I Don’t Think We’ve Met Before

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It was a situation that called for small-talk. I was standing, chatting up two friends.

Someone approached the perimeter of our conversational group. I did a little demi-pivot that opened up the circle, an unspoken friendly gesture.

Hi! I’m {          }.  Kind and casual demeanor.

I smiled back. Hi! I’m Carol Bakker.

Oh, you’re Carol Bakker!

I grinned, nodded, and tossed off a mini-shrug of my shoulders. Yep, that’s me!

I don’t think we’ve met before.

I leaned in and laughed a conspiratorial snicker. Yes, we have. A few years ago you performed a colonoscopy on me!

 

 

There’s small town living for you, folks. We all had a hearty laugh!

 

 

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Sailing Alone Around the Room

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In my ideal life, I would keep poetry on my nightstand. In my perfect life, I would read it regularly. Sailing Alone Around the Room  had been ensconced there nine weeks;* when I ran out of renewals I started reading.

Humor, the deep-from-within-the-DNA-funny, permeates this poetry.

The first poem places a neighbor’s dog in a Beethoven symphony,
while the other musicians listen in respectful 
silence to the famous barking dog solo, 
that endless coda that first established
Beethoven as an innovative genius.

The poems centered around music (and their abundance) delighted me.

I swooned reading Sunday Morning with the Sensational Nightingales that spoke of the power of gospel music on the radio to create a minor ascension. I’ve been in the car, I’ve been transported. I could hear the overtones; I became a church lady with a floppy hat and matching pumps calling out, “Yes!”

I was pleased to learn a new form of poetry (I won’t mention the name); I did a search to read more. Then I roared with laughter. The joke’s on me — this is a parody! It was a small consolation that book reviewers and other poets also missed the satire.

Another tickle, this in a title:
Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty,
I Pause to Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles

Collins always surprises me. He twists words, insisting I see life from a changed perspective.

* How it got there: reading Amor Towles’ Rules of Civility  made me curious to see Walker Evan’s photography. In my library’s poetry section was Something Permanent, Evan’s photography paired with Cynthia Rylant’s poems. While my fingers trailed the bindings, I saw Billy Collins. Like ice cream, there’s always room for Billy Collins.

The title reminds me that I still have Joshua Slocum’s 1900 book, Sailing Alone Around the World, on my To Be Read shelf. And also William F. Buckley’s sailing books. Also unread.

The Blue Castle

DSC_7838My first response to The Blue Castle was to draw back from the despair. Lucy Maud! How can you? Because, you see, Anne, the Green Gables girl, had a tough beginning in life and Emily, the New Moon girl, was hurt by horrible aunts and uncles; *but* both Anne and Emily knew she was cherished by her late mother and father.

Valancy Stirling has a mother—alive and kicking—who is overbearing, suffocating, domineering, disrespectful, and mean. We meet Valancy on her 29th birthday, shamed and teased because she hasn’t married. Life has no flavor, living is a grim prospect.

All her life she had been afraid of something…
Afraid of her mother’s sulky fits—
afraid of offending Uncle Benjamin—
afraid of becoming a target for Aunt Wellington’s contempt—
afraid of Aunt Isabel’s biting comments—
afraid of Uncle James’ disapproval—
afraid of offending the whole clan’s opinions and prejudices—
afraid of not keeping up appearances—
afraid to say what she really thought of anything—
afraid of poverty in her old age.

Valancy escapes her horrid little life by fantasizing about living in a Blue Castle in Spain, where beauty adorns her, women admire her and men adore her.

Valance becomes aware of a piece of information, a secret from the family; she throws off her bondage and inhibitions and forthwith says and does what she desires. Her family is shocked—shocked!—and thinks Valancy might suffer from mental illness.

BlueCastleThe plot takes some twists and turns, and Valancy ends up living her life of paradise on an island on a lake. L.M. Montgomery includes her hallmark descriptions of the seasons.

They went for long tramps through the exquisite reticence of winter woods and the silver jungles of frosted trees, and found loveliness everywhere.

I am torn by this book. I can’t help but holler hallelujah! when she leaves her loveless family. Happy Independence Day! The happiness she finds is, however, very private, very insular. I doubt that life can be so fulfilling when lived without community. I’m not a fan of what Valancy says about living life to please herself…whoo, boy, that’s a recipe for misery. But I love the compassion she shows to a single mother shunned by society.

I laughed aloud at the imitation swearing comment. A reference that made me snort but will only be caught by those who know old hymns. Maud surely knows how to make fun.

…had her moles removed by electrolysis—which Aunt Mildred thought was a wicked evasion of the puposes of God.

“There are things worse than death,” said Uncle James, believing that it was the first time in the world that such statement had been made.

Valancy lived with me for many days after I finished the book, a sign of a good read.

Winter Watch

I’m a fan of cozy mysteries. Miss Marple, Brother Cadfael, Mma Ramotswe, Alan Grant, and Flavia de Luce are guaranteed to bring pleasure. Especially if they are read with a steaming pot of tea while sitting on a leather couch with a fire snapping close by.

In Winter Watch, Anita Klumpers has written what I call a cozy-eccentric book. Barley, Wisconsin, is a isolated northern burg where the Justice of the Peace is also the dog catcher and where a few crazies reside. Bernice, a miscreant referred to as the resident killer, is the battiest of them all. After a family member dies, Bernice gets meals and kindness and concerns. And wouldn’t you know, she likes the perks of grief. More relatives mysteriously die. Sympathy can be mighty addicting.

Like Alexander McCall Smith, Klumper weaves humor into the warp and woof of her prose. Blizzards are snowstorms with enthusiasm. A woman was proud to give her son a Biblical name—Tubal—until the nurse told her it sounded like a female medical procedure.

DSC_7902There is comfort—I like a woman who knows her way around an egg—and a passage about joy that is flat out lyrical.

Joy arrived unbidden and unpredicted to pour from heart to fingertips to toes. She held her breath, everytime, to preserve and examine it but it forever danced just out of her grasp and slipped away. Claudia stayed still, focusing, her heart ready to burst. At the last crucial second joy seeped through cracks and crevices of her being until her every extremity and pore rejoiced before the evaporation worked backwards and she sat in the afterglow.

The focal point of the narrative centers on an old watch. The prologue and epilogue added more layers of history regarding the watch. The story line had me eagerly turning the page, and a bit annoyed with life’s beckoning demands when I needed to put the book down.

In short, this is a satisfying and entertaining read.