29 July 2014

Good buddy John wrote from the wonderful Willamette Valley

I find great pleasure in poetry.

Many people consider it a tease or worse, artsy. Billy Collins writes a couple of very satisfying poems about, "how we want to tie a poem to a chair and beat a confession out of it."

When there was no time for books, I turned to poetry. Huge rewards. Beauty, angst, love, name it, it is there.

Through odd circumstances I met Seamus Heaney. He was a wonderful man.

Truth, in a few words is what a poet can do.

Cummings helped me woo my wife, Neruda  has helped me and others with some tough moments. Poetry can be a joy or a mystery. It seems all art is art or not,  depending  on the consumer. I love what I love and do not worry much about critical response. Love, you
Your thoughts?
Write. Tell this little bit of the world.

19 July 2014

Tempted by Literature

Every once in awhile I get tempted to read something that's not a mystery. Non-fiction often works for me. Romance never has. Comedy is good. And there are times when I am tempted to read Literature. I guess I think I should read Literature once in awhile. After all, I'm an Educated person. On rare occasions, I am rewarded. More often I'm befuddled, disappointed, and/or bewildered.

Malie Meloy reviewed Evie Wyld's second novel, All the Birds, Singing in The New York Times. Somethings she wrote there tempted me to read Wyld's book. The review was better than the book.

It was sort of like a recipe that sounded good on paper, but in reality was a great disappointment.

I thought, based on the review, that the book was set on a small island off the coast of England. Turns out that much of the book is set in Australia. And I often couldn't tell where a particular scene was set. I thought the book was a biography of the main character, an independent woman who survived a particularly awful life. Well, it sort of was, but parts of the story were told in reverse chronological order. (There was one point at which three consecutive chapters were set in times earlier than their predecessors.) For someone like me who appreciates story telling, this was a disaster.

Somewhere in the confusing story, the main character did move from shearing sheep in Australia to raising sheep on a British isle. I have no clue about where in the story this happened. Wyld made a big deal out of the mysterious and deadly attacks on sheep by something. Was it brutal nature, delinquent teenagers, delusions, or something evil and ethereal? I never found out. The main character has horrific scars on her back, which she refers to several times. I have no clue about what happened to create them or what they meant to the main character.

Evie Wyld
I went back and read Meloy's review. She described things from the book that I can't remember. I guess I was just too befuddled, disappointed, and/or bewildered to catch on to the Literary illusions in Wyld's Literature. I did like the review better than the book, but it's only a little essay. I do like to read whole books. I do like to read books that effectively tell stories. I do like to read books where characters are introduced or who introduce themselves in whatever ways they are able to understand themselves. That didn't happen for me here. Maybe I was lured in by the photograph of the read-headed author.

Nothing explains to me why the reviews are all positive and why Wyld has won awards for her writing.

Have you read All the Birds, Singing by Evie Wyld? What did you think of it or what did you understand? Write. Tell this little bit of the world what you thought.

16 July 2014

Have I read this before?

One of the books I picked up at the Hospital Auxiliary book sale was Margaret Coel's Wife of Moon.

I have read several of Coel's mysteries set the fictional St. Francis mission in northern Wyoming. I began reading them about the time Tony Hillerman was writing less and Coel helped fill the void of a writer who created and maintained interesting characters, who brought beauty to a rather unwelcoming environment, and who told a good story. To me, it helped that many of Coel's characters were Arapahos on the Wind River Reservation and that she appreciated cultural differences. (It also helped that a friend of mine, who grew up on the res, could identify some of real life models for Coel's characters.)

The main recurring characters are a priest at the mission and an Arapaho woman who left the reservation for law school and returned to practice there. The barriers between the two make them "obvious" partners in solving crimes and protecting the innocent. In at least one novel, things swung perilously close to romance novel, but only one time.

At some point in reading the book, I wondered if I'd read it before. When I looked at the copyright date, I found the book was 10 years old.(It's old enough that you can download the book.) I didn't recall any scenes or plot twists, but I have read many of Coel's books. If I read it and wrote about it a decade ago, I'd have written about it in my first attempt at a blog about my reading. Years after we changed ISPs, our old one erased all our old web presence, so I can't go back and find out if I wrote about reading Wife of Moon.

Arapaho tipi
Never mind. This is a good story, well told. It's fictionally tied to a 1907 visit to Edward S. Curtis, the photographer famed for staging and photographing Native Americans before what he thought was their ultimate fate: dissolving into European culture. During a fictional reenactment, a chief's daughter, the wife of a white landowner is killed.
Wyoming by

The descendant of that land owner, a successful businessman and politician in 2004, is thinking about running for president. Is he part Arapaho? Did the land inherited by his grandfather from his Arapaho wife really belong to the tribe? Now the curator of an exhibit of Curtis' photos at the mission has disappeared. An Arapaho woman is murdered. An angry Jackson, Wyoming millionaire shows up threatening anyone he can corner. The Arapaho lawyer is trying to defend a client who has disappeared on a vision quest. The mission priest is trying to find out what is going on and protect his flock. Genealogy becomes important in answering questions. And are there really some of Curtis' glass negatives still around on the res?

Oh, and campaign staffers for the potential candidate appear to smooth over bumps in the PR campaign they're running.

It's a good story, well told.

Have you read Wife of Moon? What did you think of it? Write. Tell this little bit of the world what you think.

02 July 2014

Another old favorite

Paretsky and friend
Somewhere back in the ancient '80s, I first read a novel by Sara Paretsky. She made a big splash in the mystery writing world because her main character was an active, effective woman. Not that there hadn't been women detectives in fiction before. Think Nora Charles or Cherry Ames or Nancy Drew. But, Paretsky's V.I. Warshawski was neither the partner to a man nor a girl detective.

I found the character a wonderful contrast to the male/macho detectives I'd been reading. Plus, Warshawski lived in Chicago, not in New York or LA.

But Warshawski gradually evolved into the kind of hard charging, "damn the torpedoes," kind of macho detective that had persuaded me to stop reading most other mysteries (especially Sue Grafton's Kinsey Millhone).

I saw Paretsky's Breakdown on the bargain table at the bookstore. I hesitated. But the bargain was so good. I gave in and bought it. I'm glad I did.

Paretsky is still a very good story teller. Her characters are still recognizable and believable, even if there are references to vampires. Warshawski didn't do anything stupid, although she had a near death experience near the end of the story. Well, there has to be a climax. And the final scene in a television studio nearly earns an improbability award.

Nothing memorable here, but I'll live with it. It'll go on the pile for next spring's community used book sale.

Have you read Breakdown? Have you read other recent Paretsky novels? Write, and tell this little bit of the world what you thought of it/them.

01 July 2014

How old a favorite?

I first read a book by Walter Mosley when a newly elected President Clinton was photographed carrying a copy. How long ago was that? 1993? Holy cow! 21 years ago? Just 21 years? It's in that ambiguous time period that seems a lifetime ago, but a fairly recent lifetime. I had been teaching for 25 years by then. But where have the last 20 years gone?

While I have liked most of Mosley's books, my favorite is still Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned. I wrote about it in 2002 and reprinted that five years later.

At the community used book sale, I picked up a 2011 novel by Mosley, When the Thrill is Gone. It's another story about the life and world of Leonard McGill.

Following in the footsteps of many hard-boiled writers of hard-boiled detective novels, Mosley offers a tour of a very complicated and dangerous world. It's not quite the alternate universe of post-WWII Los Angeles that he used to write about, but it's very alternate to the my small town Minnesota world.

The characters are alternately attractive, repulsive, obvious, and enigmatic. The story moved along and never left me behind. I might well offer Mosley an improbability award, but there are too many parts of his world that I cannot evaluate. At times it was like reading science fiction.*

I liked reading When the Thrill is Gone. If I find another of Mosley's books at the used book sale or on the discount shelf, I will pick it up. (Right now, my problem is that I have five books stacked up on my bedside table, and one more I haven't written about yet -- another favorite from 20 years ago.)

*Rumor has it that Mosely has plans for a science fiction series to begin this year.

Have you read When the Thrill is Gone? Write. Tell this little bit of the world what you thought of it. Or write about anything you've read. I can always use new ideas. And so can you.