Monday, April 25, 2011

Lord of MisruleLord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jaimy Gordon is right up there on my list of incredible living authors--and a Michigan one at that--John Irving, Jon Clinch, Arthur Phillips and Alice Hoffman to name a few others who put words together in such moving ways that I feel as though I am in the same room with breathing their air, smelling, hearing and tasting their world. On top of that they are all master storytellers.

Some of my favorite passages:

"The Mahdi even pranced, in all his big red cheer, wearing his burnished chest like a Torah breastplate. Mr. Boll Weevil went more stylishly, his mane braided and knotted and his feet prettily oiled, for he had a groom of the old school. The others? They were shufflers with their heads hanging down like plough animals, or tremblers, or rearers, their scared penises battened out of sight in purses of loose gray skin, underbellies awash in yellow foam."

"He tried not to hold it against the frizzly girl that his friend Two-Tie had used her to help him out this life. After all, when Two-Tie disappeared for good, he had Medicine Ed's markers in his pocket. Now she showed up at the Mound sometimes on a Sadday night and looked down on him and Pelter in the walking ring. He could recognize Two-Tie in them fuzzy tilted-up eyebrows, and all he can see is Mr. Two Tie lying on his face in a railroad culvert somewhere or under a heap of stones in the deep woods, or sliding down a mountainside with the tin cans and old stoves and deer parts that people dump over the side of the road. Might could be they never find him, and all Medicine Ed can think is, she don't even know he died for her sake or who he was. It's a tie in the blood, and yet still its no remembrance, no one to mourn or either grieve for him."

It's about family. What family is traditional any more? It's about passion. Is life worth living without it?  It's about the downtrodden. Aren't we all downtrodden in some way?

Just can't say enough good things about Lord of Misrule except read it!

View my other Goodreads reviews

"Signs of Life" --A Book Review

Many things drew me to Natalie Taylor's debut novel, "Signs of Life." First of all Taylor grew up in a Detroit suburb next to where I have lived and raised my family. I know the places she talks about. But more than that, her voice is honest, spunky and heart-wrenching. Her story is real and speaks to some of our deepest human fears--losing a loved one and surviving alone. My only complaint, if you can call it that, is that her loss is so large her sadness takes up a huge portion of the story.

It is a memoir about the sixteen months after her 27 year old husband dies in a skate boarding accident. She was 8 months pregnant at the time of the tragedy and her world comes to a devastating halt. I soon learned that everything Taylor does she does with her entire being. She loves her husband, her job as a high school English teacher, her family and her baby with so much passion that of course her loss is overwhelming. She goes into wonderful detail about special times in her life with Josh, her husband. She sections each chapter with passages from books she is teaching her students. Macbeth, Metamorphosis, No Exit and Catcher in The Rye are just a few of the challenging titles that her students delight in because Taylor's sincere love for literature is so contagious. That they are very lucky children to have Taylor as their teacher is constantly evident.

It takes a very long time but Taylor does get through those sixteen months, though. Her tenacity and her passion saves her as she pours what is left of it into a triathlon...something she is not prepared to do but trains for at the urging of her sister. I got the sense that this achievement--finishing the grueling race--is a beacon that will shine on the rest of Taylor's life. That she will survive and perhaps even love again.

Signs of Life is an easy read and one that is difficult to put away. I would recommend it not just to new mothers but to anyone who has lost a loved one and is having trouble recovering. I would also recommend it to anyone who wants to know how to love with passion. Just be forewarned...this kind of love is beautifully rewarding but can also be terribly devastating.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Out Damned Snow! Out I say!

Enough already with this Winter...its oppressive grey skies and miserable temperatures and teasing promises of spring.

The dogs love it--I hate it. Even if it melts by afternoon
I want nothing of it when a week ago the 82 degree day
encouraged the quince and forsythia blossoms
that now shiver under caps of snow--caps that do nothing to preserve warmth.

Ach! The only good from it is I am motivated to write...but the view. Ach!

Even my orchids are shivering!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Symphonies On the Sand

One Blade's Delicate Touch
Windy Waves
When I was very young--probably four and a half--my mother went to the hospital to deliver my sister. It was early July and, as my parents already had three children, I and my siblings were dispersed among the relatives. I stayed with my father's sister's family about twenty minutes from home. They had a girl two years older than me which seemed then like a decade instead of a couple dozen months. Suffice it to say I was never comfortable in that household. Even less so when a tornado was predicted during my stay. My mother, I was certain, would perish in these winds. Would be taken from me not for just a few days but forever. I envisioned her being swept up into the roiling black sky like Dorothy's house and all her belongings. My mother did not and she and my new sister arrived home safely and I should have recovered from this trauma.
I did not.

Stipples and Grooves
My next encounter with high winds was during a family camping trip. They tore through the state park as we were trying to set up the huge tent that would house us all--now numbering nine. It was an impossible task and after enduring my father's rantings, curses and fits of rage we gathered back into the station wagon and spent the night in a hotel room. Another trauma indelibly etched into my soul.

Feather Strokes
Early into our marriage my husband and I opened our flower business. Two years later, when success seemed ensured, we took the plunge and a large loan to move to a larger space. We hired an architect (big money for us) to design the style of the exterior. He didn't change much except the colors and beautiful new awnings with our business name proudly displayed on them. Two months later a storm blew through town. Tornadoes touched down in several places but spared the downtown. The winds however were not so kind. They ripped our beautiful new awnings to strips of pathetic canvas; wrenched the metal frames as though they were the bones of bird wings.

Contemporary Improv
Southwest Florida is often besieged by high winds off the Gulf of Mexico and this morning was one of those times. Walking the beach brought to the surface all these events that still simmer at the bottom of my soul and cause my heart to pound. I want to fight back. I want to fight back in a way as huge as the waves that roiled into shore but I have no idea what it is that raises my hackles. The wind and the waves get more intense and I get more uptight.

Then I get to the turn in my walk and look down. There on the sand are tiny patterns made by the wispy blades of saw grass that protect the beaches from the winds. You wouldn't think flora so delicate could protect an entire dune but they do because there are so many of them. Some blades stand erect, others are broken and bent and then there are the ones that have lost their utility but even in their withering are gracefully curled. All of them make these patterns in different ways...feathers, staccato pecks and sweeping swirls.

Mixed Media
All of this to remind me that it is the details, the small notes that dance to the spirit of the wind, that really matter.

Monday, April 4, 2011

On Being Free

Shells on trees

There is something energizing about unencumbered places. Not just wide open plains but cozy rooms and tropical havens. To be free enough to explore my mind and my soul for explanations about why things are what they are. To be free enough to not care. To be free enough to create joy from the moment. To be free enough to leave that moment. To not be hung up there like shells on a tree.
It is where I am this morning. 

How did they get there?

Friday, April 1, 2011

Ghost Crabs Made Me Laugh

These guys, which I had not seen in person until early this morning, are a hoot. They are the color of sand so, unless you get very close, they are difficult to see. Not small--the size of my hand maybe--they scurry along the sand at jet-propelled speeds--sideways never losing sight of me with their periscopic eyes.

Now I know that the little holes in the beach are not from children digging with sticks. They are the homes of these silly crustaceans. A strong storm blew across Florida last night and must have swamped the burrows because at 7 this morning they were all digging their ways out. Many of them could not resist the temptation to munch on whatever food blew up on shore along with starfish, seashells, seaweed and stones. They are very wary and most of them had returned to their freshly refurbished burrows by the time I retraced my steps back to the road. Many more beach walkers by then. What had puzzled me was how these guys ever made it in and out of their burrows. They weren't more than 2" across and the crabs are at least 4".

They go sideways! I love it.