. I need to quell the voices and buckle down and read the volumes on the shelves that haven’t been cracked since considering their adoption at various bookstores.

So this year, along with blogging every day and knitting solely out of my stash, I issue the challenge of reading exclusively from my stacks all the unread or half-read books. I thought about writing a list, but that would be massive. Instead, I’ll write a list of ten books at a time to work through and as I cross books off, I’ll add more at the bottom.

The following list is comprised mainly of books I’m partway through already and just need to focus in on and finish. I have a bad habit of starting a new book while I’m already reading another and thus spread my attention too thin. I do that with knitting, too.

1. Savage Beauty:  The Life of Edna St. Vincent Millay. Nancy Milford. Current status:  104 of 509 pages.

I began reading this one in the fall and I pick it up from time to time and read a chapter. I’m really enjoying learning more about one of my favorite poets and fellow Mainer.

2. Look Homeward, Angel. Thomas Wolfe. Current status:  69 of 508 pages.

Wolfe is a great and vivid writer but his exposition is thick and takes a lot of effort to trudge through. That’s one of the reasons I’m stuck at under 100 pages.

3. Stress Less:  The new science that shows women how to rejuvenate the body and mind. Thea Singer. Current Status:  11 of 254 pages.

I went to the book talk at Brookline Booksmith when Thea Singer was there. When introducing her book, she said that the tag line was the publisher’s idea and not hers. She wanted it to be “stress is the new biological clock.” The publishers won. The book has good science and great common sense ideas on how to manage stress.

4. Sense and Sensibility. Jane Austen. Current status:  120 of 365 pages.

As I expected, I’m thoroughly enjoying S&S. Austen rocks.

5. Swann’s Way. Marcel Proust. Current status:  0 of 444 pages.

This has been on my to-read list and by my bed for long enough. Time to cross it off!

6. Heavy Words Lightly Thrown:  The Reason Behind the Rhyme. Chris Roberts.

Gabe and I have been taking turns reading chapters out of this book out loud. I’m hoping we can finish it up in the next week or two.

7. The Fountain Overflows. Rebecca West. Current status:  0 of 313 pages.

I bought this book a few months ago for a book club. The event was cancelled and I then put off reading the book. I’m still very intrigued by the summaries I’ve read and look forward to my own reaction to this classic book.

8. Wizard and Glass, volume Four of The Dark Tower. Stephen King. Current Status:  119 of 668.

King is a master writer. I love everything I’ve read by him so far and he inspires me as a writer and a reader.

9. Everything’s Eventual:  14 Dark Tales. Stephen King. Status:  0 of 459 pages.

It’s a King book. I can’t wait to crack it open!

10. Azumanga Daioh. Kiyohiko Azuma. Current status:  483 of 675 pages.

This is the entire manga series in one volume. I watched the anime version back in 2005 or 2006 and befriended the characters. Reading the story in manga form is like reminiscing with old friends. It’s been a great experience. Azumanga Daioh is a slice of life manga following a cast of five friends through their three years of high school.

Read the Stack 2011 - Stack 1

Stack 1

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What are you currently reading? What books are on your list to read right now?

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Book Notes

I’ve been working on quite a few books lately, as I’ve mentioned a few times in previous posts. Here are a few thoughts on what I’m reading.

The Waste Lands. Stephen King.

I think I read this book in three or four sittings. I began reading the Dark Tower last summer and find the progression of the plot and the development of the characters fascinating and inspiring. The Gunslinger, the first volume of this long novel, while I understood the role it played in setting up the novel, for King was inspired by Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, a single book in 3 volumes, it was a challenge at times to finish. The Drawing of the Three was better in that there was more plot action and characters to develop Roland, the protagonist. The work of these previous two volumes came clear in The Waste Lands. The Waste Lands has catapulted the action to a higher level and though I was appreciative of the The Dark Tower before, I am now truly hooked.

Look Homeward, Angel. Thomas Wolfe. Page 75 of 544.

I grew up with a hardcover library cast off volume named The Face of a Nation:  Poetical passages from the writings of Thomas Wolfe (1939). I read it under the sheets of my bed with a flashlight, enchanted by the language. I even wrote a few poems inspired by his themes and rich diction. I’ve always wanted to read one of his novels since reading those passages.

And now, I’m reading Look Homeward, Angel, a reading experience I’ve looked forward to for years, and I’m stuck on page 75. His language is rich, but at over 500 pages, it’ll take me a while to sift through each paragraph to uncover all the layers in each sentence.

It seems as though Wolfe is adept at describing things and moods better than people’s inner landscapes. At close to one-fifth through the novel, and halfway through part 1, I don’t really know the character’s very well. Maybe this will change as I journey further into the work.

However, that said, I *do* like this book. A lot. I am pretty sure Heinlein got the title of his book, Stranger in a Strange Land, from Wolfe. And it wouldn’t surprise me if the creators of Family Guy read Look Homeward, Angel, and were inspired by Eugene Gant, the protagonist, as a baby for the character of Stewie:

He wondered savagely how they would feel if they knew what he really thought:  at other times he had to laugh at them and at their whole preposterous comedy of errors as they pranced around for his amusement, waggled their heads at him, tickled him roughly, making him squeal violently against his will. The situation was at once profoundly annoying and comic:  as he sat in the middle of the floor and watched them enter, seeing the face of each transformed by a foolish leer, and hearing their voices become absurd and sentimental whenever they addressed hi, speaking to him words which he did not yet understand, but which he saw they were mangling in the preposterous hope of rendering intelligible that which has been previously mutilated, he had to laugh at the fools, in spite of his vexation.

I’ll finish it, but I need to take a break from it.

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So that’s where I’m at. I’m also nibbling on Savage Beauty and Pride and Prejudice. I’ll write on those ones probably next week.

Happy reading!

 

P. S. Don’t forget Michelle’s give away! Today is the last day to enter.

It's a snow day.

Public Garden, Boston. Photo by Sally Chen. From Boston.com’s Facebook album.

We got about 18″ here in Boston so far, and the snow will continue until late tonight. Perfect day to snuggle in under the red fleece blanket I bought freshman year of college and sip on coffee and finish reading The Waste Lands by Stephen King. Gabe’s gone in to the office for a few “freebie” hours.

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Book Notes

With all this time on my hands, I’ve done a lot of reading and book collecting lately. I’ve made some progress on my cryptozoological adaptations of classics, but not enough to really get going on that project. This post is entirely dedicated to my reading adventures of the last two months. These are not formal reviews, just a few notes, thoughts, and comments.

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Dreaming in Color.

I ❤ Autumn.

I’ve knit four feet on Gabe’s scarf. The colors are intoxicating. Why don’t we weave more color into our lives? Live in full color instead of monochrome? I have a lot of existential questions on my mind. That’s what happens in the fall when the leaves start swirling around my feet. The crisp cool air and the increase of orange in the landscape leads my mind back to the search for knowledge.

This urge to dig into books and steep meaning from the pages has me melancholy. A teaching position just doesn’t seem to be working out, again, this year. Lots of reasons:  the economy is still tough, saturated market, etc. But that doesn’t make being sidelined another year any easier to swallow. So, instead of stewing in my misery and getting depressed, I’m getting mentally active.

I started taking a serious look at grad school again. I have no idea which program(s) I’ll apply to, but I’m looking. I would *love* to do an English lit program. Special Education would be worthwhile, too. But, I always wanted to go all the way with English literature. When I started my Bachelor’s program, I saw myself going all the way to a PhD with it. My roommate at the time, who was also an English major, but later dropped out for a radiology program, always a very practical person, asked me, “So, what are you going to do with it?” I never had a good answer. But I do now:  to enrich my life and my inner world. To give voice to and unleash the insatiable thirst for knowledge that I’ve always had. So I’m looking at schools.

In the meantime, I’m still reading for my blog project of pairing the cryptozoological adaptations with the classic novels. I’m knitting. I’m tidying and organizing the apartment with Gabe’s tireless and cheerful help. I run and plan for road races. And I dream.

That’s what I’ve been doing the most lately. Dreaming. And it’s been wonderful.

I can smell autumn. Can you?

The salty air is weighty; heavy enough to keep this wandering spirit in once place and not feel trapped. The old promise of travel and adventure offered by the waves keeps this fiery spirit satiated. I fell in love with the saline-imbued air when I first moved to Salem a year ago and I’m in even deeper now that I can see the waves from my new vantage on the roof deck while knitting one stitch at a time. I’ve had ample time to knit up here lately as I’ve been home from work for a little over a week now. I once thought I’d love to be a home maker and have no responsibilities other than running the dishwasher, making tasty treats and ironing the laundry, but now that I’ve been at it for a week, I am chomping at the bit to get back. But it’ll be some time before I get there.

Remember the few posts I had back around March about health problems? Well, they never went away, and in fact, have gotten worse. I am now at home, “stepped away from the classroom” as I put it in an email to my curriculum coordinator, with a calendar full of appointments and reminders of things I have to do to get ready for them. But this isn’t what I want to write about.

There has not been a day that the breeze did not blow down here in the seaport. It took some time before I realized that this is just how it is. Despite living in Maine with a long history of marine trade, I was inland and isolated from the personal knowledge. The closest I got to ocean life was reading Elizabeth Oglivie and her novels about lobstermen and their strong wives, though she and I have done quite the opposite:  she was born in Boston and went to Maine. I was born in Maine and came to Boston. The breezes not only brings the smell of the ocean, but also of the autumn weather that is creeping up on us as the light ebbs at the outer edges of day; perfect weather for my woolens.

Oh, what shall you become, Mohair?

I pulled out my wool basket that had been sitting ignored since I moved here and spread everything out. I frogged old projects that lost the original charm and piled up stuff that I’d been carrying around that I never really liked to begin with. I grouped it all up according to weight and project type and saw the spectrum of possibility that has been dormant, waiting. Many knitters have done this with varying levels of success before me, but I’m going to give knitting only from my stash this fall and winter a go. The only exception I will make is picking up fiber for specific gifts in preparation for Yule if I don’t see something fitting in the stash.

Noro striped scarf for Gabe

While knitting on Gabe’s Noro striped scarf the last few days, I’ve been watching movies from my Netflix queue. I’d been carrying around “Cries and Whispers”, a 1972 film by Ingmar Bergman about three sisters who are brought together for the first time in ages because of the terminal illness of one of the sisters. I watched it three times back to back. I still don’t think I’ve processed it enough to give it an adequate review. It’s quietly disturbing in it’s portrayal of the relationship of these sisters. This is one of the many reasons I love Bergman. His work is like steeping a cup of tea: it takes time for the flavor to develop and is subtle.

Noro striped scarf

I’ve also been working my way through “I Know This Much is True” by Wally Lamb. People have recommended his work to me in the past but I didn’t actually crack one of his books open until I moved here. Now I can’t wait to finish this one so I can move on to the next. I love the people he populates the story with and how honest and real they are. He inspires me to write.

That’s all I’ve got for now. I hope all is well with you.

Bits and Pieces

cozied up at home

I feel like writing today. It’s been a while.

It’s a chilly, grey, rainy day here on the north shore and my thoughts have turned to warmth and comfort. I pulled out a sweater from the tub I hauled down to the basement a month ago, slipped into some jeans, wrapped a scarf around my neck and settled into a book first thing this morning. It has been a while since the house has been quiet like this for quiet reflection and reading. I sipped on coffee made with lowfat milk and honey in my new Emerson mug. Perfect.

the house I rented in Maine

new transitions

My thoughts drifted back to autumns and winters past, the little comforts for chill days, and how different my present is, and how much greater the difference will be in five weeks. I went from renting a house in rural Maine were I chopped and split and hauled my own fire wood to soon living in an apartment building in the up-and-coming part of Boston with amenities I never dreamed of having at my finger tips. Worlds apart.

the roof deck of my new home

In Maine, I had organic farms and farm stands a few streets away, chickens in my back yard that ate bugs off my herbs and vegetables, and fruit trees. I was blessed with an abundance of food that could easily be traced to its roots. Boston has Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and farmers’ markets, too, but it’s different. I’m not sure which I preferred. Maine was wonderful, but living in Boston where I will be commuting to gather groceries by means of public transit will be a new and interesting experience. Maintaining my organic, green, healthy lifestyle in 750 square foot apartment in Boston has given me a new focus for blog writing.

I look forward to the new experience of getting on the silver line and having time to think and observe while going to gather food. I look forward to the bustling farmers’ market full of new and wonderful things. And I look forward to a new opportunity to start fresh and make more adjustments in my diet for a healthier life. This whole experience will be new. And I look forward to the challenges and opportunities it presents.

reading

I curled up with The Eyre Affair, a novel on loan from my friend Jose. I’m working on zipping through so I can return it to him at his farewell party in two weeks. I inadvertently slammed the book when I last saw him at a gaming event by saying something to the effect of I’m in the middle of a bunch of books right now and haven’t had a chance to finish it yet to which he replied something to the effect of so there are a bunch of books you like better than this one. So I’m trying to make up for it by actually finishing the book and coming up with an honest review of it.

I’ve been in a book gathering mood of late and have picked up the first four books of The Dark Tower, of which I’m in the middle of book two, an annotated complete works of Milton, the Divine Comedy, and the new instant classics of Little Women and Werewolves as well as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I’ll never have enough books. I’m doomed to living in a book-lined home.

hand and home crafts

Nothing much going on with needle crafts such as cross-stitching or knitting. Per usual, I have a ton of UFOs sitting around that need some attention. The hexacomb cardigan has been set aside until I have an opportunity to fix some errors using EZ’s “no tears” method. The hexacomb pattern became a spiral when I was under the influence of Vicodin. I haven’t had the spirit to fix it since I discovered the error.

gaming and geekery

I picked up copies of Final Fantasy X and Final Fantasy XII this weekend. I look forward to settling in and playing them through this summer. I also picked up the first volume of some comics:  Lenore, The Wizard of Oz, and The Dark Tower. I cannot wait to purchase the whole of each.

That’s what I’m up to and some of what I’ve been thinking about. I hope all is well with you!

Much love. Black Sheep.

Accountability and a few Thank You's

Blogging, it seems, is mostly about keeping oneself accountable. When I wasn’t blogging, I felt no “obligation” or “motivation” to do the things I enjoy doing and then talking about, y’know, running, knitting, crafting, reading, adventuring; in other words:  being mindful and observant and engaged.

Since dusting off the blog I’ve already found myself perking up some and looking to my big pile of UFOs (for non-crafters/knitters, that means unfinished objects) and half-read books and reflecting on my recent shenanigans out and about in the greater Boston area. So much stuff to take note of and talk about! So much stuff to appreciate.

Speaking of accountability, there are some big things I’ve done that I’m very proud of that I’d like to share:  I’ve almost been in the north shore area for a year (it’s been a full year since I started visiting, July will be my 1-year anniversary of living here) and I’ve managed to keep afloat financially. When I moved down here, it was after leaving my teaching position in Maine and leaping into the dark hoping to land on something solid. Now, I don’t have a teaching position (yet), but I have been able to earn enough to keep my bills paid and pay off my minor medical debts from last spring. Granted, I have had help from friends along the way with small floating loans, but I did it. I did it!

Last spring when I was meditating and sending out my intentions and asking for help, I asked for a teaching position, but knowing it takes a while to get established, I also asked for just enough income to meet my needs and to be of service to others. Whelp, I certainly got what I asked for. My current position is all about service to some of the neediest students out there. And I’m making just enough to make ends meet and set some aside for future months. I’m feeling my teaching position just around the corner, too. This fall. C’mon, cosmos! Let’s make it happen!

I’m almost done getting my Massachusetts certification. I’ve paid off my non-student loan/car loan debt. Stayed current (mostly) on my bills. Built a solid social and professional network. All while having a helluvalot of fun at the same time!

I want to thank the people (not naming names, but you know who you are) who have helped along the way. I couldn’t have done it without you! Thank you for supporting me and encouraging me and giving me a stern talking to when needed.

Something to Think About

The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, from chapter 1:

As a writer, even as a child, long before what I wrote began to be published, I developed a sense that meaning itself was resident in the rhythms of words and sentences and paragraphs, a technique for withholding whatever it was I thought or believed behind an increasingly impenetrable polish. They way I write is who I am, or have become, yet this is a case in which I wish I had instead of words and their rhythms a cutting room, equipped with an Avid, a digital editing system on which I could touch a key and collapse the sequence of time, show you simultaneously all the frames of memory that come to me now, let you pick the takes, the marginally different expressions, the variant readings of the same lines. This is a case in which I need more than words to find the meaning. This is a case in which I need whatever it is I think or believe to be penetrable, if only for myself.

These words ring so true.

Thanks and Thanksgiving

Thank you for all the support and well-wishes! I truly appreciate the warm thoughts and community your comments provided.

In theme with the season and my present mood, here is a list of things I am grateful for (both serious and silly):

    • my 27 years of life experience
    • having a reliable car that I don’t have to pour money into
    • chocolate
    • tea! tea! tea!
    • baskets full of wool
    • not having to worry about where my next meal will come from
    • having a stable full time position
    • colorful marker pens
    • having a loving and supportive husband
    • having the best running buds (both in real life and pen pal)
    • the ability to run 3 miles and more
    • books that challenge my brain and make it hurt
    • the ability to write to express my thoughts and feelings effectively
    • a plethora of interesting knitting patterns
    • Ravelry
    • Knitty
    • a warm house to live in
    • a wood stove to feed 🙂
    • living close to work so my commute is short
    • a loving and supportive group of friends (online and IRL)
    • being a teacher with all the vacations and benefits that come with the job
    • my wonderful, zany, energetic, silly, forgetful, thoughtful students
    • my supportive colleagues
    • all my woolens
    • allergy medication
    • my positive and negative experiences that make me the strong and caring person I am
    • my health
    • my life

      What are you thankful for?