Monday, February 21, 2011


[For whatever reason, I first posted this May 8, 2010 on my Stories I Don't Remember blog. Today I decided that I definitely want this as part of First Paragraphs.]

Loving the paperback cover:

Two striking and memorable passages, especially, resonate with me as I read Paula Butturini's book Keeping the Feast:

Violence, blood, depression, and death are, I know now, part of life. Today I recognize them, respect them, fight them, and try as much as I can to keep them at bay, but I no longer pretend that they are not as much a part of life as birth or joy or love or the laughter, comfort, and strength that grow out of a simple meal shared with family or close friends.
pg. 251

All of us cook, I think, in part to feed our daily hunger, but just as important, and perhaps more so, we cook and eat to feed our spirits, to keep us all in the same orbit of life. As the generations turn our family expands, the table and its simple pleasures--never just the food, but the food and the talk, the food and the laughter, the food and the tears, the jokes, the memories, the hopes--still hold us in place, well anchored in a safe harbor. There may very well be another depression or endless other troubles, big or small, lying in wait for us, but rather than freezing in fear about what may come, we try our best to live and enjoy the lives we've been served forth.
pg. 53-54
Keeping the Feast
Paula Butturini

I know that I grew up and lived much of my adult life with the knowledge (!) or hope (?) that being a child of God protects me from pain, trauma, violence, and sudden death. Huh! How does a rational human reconcile all the miseries and sufferings of life with that dumb belief? I'm here to tell you that one can, and one does.

Of course, life is so much more rational since I've adjusted my expectations to what God truly promises. Not that I am protected from life and others choices, but that he surrounds and protects and comforts and walks so very closely with me when life happens.

His perfect love casts out fear. Yet, daily I experience, wallow in, and chase away fears of the known and the unknown. The scars of childhood? My very human nature? The forces of darkness and evil?

What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
Psalms 53:6

Friday, February 18, 2011


Full-wrap photo compliments of Mark T. Mustian!

I awake in a whispering ambulance.

Attendants huddle, a gloved finger withdrawn.

Memory makes its way back: the crush of the headache, the darkness. I am cold now. My face is numb.

"Can you hear me?"


"What is your name?"

Speech half forms. In English? At length, "Em... Em... Emmett Conn."

"Where do you live?"

I think. "Twenty-three fifteen Wisteria Court. Wadesboro, Georgia." The words flow faster.

"When were you born?"

I pause, for I do not truly know. "The year 1898." This is what I have said, for many years now. "I am ninety-two years old."

* * *

Time. Time has moved on since the tumor's arrival, spring into summer, blooms into green. I view the drive home from the hospital with new eyes, noting the shapeliness of the trees gracing Miller Street, the shuck and dive of a pair of cardinals, the stare of a wrinkled old man. Roses, Wadesboro's pride, burst from planters and gardens, in reds and purples, oranges and pinks. The last of spent pollen yellow lips around puddles. A train murmurs in the distance, its whistle low like a wind. Life continues, with or without me. I touch my head where the metal frame had been fastened. I am still here. I am still a part of it.
p. 61
The Gendarme
Mark T. Mustian

A remembering, a reflection on the early 20th century--the Armenian genocide by the Turks. I'd known nothing about this sad history. Beautifully written; tragically recalled.

A review.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


I just have to interject a non-review entry...

Sometimes I don't really get the full impact of a book until I begin posting it on this blog. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the talent and abilities of an author. I don't do much creative writing on this blog--mostly I copy direct quotes from the source or author's blogs or from an NPR interview or magazine-newspaper reviewer. But, I get a real rush anyway. I love marking a definitive read. A book that has interested or inspired me to a level that I feel it's worth noting here.

Sometimes I go for months without finding a notable read. I maybe read some okay or good books, but none that inspire me to commit them to this record. Those times I feel like I've read most of the good books in the world and no one's writing any more. Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by the sheer quantity and quality of the books I'm discovering.

Reading is one of the greatest of God's gifts. Reading transports, interprets, encourages, shocks, instructs, frustrates, motivates, overwhelms... I love to read. I love to share my literary finds. Even if no one reads this blog, I benefit tremendously by committing my reading experiences to a record.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011


When David Pepin first dreamed of killing his wife, he didn't kill her himself. He dreamed convenient acts of God. At a picnic on the beach, a storm front moved in. David and Alice collected their chairs, blankets, and booze, and when the lightning flashed, David imagined his wife lit up, her skeleton distinctly visible as in a children's cartoon, Alice then collapsing into a smoking pile of ash....

He dreamed unconsciously and he dreamed sporadically. His fantasies simply welled up. If she called from work, he asked, "Did something happen?" If she was late coming home, he began to worry too soon. He began to dream according to her schedule....

... There could be no violence. But occasionally David became a Walter Mitty of murder. He dreamed his own agency. He did it. He shot Alice, he bludgeoned her, he suffocated her with a pillow. But these fantasies were truncated: they flashed in his mind, then he cut them off before the terminal moment because he never surprised her in time. He saw her recognize him as he came round the corner with knife, bat, or gun, felt her hand grip the arm that held the pillow over her face--and it was all too terrible to contemplate.

"Whale!" he screamed at her, because she was enormous. "Goddamn blue whale!" (She'd struggled mightily with depression but was now back on meds.)
Mr. Peanut
Adam Ross

Do people still classify art as post-modern? I do. This definitely fits into my understanding of post-modern fiction. The story itself is intriguing as it moves forward and backward and interlinks with Sam Shepherd's story (The Fugitive). A very weird read; intriguing, a bit wordy, well written for the most part. As I read this book I constantly puzzled over how the mind works and how Adam Ross's mind works, and felt sympathy for what must be the state of Adam Ross's mind. He writes a good book.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011


Once, we sat with a small candle between us on the tablecloth, drinks for our hands. After the salad, he asked if I wanted children...

He had a nice manner. He said he didn't know musicians that well, women or men, but he counted on his fingers female writers who'd had children. He actually couldn't think of any...

He was not. I believed him, a trumpet promise. Some Bach came into my fingers. Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor. The haunting Prelude. I had to sit on my hand.

That evening, our first date, we had a conversation about who would do what.

"With a woman who worked, it'd have to be fifty-fifty," he said. "Of course."

We didn't talk about that again until after William was born.

In Paul's gaze, it seemed I couldn't fail, as if the terrors I'd known so looming they'd strapped me in bed a few days a month, had been products of an overly active imagination. So, this is how it works, I thought. It turned out to be easier than I'd expected. When I talked about my childhood, his face took on an expression of pity, which also looked like reverence. Then he'd twirl in a dance step, with a confident air. I marveled at these shuffles and turns, as one would at the performance of a child not yours: watching happiness.

I became accustomed to myself in this new atmosphere. My opinions grew emphatic, my gestures expansive, my stumbling attempts at jokes more frequent. Who was to say this wasn't love?

I burrowed into his chest at night. He lost his hands in my hair and I could sleep.

Children were a star-wish.
My Hollywood a novel
Mona Simpson

Mona Simpson’s latest novel, My Hollywood—a compelling tale told by alternating narrators; a new mother living in Los Angeles and a middle-aged nanny from the Philippines—skillfully explores the complex relationships between parents, children, and caregiver.
Vanity Fair interview with Mona Simpson, August 25, 2010

If asked to describe this novel, I'd say it's somewhere between The Nanny Diaries and The Help, but much more smartly written. I'll read Mona Simpson's backlist.