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The Life I Read is the literary blog of K Cummings Pipes, featuring my reading list with mini- reviews and whatever else is on my mind:  literature, poetry, women writers, theology, memoirs and musings.  Only my reader's journal is mirrored on this site.

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Sunday, November 7, 2010

What I'm Reading

Politics, politics, too much politics.  Now that the election is over I intend to take a hiatus from politics.  "...a pox on both your houses" unfortunately puts a pox on my house, too.

I've started preparation for the annual Medicare Part D (prescription drugs) assault.  I've got to do it for my parents and it's a ministry to offer my help to the Keenagers at church.  2011 plan data is now available at the Medicare Plan Finder . Enrollment in 2011 plans is from November 15, 2010 to December 31, 2010.

The last month has seen lots of time devoted to wind energy information and contracts and letter from our attorney... Daddy signed the contract on Monday so now we wait and hope to reap the wind.

Home repair/maintenance considerations.  I'm  thinking of replacing my dishwasher before it breaks (it's old enough to be near the end of its expected life span) because I seriously covet a Bosch dishwasher with its leak guard and enclosed heating element.  This unthrifty fit was brought on by what I thought was a leaking dishwasher but what proved to be a leak in the 53-year old plumbing behind the wall.  I love my 1957 ranch but...  While I've got a handyman here to replace that small piece of pipe, he's going to repair the minor water damage, reinforce the cabinet base, and replace the kick board.  When all that's done and my kitchen is back in good working order, I really don't want to have to deal with another water-leaking dishwasher, so I'm trying to convince myself that it's really an sound economic decision to get the thing I want to get now. 

It's not only the autumn season,  it's catalog season.  Every day brings a half dozen catalogs, slick glitterings to tickle my materialism.  I just can't resist browsing through them although I'm such a procrastinator that I really don't indulge in actual buying very often.  I always think I'm going to find perfect gifts for everyone on my list without having to go out into the crowded malls.  It's so much fun when UPS brings stuff to me.

An American ChildhoodIn my Annie Dillard Reader I'm enjoying large selections from An American Childhood.  Kindle I'm fascinated by comparing her growing up as a town kid in a northeastern city (Pittsburgh) and my own American childhood on a farm in West Texas.  My days were filled with many more chores than hers but we each had ample time to think during our days and nights.  Like me, she had an entertaining mother.  Her mother told jokes; mine sang and danced around the kitchen, and read and recited poetry.  Like me, she was pretty much allowed to choose her own reading and to pursue her own interests with minimal parental supervision.  Libraries and baseball are common to both of us.

Wright, N.T.: Surprised by Hope.  Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, previously blogged, continues to surprise me.  I'm surprised at how easy it is to highlight on my Kindle and retrieve references and I'm surprised by how very much I needed to rethink.  2413 "Bodily resurrection is not just one odd bit of that hope.  It is the element that gives shape and meaning to the rest of the story we tell about God's ultimate purposes."  2855 "As with God's kingdom, so with its opposite, it is on earth that things matter..."  2996 "...heaven and hell are not, so to speak, what the whole game is about.  This is one of the central surprises in the Christian hope....  The New Testament, true to its Old Testament roots, regularly insists that the major, central, framing question is that of God's purpose of rescue and recreation of the whole world, the entire cosmos."  Wow!  anyone with any interest at all in matters eternal needs to read this book.  I'll have to buy hard copy to share with DMP because he absolutely refuses to even try to read my Kindle.

Chiffolo, Anthony F. & Hesse, Rayner W. Jr.:  We Thank You God, for These.  Blessings and Prayers for Family Pets.  New York:  Paulist Press, 2003.  Illustrated by Andrew Lattimore.  I got this book back down from the shelf to search for a quote for a sympathy note when a dear friend lost her beloved pet and have been enjoying it.  I love to read the dog quotes aloud to Miss Mandy Whitepaws.

The Literary Guide to the BibleThe Art Of Biblical PoetryAlter, Robert: The Book of Psalms. A translation with commentary. New York:  W.W. Norton & Company, 2007.  DMP gave me this book for Christmas and it was forgotten and buried in my stack.  In fact, I had already put it back on my want list before I found it.  Christmas all over again.  [The image at left is a clickable link where Amazon will let you look inside and browse this book.  I sampled this book on my Kindle and read the introduction there before I put the book itself on my list.  For reading the psalms, I found this one of those rare instances where the Kindle just didn't work.] This is my current bedside book.  I read a couple or three psalms each night before sleep.  Robert Alter, Professor of Hebrew and Comparative Literature at U. Cal. Berkeley, is a formidable scholar from whom I have learned much having read both The Literary Guide to the Bible and The Art of Biblical Poetry.  Alter is enriching my understanding of the Psalms and expanding my Hebrew vocabulary.  His translation attempts to be readable poetry in English while maintaining much of the psalmic poetics.  I think he succeeded brilliantly.  Introduction xxix  "Biblical Hebrew is what linguists call a synthetic language, as opposed to analytic languages such as English."  In his introduction xxxi, Alter described his translation process from the Hebrew as  "emulating its rhythms... reproducing many of the effects of its flexible syntax, seeking equivalents for the combination of homespun directness and archaizing in the original, hewing to the lexical concreteness of the Hebrew, and making palpable the force of the parallelism that is at the heart of Hebrew poetry." 

While the introduction and commentary are excellent and of great interest to a scholar of the Psalms, the translation itself is wonderful devotional reading.  From the 4th Psalm, v 6-8: 

"Offer righteous sacrifices

and trust in the LORD.

Many say, "Who will show us good things?"

Lift up the light of Your face to us, LORD.

You have put joy in my heart

from the time their grain and their drink did abound.

In peace, all whole, let me lie down and sleep.

For you, LORD, alone, do set me down safely."

Alter's use of "lift up" in v. 6 as a "gesture of divine favor (as in Priestly Blessing)... common in biblical idiom" is one example of a better reading to be gleaned from his translation.  Most, perhaps all, other English translations say "let" which is a far weaker, less evocative phrase. 

Alter found the "syntactic link" of grain and drink in v. 8 "obscure." My knowledge of Hebrew is certainly not strong enough to enable me to comment on syntax but I suggest a connection to v. 6 "righteous sacrifice" since both grain and wine are offered in joyful harvest festivals and as individual sacrifices of thanksgiving.    As a Jewish scholar, Alter would not approve my Christianizing the Psalms but this translation recalls to me the Eucharistic moment when the host and the cup (grain and wine) are lifted up.  This book is full of such tidbits to keep me happily reading for a long, long time.

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12:30 pm pst

Friday, October 15, 2010

What I'm Reading...

When one is a reader much time is spent in collecting, maintaining, and getting rid of books.  These activities  reduce the time available for actual reading but books as a tactile experience have been a source of joy to me since...  well, since before I learned to read. 

A number of books from my collection were borrowed and used as decoration at a baby shower for my good friend Tricia. I took the opportunity to rearrange my collections.  All of my children's literature [except for the rabbit books and a few oversized books] has joined my Victorian author collection in the antique amoire in the living room.  I've also been adding archival covers to book jackets and decorative covers which somewhat diminishes that lovely tactile experience.

We bought the Eastlake piece while DMP was in the Army stationed in Maryland.  There were really super antique auctions and shops but unfortunately not a lot of money.  I planned to use it in our dining room as a china cabinet but it has spent 32 years in our living room holding our special (or sometimes merely decorative) books. At the same time I bought a similarly styled dresser intending it also for the dining room to hold my collection of table linens and function as a cocktail or beverage buffet. It lives in the guest bedroom/office.  I still have dining room dreams but DMP says that I might as well let go of the vision we saw in a lovely shop in the French Quarter of New Orleans.  I will never have a dining room to hold that beautiful table for 18 (the dealer said there were 2 additional leaves) with its three sterling silver candelabra. 

A girl can dream...

Oh well, if I spent that much time entertaining, there would be much less time for reading.

Having mined the water on our family farm, we are hoping to reap the wind

I've read and am continuing to read much about wind energy and wind farm contracts. is one good place to start.   As a family, we've decided to participate in a community wind farm and all of us are excited about the possibility of having an income source even after the water is gone.  My brother, along with his son, has been very helpful and is doing a super job of not only acquiring information and making contacts but of being point man for our family.  After much study and even more talk, we all agreed that it was a "win-wind." 

Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church

Wright, N.T.: Surprised by Hope.  Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, Harper-Collins, 2008.  This is the book selected for Sunday Bible study in the Open Door class which I'm reading in a digital edition  on Kindle.   My recommendation:  read it, read it, read it. Kindle location 1174  "There are, after all, different types of knowing.  Science studies the repeatable; history studies the unrepeatable....  History is full of unlikely things that happened once and once only." 1209 "Sometimes human beings--individuals or communities--are confronted with something that they must reject outright or that, if they accept it, will demand the remaking of their worldview."  1235 "The most important decisions we make in life are not made by post-Enlightenment, left-brain rationality alone."  1333 "All knowing is a gift from God, historical and scientific knowing no less than that of faith, hope, and love..."  1564 "Creation was from the beginning an act of love, of affirming the goodness of the other..."  1803 "What creation needs is neither abandonment nor evolution but rather redemption and renewal; and this is both promised and guaranteed by the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.  This is what the whole world is waiting for."   1831 "In our own day the problem is... flat literalism, on the one hand, facing modernist skepticism, on the other, with each feeding off the other."  1856 "Part of Christian belief is to find out what's true about Jesus and let that challenge our culture."  1896  "...if the ascension is true, then the whole project of human self-aggrandizement represented by eighteenth-century European and American thought is brought to heel."  1901 "At this point the Holy Spirit and the sacraments become enormously important since they are precisely the means by which Jesus is present."  2248 "...God's world, the world we call Heaven....  is different for ours (earth) but intersects with it in countless ways, not the least in the inner lives of Christian believers." 2397  "The ascension and appearing of Jesus constitute a radical challenge to the entire thought structure of the Enlightenment (and of course several other movements).  And since our present Western politics is very much the creation of the Enlightenment, we should think seriously about the ways in which, as thinking Christians, we can and should bring that challenge to bear."

Being informed and transformed by reading N.T. Wright, I am very happy with the Christmas card which DMP and I will send this year.  As usual I "preview" the readings for Advent and select Bible verses.  DMP and I select a card and choose a verse.  I love that our card this year will celebrate Jesus' coming to earth not only as the Babe of Bethlehem but as the Redeemer who will bring resurrection and a new heaven and a new earth.  From the 96th Psalm:  "Let the heavens be glad, Let the earth rejoice...  Then shall the trees of the forest sing for joy before the Lord, for He is coming."

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek (Harper Perrennial Modern Classics)I continue to nibble at my Annie Dillard reader.  Living like Weasels (1974)  is as nearly perfect as reading gets.   The short essay describes her encounter with a weasel and offers a meditation about choice and necessity.  It concludes:

"I think it would be well, and proper, and obedient, and pure to grasp your one necessity and not let it go, to dangle from it limp wherever it takes you.  Then, even death, where you're going no matter how you live, cannot you part.  Seize it and let it seize you aloft...  lightly, thoughtless, from any height at all, from as high as eagles."

SEASONS (a group of women meeting monthly to read and discuss theology): 

Christ the Lord: Out of Egypt: A NovelRice, Anne: Christ the Lord, Out of Egypt. New York:  Ballantine Books, 2005.  A competent retelling of the story richly embroidered with the senses (you can taste the bread, feel the water of the mikvah, smell the smoke of the sacrifice) and the creation of a very believable family dynamic.  I don't care much for this type of fiction and wouldn't have read it if not for SEASONS but I did enjoy and do recommend it.  I plan to donate Out of Egypt to the church library.

Long ago, I considered writing a book on the 1st Century, including the childhood of Jesus, the hidden life of Christ.  Rachel Crying for Her Children was my working title.  The project was put away and forgotten--I often find I satisfy my creative impulses by researching and planning without actually having to write a book.  Probably an indication that I'm better suited to be a librarian than a writer.  I much enjoyed revisiting this material and was pleased to  see in Rice's Author's Note and in the bibliographic materials on her website  many of the sources I had researched.  I will also take a look at a couple of titles which Rice recommended:  the translations of Richmond Lattimore and at John A. T. Robinson:  The Priority of John

                                                                                                            So many books, so little time...



Dillard Annie, Rice Anne, wind, Wright N. T.

11:40 am pdt

What I'm Reading... 25 September 2010

When I start a novel, any novel but especially a good one, I want to read it all the way through from start to finish with as few interruptions as possible, which is of course not at all possible most of the time.  Vacations are an exception.  Earlier this month while on vacation, I indulged in a fiction binge:

Lady Audley's SecretBraddon, Mary Elizabeth:  Lady Audley's Secret, Kindle downloaded from  Project Gutenberg.  Braddon (1857-1915) first published her "sensation" novel about bigamy in 1862 and it was a sensation of the popular sort, going through nine editions in the first year.  I was surprised at how much fun it was to read this book--a murder mystery with a bit of romance and family dysfunction.  The character of Robert Audley (the nephew/sleuth) and some of the book's tone remind me a bit of the much later comic novels of P. G. Wodehouse.  A quote re. Lady Audley's relationship with her adult step-daughter:  "There can be no reconciliation where there is no open warfare. There must be a battle, a brave boisterous battle, with pennants waving and cannon roaring, before there can be peaceful treaties and enthusiastic shaking of hands."    Another favorite:  "Sir Michael Audley made that mistake which is very commonly made by easy-going, well-to-do-observers, who have no occasion to look below the surface.  He mistook laziness for incapacity.  The thought because his nephew was idle, he must necessarily be stupid.  He concluded that if Robert did not distinguish himself, it was because he could not.

"He forgot the mute inglorious Miltons, who die voiceless and inarticulate for want of that dogged perseverance, that blind courage, which the poet must possess before he can find a publisher; he forgot the Cromwells, who see the noble vessels of the state floundering upon a sea of confusion ...  and who yet are powerless to get at the helm...  Surely it is a mistake to judge of what a man can do by that which he has done....  The game of life is something like the game of ecarte, and it may be that the very best cards are sometimes left in the pack."

The Essential Charlotte M. Yonge Collection (27 books)Yonge, Charlotte M.:  The Heir of RedclyffeKindle downloaded from Project Gutenberg, first published in 1853 and the best selling of Yonge's novels, "the most popular novel of the age."  Yonge (1823-1901) used profits from her  books for charity.  Her father told her upon the success of The Heir of Redclyffe "that a lady published for three reasons only: love of praise, love of money, or the wish to do good."  She is sometimes called the novelist of the Oxford Movement and was a life-long Anglican Sunday Schools teacher.   I read this book long ago, probably in imitation of  Jo March in Alcott's  Little Women.  I enjoyed reading it again.  Yonge is  a bit "preachy" even for my taste (despite my complete sympathy with her religious views and, as readers of this blog have undoubtedly noted, my predilection for all things theological) but dear Charlotte does go on and on and on and...  Perhaps that's one more thing I have in common with her.

I've started Wright, N.T.:  Surprised by Hope.  Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church, Harper-Collins, 2008.  This is the book selected for Sunday Bible study in the Open Door class which I'm reading in a digital edition  on Kindle and I'm hopelessly behind the class in my reading.  I'm greatly enjoying the DVD discussion by N.T. Wright and the discussion questions.   A few years ago I read this author's  The Last Word: Scripture and the Authority of God--Getting Beyond the Bible Wars (2006) and would put it on my short lists of books that made a significant difference in my world view because it finally made clear to me the questions asked by post-modernist thinkers. p. iv "Almost all Christian churches say something in the formularies about how important the Bible is.  Almost all of them have devised ways, some subtle, some less so, of ostentatiously highlighting some parts of the Bible and quietly setting aside other parts."  p. xi "How can what is mostly a narrative text be "authoritative"?  [How can we] "speak of the Bible being in some sense "authoritative" when the Bible itself declares that all authority belongs to the one true God, and that this is now embodied in Jesus himself."  p. 14 "My present point is that these older ways of thinking about the world have left their mark on the study of the Bible, on the way it has been taught... and that these ways of thinking have themselves become discredited in the mainstream culture."  p. 16 "integrity consists not of having no presuppositions but of being aware of what one's presuppositions are and of the obligation to listen to and interact with those who have different ones."  My copy of this book is very heavily highlighted and I recommend it with enthusiasm.  I'm hoping that I will be able to enjoy reading N.T. Wright as much on the Kindle with bookmark/highlight tabs as I did in print with my yellow highlighter in hand.

Teaching a Stone to Talk: Expeditions and Encounters I continue reading Annie Dillard (previously blogged) and greatly enjoyed revisiting Total Eclipse and An Expedition to the Pole from Teaching a Stone to Talk.  I found her short story The Living a bit odd and disturbing, as Dillard can be.  I'm reading a collection of her works on my Kindle.  Dillard is one of the finest nature writers I've encountered and I greatly enjoy her writing style and her powers of observation.  She makes unexpectedly connections and helps me see how intricately all of life is interwoven.  Interwoven--what a great name for the book I'll never write.

The Last Gift of Time: Life Beyond SixtyAnd as previously blogged  I'm reading through everything by Carlyn G. Heilbrun who will undoubtedly merit a blog dedicated solely to her one day.  I recently finished The Last Gift of Time. Life Beyond Sixty. This author gives voice to my thoughts and I know no other author (who did not live in the 19th Century) who mirrors by interior life and thoughts so well.  p.2  "...aging might be gain rather than loss, and... the impersonation of youth was unlikely to provide the second span of womanhood with meaning and purpose."   p.4 "Perhaps I am one of those who are born... blessed with the gift of eternal old age."  p. 35 "As Sartre said, not to choose is to have already chosen.  The major danger in one's sixties--so I came to feel--is to be trapped in one's body and one's habits, not to recognize those supposedly sedate years as the time to discover new choices and to act upon them."  p. 120 "What one remembers is, I think, a clue to what one wants to be."  p. 137 "To find unmet friends, one must be a reader, and not an infrequent one.... Reading--like those more frivolous lifelong pursuits, singing in tune, or diving, or roller-blading--is either an early acquired passion or not:  there is no in-between about it, no catching up in one's later years."   and p. 182 "Life seemed simpler because I was young and simple."  p. 150 quoting Samuel Johnson:  "the enduring elegance of female friendship." ...perfectly describes the relationship of a woman reader with a woman writer whose work she has encompassed, reread, and delighted in."  Thank you to my "unmet friends for that "enduring elegance:  Jane Austen, Evelyn Whitaker, Elizabeth Barret Browning, Grace Livingstone Hill, Beatrix Potter, Christina Rossetti,  Annie Dillard and, yes, Elaine Showalter and Carolyn G. Heilbrun.

I finished the second of the poetry books DMP gave me for Christmas last year.  Gluck, Louise: Averno.  New York:  Farrar, Straus and Giroux,  2006.  She is an excellent poet and I'll probably keep  this book on the shelf and may reread it in a year or two but it was much to dependent on the Persephone myth to be quite my cup of tea.  full text available at the floating library

I'll close this month's reading list with another quote from Carolyn G. Heilbrun (p. 182): 

"True sadness which is not nostalgia can, I have found, be dispelled by reading: by that same literature which seemed, in my youth, to hold both excitement, wisdom, and all I could discover of truth; and by today's newly perceptive books.  Lifelong readers continue to read, finding in books... the means to enjoy life or to endure it." 

Alcott Louisa May, Braddon Mary Elizabeth, Evelyn Whitaker Library, Heilbrun Carolyn G., Reading, Wright N. T., Yonge


11:39 am pdt

What I'm reading... 17 August 2010

In a recent post, I said that I don't read mysteries but anyone looking over my reading list would see that I do.   Previous posts have included books by

I  read mysteries if they have been recommended by someone who knows what I like to read (usually DMP) and I'll read a second by an author who appeals to my sense of humor or offers me a view into  history or who feeds me literary tidbits.  Since DMP must go to Murder by the Book, now celebrating their 30th anniversary, at least twice a month, I come across such books rather frequently.  I've indulged in a fiction binge of several mysteries:

Rituals of the SeasonMaron, Margaret:  Rituals of the Season. New York:  Warner, 2005.  This is one of the later books in the series which began with The Bootlegger's Daughter and DMP thought I'd enjoy the chapter heading quotations from Florence Hartley's The Ladies Book of Etiquette, 1873, which may be read on-line at the Open Library.  Two quotes:  "Many believe that politeness is but a mask worn in the world to conceal bad passions and impulses, and to make a show of possessing virtues not really existing in the heart; thus, that politeness is merely hypocrisy and dissimulation.  Do not believe this; be certain that those who profess such a doctrine are themselves practising the deceit they condemn so much...  True politeness is the language of a good heart."  "Among well-bred persons, every conversation is considered in a measure confidential...."    DMP's timing was great since I'd just read a Hartley quote in the Ph.D. thesis of Sonya Sawyer Fritz.  A bit of Maron's humor from p. 36:  "So what is the difference between a spinster and a old maid?" "Well, as Doris would've said if Herman hadn't stopped her, a spinster ain't never been married.  But an old maid ain't never been married ner nothing." DMP was correct; I did enjoy Maron's mystery and may have the chance  to read her again (I'll certainly scan her chapter headings) since he acquired most of the out-of-print earlier books by asking me to find them for him.  I used, one of my favorite sources, and was able to order from two vendors that I have used frequently:  owl books and

I'm planning to read and re-read the non-fiction books by one of my favorite authors, Carolyn G. Heilbrun, and thought that I'd start with three of the Kate Fansler mysteries which were first published under the pseudonym of Amanda Cross:

  • In the Last Analysis (Kate Fansler Mysteries)In the Last Analysis.  New York:  Fawcett Books, 1964.  "I didn't say I objected to Freud... I said I objected to what Joyce called freudful errors--all those nonsensical conclusions leaped to by people with no reticence and less mind." p. 1 "She had learned as a college teacher that if one simplified what one wished to say, one falsified it.  It was  possible only to say what one meant, as clearly as possible." p. 8  "...there's only one test for discovering what you really want:  it consists in what you have."  p. 159  "He probably thought I was writing a novel and he answered my question in the most long-winded and technical way possible.  But then doctors are always indulging either in incoherence or oversimplification--if you want my opinion, I don't think they even understand each other."  p. 209

  • Poetic Justice.  New York: Fawcett Books, 1970.  Filled with delicious W.H. Auden quotations and an excellent depiction of university life during my undergraduate years and some feminist issues.  "unready to die... but already at the stage when one starts to dislike the young."  p. 3  "I have nothing against young people--apart from the fact that they are arrogant, spoiled, discourteous, incapable of compromise, and unaware of the cost of everything they want to destroy....  I prefer those whom life has had time to season."  p. 41    Kate to Reed:  "You... are my greatest accomplishment.  I have achieved the apotheosis of womanhood.  To have earned a Ph.D., taught reasonably well, written books, traveled, been a friend and a lover--these are mere evasions of my appointed role in life:  to lead a man to the altar.  You are my sacrifice to the goddess of middle-class morality..." p. 107  "It may serve, in these frantic days of relevance, to remind you of the importance of the useless."  p. 110  "When formality went from life, meaning went too.  People always yowl about form without meaning, but what turns out to be impossible is meaning without form.  Which is why I'm a teacher of literature and keep ranting on about structure."  p. 133  "...'the only earthly joys are those we are free to choose--like solitude, your college, certain marriages.'  'And what about unearthly joys?' 'Ah, those, if we are fortunate, choose us.  Like grace.  Like talent.'" p. 135

  • The Theban Mysteries.  New York: Avon Books, 1971. Antigone, dodging the draft, and an  up-scale New York girls' school.  "No one pretends anything any more, which I suppose is a good thing, although I can't help sometimes feeling that the constant expression of emotion in itself becomes the cause of the emotion which is expressed."  p. 12  "What is troubling... is that he is rude, unwashed, inconsiderate, filled to the brim with slogans, and outrageously simplistic.  Alas, he also right."  p. 25   "Nothing ages more quickly than the absolutely up-to-date....  the latest in everything, age[s] like a woman who has had her face lifted:  there is not even character to set off the ravages of time." p. 27  "There is nothing so uncomfortable as seeing both sides of the question."  p. 89  "For myself, I've discovered that when I ask myself what I should do I always tumble into confusion.  The only clear question is to ask oneself what one wants to do.... It sounds like [self-indulgence] certainly, but oddly enough, it isn't.  The 'should' people are really indulging themselves by never finding out what they want.  It has taken me many years to learn that discovering what one wants if the true beginning of a spiritual journey."  p. 125

The Auden quotes in Poetic Justice are probably what inspired me to grab my well-worn Pocket Book of Modern Verse, edited by Oscar Williams, for bedside reading, all 628 pages.  I have a few favorites but, by and large, I am out of sympathy with Moderns:  "Terrence, this is stupid stuff..."  A.E. Houseman.  Found a smile and an apt description of the Parliament (Rice's NCAA Bulletin Board):  "...owls raving--Solemnities not easy to withstand... The owls trilled with tongues of nightingale.  These were all lies, though they matched the time..."   Robert Graves.  My final reading for this paperback with it's yellowed, brittle pages--some falling out--and it's broken spine. I kept it far longer than necessary for sentimental reasons:  Larry McMurtry taught my section of English 100 at Rice and this little book is where I met and got to know:  Auden, Thomas Hardy as a poet rather than a novelist, Houseman, Dylan Thomas, William Butler Yeats, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.  I'm considering a replacement. 

I'm finally returning Peterson, Eugene H.: A Long Obedience in the Same Direction. Discipleship in an Instant Society. 2nd edition. Downers Grover IL: Intervarsity Press, 2000, to my Psalms study shelf.  This a very rich book offering commentary on the Psalms of Ascent, Psalms 120-134.  Many quotes from this book will one day be added to my Psalms notes but this one is worthy of mention here:  "Those who parade the rhetoric of liberation but scorn the wisdom of service do not lead people into the glorious liberty of the children of God but into a cramped and covetous squalor."


Sum: Forty Tales from the Afterlives (Vintage)David Eagleman:   Sum: Forty tales from the Afterlives.  New York:  Vintage Books, 2009.  The author majored in British and American literature at Rice before  earning a Ph.D. in neuroscience.  A funny, thoughtful delight which is less about Afterlives than about our perceptions of life.  A couple of quotations:  "She was always leery of apostates, those who rejected the particulars of their religion in search of something that seemed more truthful.   She disliked them because they seemed the most likely to float a correct guess."  "...your memory has spent a lifetime manufacturing small myths to keep your life story consistent with who you thought you were.  You have committed to a coherent narrative, misremembering little details and decisions and sequences of events....  you are battered and bruised in the collisions between reminiscence and reality."

So many books; so little time.

Eagleman David, Hartley Florence, Heilbrun Carolyn G., Maron Margaret, mystery, Peterson Eugene, Poetry


11:36 am pdt

Decoupage - snips of my day 28 July 2010

I live in the heart of a sprawling city where "all is seared with trade; bleared, smeared with toil; And bears man's smudge and shares man's smell..." and yet sometimes I am surprised by great natural beauty.  The wild turning of a bayou, a kingfisher perched on a wire, flights of birds or butterflies that swirl like schools of fish in the sea, swooping martins, flowers, flowers everywhere.  "...nature is never spent; There lives the dearest freshness deep-down things..."  These two ideas play tug-of-war in my thoughts.  {The quotes are from my favorite poet Gerard Manley Hopkins whose words are as deeply etched in my heart and as voiced in my prayers as any scripture.}

Yesterday I went to the zoo with my sister-in-law, my neice and her young daughters.  When one goes to the zoo one expects to see animals, animals in cages--no matter how lovely the habitat of the cage may be.  My favorite animal was wild and uncaged--a young cotton-tail rabbit sitting behind a palm tree nibbling a tidbit from the plantings.  A "dearest freshness deep-down thing" reminds me that this city is an overlay on an ancient landscape.

After I got back home I rested by catching up on blog reading.  CFS in her blog Link to this blog wrote, "The other day I was driving home from work, on 290, going posted speeds with the rest of the Houston population, and do you want to know what I saw: a duck and her four baby ducks. That is right, there was a duck trying to cross 290 with her 4 babies!!! It was a disturbing picture for me. How on earth did that duck and her four babies get up on 290?"    I identify with the duck and wonder how such a fast-moving, dangerous thing as U.S. Highway 290 came to be on the peaceful Katy prairie, ancient home to migrating water birds.   "...all is seared with trade" and the prairie is being devoured by that sprawling city that is my home.

I think of my friend DTA and her pressing concern for the over-population of the earth.  I remember  petri dishes filled with nutrients and seeded with bacterial cultures.  How very much pictures of the earth from space--the spreading lights, the destruction of forest, the growing deserts, the Texas-sized gyre of litter in the Pacific, urban sprawl creeping across the big blue marble, "all... bears man's smudge and shares man's smell"--resemble those petri dishes with the bacterial colonies eating thier substrate until all is gone and there is nothing left but death.

Another friend, VFS, blogs   Link to this blog  about the Polyphemus moth in Annie Dillard's An American Childhood.  I don't need this reminder of a disturbing story that has long lived in my memory.  I remember my mother asking me to take a look at the "worms" that were eating one of her prize plants and finding a butterfly chrysalis and watching the process of a butterfly unfurl and take its first flight, a "dearest freshness deep-down thing."  I am in sore need of such comfort.

I love Annie Dillard who voices my tug-of-war and grows my spirit.  It's time to read her books again and I'm pleased to find that I can now add her books to my Kindle:  Pilgrim at Tinker Creek  American Childhood  The Writing Life  For the Time Being  Holy the Firm  Teaching a Stone to Talk  An Annie Dillard Reader The Maytrees  The Living

My blogging friends both work with issues of childhood, although in very different fields.  Their blogs resonate with each other, echo through my thoughts, disturb my rest.   How many children did I see at the zoo today who are Dillard's Polyphemus moth?  How many mothers and children are caught in a world that has changed and is moving much too fast?  How many of us are caged in spaces too small to spread our wings and fly?  We and all creation bear the curse of a by-gone Eden, "bleared, smeared with toil..."

I find it's easy to weep.

It's harder to hope.

I share the depression that often crippled the poet.

Yet, Hopkins concluded his poem:

"Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs--

Because the Holy Ghost over the bent

World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings."

Link: to Hopkins poem on the Victorian Web.

Dillard Annie, environmental, Hopkins, memoir


11:31 am pdt

It's a mystery...

When I was in the 4th Grade at South Plains School, J.B. Williams, became the principal and every two weeks (or maybe only once a month) he went by the public library in Floydada to check out a collection of books for his "country school" students.  I think the librarian selected them for him.  The books filled the large back seat of his car and the older boys carried then into the classrooms, sorted by grade levels.  My classroom had books for girls (Nancy Drew and stories about nurses) and books for boys (Hardy Boys and sports stories) and dog and horse books.  I usually managed to read all the girls' books, all the dog and horse books, and several of the boys' books before Mr. Williams brought the next bunch of books.

The Secret of the Old Clock (Nancy Drew, Book 1)The Nancy Drew books were the most coveted;  all the girls wanted to read Nancy Drew.  I sometimes spent recesses and lunch hours telling the slower readers the stories so that they would give their books to me, which probably undercut the purpose of Mr. Williams hauling all those books around.  I read the first 37 books of the series, mostly in the editions illustrated by Bill Gillies:  Link to see Nancy Drew dust jackets   The Nancy Drew mysteries are "formula" ficition.  Carolyn Keene was a name owned by the publisher and the books were actually written by several people.  The first books (perhaps the first 23 in the series) were written by Margaret Wirt Benson for $125 each.  Benson wrote other books, many of which I read.  Link: Mildred Wirt Benson

After I finished whichever Nancy Drew books were in the stack, I read all the dog stories by Albert Payson Terhune, the first author's name I learned because someone else wrote dog stories that I didn't like at all.  I remember looking carefully at two of the books and discovered that the author made a difference.  I also remember showing the books to Mr. Williams and telling him which ones to bring next time.  I was a bossy little girl.  Some would say I never outgrew it.  

I also loved the books by Mary O'Hara; My Friend Flicka is the most well known probably due to the TV series.  I liked the one about the white stallion Thunderhead and in fact searched that book out for my collection.  Green Grass of Wyoming and Wyoming Summer are other titles.

The nurse books were the Cherry Ames mysteries by Helen Wells and the Sue Barton series by Helen Dore Boylston.  When I declared my intention to be a nurse, my parents said I should become a doctor instead because I liked to be in charge.  See, I really was a bossy little girl.

As I grew I read and read...  Mysteries were a big part of what I read:  Victoria Holt (one of the pen names of Eleanor Hibbert)  and Mary Stewart and the canon of classic mystery writers:  Eric Ambler, John Buchan, Raymond Chandler, Agatha Christie, Graham Greene, Dashiell Hammett, Helen MacInnes, Dorothy Sayers, Rex Stout, Josephine Tey, and Erle Stanley Gardner who wrote the Perry Mason series that my Gran Cummings loved and DMP continually rereads.

I know a lot of people who read mysteries--who in fact still read the mysteries I read.  My husband, and at least 2 of my sisters-in-law and my mother-in-law...   One of sisters-in-law in fact writes mysteries.  Link to Dee's website.  Houston has a whole bookstore devoted to mysteries which I visit with DMP two or three times each and every month.   {Sigh!}

I, however, don't read mysteries.  Somewhere between ages of  25 and 30 years, I pretty much quit.  I stopped reading mysteries and formula romances around the same time.  It was not a conscious decision as much as my having tired of the formulaic genres.  Around that time I wrote a romance novel which was never published and in retorspect I'm very glad it wasn't.

I read a lot of Victorian authors, I read some literary fiction, I read some theology but I don't read mysteries.


memoir, mystery, Nancy Drew, Reading, school, Wilbur Dee

11:30 am pdt

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What I'm reading....

This month has been yet another slow reading month.  There have been busy distractions but I think a need for new glasses may be the root of the problem. 

DMP and I have also been making full use of our NetFlix Subscription which means 2 movies of week, which means 2 fewer evenings for reading.  Movies:  Paint Your Wagon, Chronicles of Narnia:  Prince Caspian, The High and the Mighty, High Noon, The Sun Also Rises, Rio Bravo, The Philadelphia Story, Master & Commander.

I have done a couple of "quick and dirty" medical literature reviews:

  • macular degeneration for a private client
  • Vitamin D
  • is there an assoication between urinary tract problems/sugery and myasthenia gravis?

I've skimmed, clipped, filed, and recycled a 2 1/2 foot stack of periodicals.

I've begun transcribing my recipes.

I've been entering books into the church library catalog.

A couple of ideas have grabbed my attention in my lectionary reading and I'm starting to explore these biblical ideas, mostly in Hebrew Scripture:

  • staff, the meaning of Aaron's staff in Numbers and it's implications in other passages
  • robe, Elijah/Elisha is the source of my current curiosity but it is a recurrent motif

What I'm reading (I include picture links to Amazon where you can browse the book):

Brueggemann, Walter: The Prophetic Imagination. 2nd edition. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001.  There is hardly a page on which I didn't highlight something.  An extraordinary book!  "The riddle and insight of biblical faith is the awareness that only anguish leads to life, only grieving leads to joy, and only embraced endings permit new beginnings."  p. 56  There is commentary on Psalm 137 p. 62.  "Speech about hope cannt be explanatory and scientifically argumentative; rather it must be lyrical..."  p. 65 "I believe that, rightly embraced, no more subversive or phrophetic idiom can be uttered than the practice of doxology, which sets before us the reality of God, of God right at the center of a scene from which we presumed he had fled." p. 66  "...exile is first of all where our speech has been silenced and God's speech has been banished." p. 69  "Compassion constitutes a radical form of criticism." p. 88  "That tradition of radical criticism is about the self-giving emptiness of Jesus...  The emptying is not related to self-negating meditation, for it is a thoroughly political image concerned with the willing surrender of power..." p. 98  "Without the cross, prophetic imagination will likely be as strident and as destructive as that which it criticizes.... Prophetic criticism aims to creat an alternative consciousness with its own rhetoric and field of perception....  This kind of prophetic criticism does not lightly offer alternatives, does not mouth reassurances, and does not provide redemptive social policy.  It knows that only those who mourn can be comforted, and so it first asks about how to mourn seriously and faithfully..." p. 99  "...all functions of the church can and should be prophetic voices that serve to criticize the dominant culture while energizing the faithful....  Thus, the essential question for the church is whether or not its prophetic voice has been co-opted into the culture of the day." p. 125

Peterson, Eugene H.:  A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.  Discipleship in an Instant Society2nd edition.  Downers Grover IL:  Intervarsity Press, 2000.  I'm fairly certain I at least scanned the first edition, 1980.  A devotional reading of the Psalms of Ascent, Psalms 120-134.


Schweizer, MarkThe Organist Wore Pumps, a liturgical mystery.  SJMP Books, 2010.  Funny!  "It's tradition... when society started, women were not thought of as 'literary'... That's true.  Well, if you don't count Emily Dickinson, Christina Rosetti, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dorothy Parker, or the Bronte sisters."  See previous posts for more detailed descriptions of these books (Organist is the 8th in the series) which DMP and I both find hilarious.  I include the Amazon links for those who may want to browse but we buy our mysteries at Murder by the Book in Houston. link: Murder by the Book

This is a real bookstore with staff who knows their books and get to know their readers.  I love the $1 shelf at the back where I find treasure.  Unlike DMP, I don't read mysteries, except for the couple of authors who make me laugh.

Sonnets from the Portuguese and Other Love PoemsPoetry:
Browning, Elizabeth Barrett: Sonnets from the Portuguese and other love poems. Illustrated by Adolf Hallman. Garden City, NY: Hanover House, 1954. My friend, Konny, gave me this book and I've greatly enjoyed reading these poems.   The illustrations are particularly lovely in this gift book edition.  Adolf Hallman, 1893-1968, is a Swedish illustrator; his drawings for this book have the sparse look and muted colors of much Scandinavian art.  I usually look for vintage books like this one at estate sales and used book stores. When I must have it now I use  IOBA   or  or or   or, yes, Amazon.  When a book is in the public domain (as most books first published prior to 1923 are), it's a good time to read it digitally and this is my favorite starting point:  onlinebooks at U Penn and read EBB now at the poetry foundation.  "
We walked beside the sea, After a day which perished silently, Of its own glory..."  "I thank all who have loved me in their hearts, With thanks and love from mine.  Deep thanks to all...  Love that endures, from Life that disappears."

8:47 am pdt

Monday, May 31, 2010

Memorial Day: Patriotic Poetry

One of my favorite things is my church's fifth-Sunday sing-song at evening worship.  Last night we sang several patriotic songs at the request of DAR member and super-patriot Jenny F.  I remember singing some of these songs at church and school as a child.  Do children still learn patriotic songs in school?  I hope so for they are a part of our history and our heritage.  The songs we sing together affirm and create community. 

At least two of these patriotic songs were written by women.  Since I am always interested in the ways in which women made their voices heard at a time when they were denied equal access to public discourse, today's blog comments on these women and their patriotic songs and concludes with a poem I wrote.

  1. Julia Ward HoweThe Battle Hymn of the Republic, which as a child of the South I was not permitted to sing (as Uncle Shelby Calahan said, "we will not so dishonor the memory" of our ancestors who died in the War between the States) until I left home for college.  {I thought a hundred years and four or five generations was long enough to carry a grudge.}   Julia and her husband, Sam Howe, were abolitionists and during the war worked on the U.S. Sanitary Commission which was concerned with reforming unsanitary conditions in the Union camps and hospitals--disease, dysentery, typhoid, malaria killed two men for every one killed in battle.  (Other notable women of the Sanitary Commission include Louisa May Alcott, Clara Barton, Dorothea Dix.) The Howes' work with the commission was recognized by President Lincoln and in 1862 he invited them to the White House.   In Washington, Pastor James Freeman Clarke who had read some of Julia's poetry asked her to write a new song for the war to replace John Brown's Body.   Howe's account of inspiration while writing the Battle Hymn of the Republic:  I awoke the next morning in the gray of the early dawn, and to my astonishment, found that the wished-for-lines were arranging themselves in my brain. I lay quite still until the last verse had completed itself in my thoughts, then hastily arose, saying to myself, I shall lose this if I don't write it down immediately....  I lay down again and fell asleep, but not before feeling as if something very important had just happened to me."  The poem, published in the February 1862 issue of Atlantic Monthly, made Julia Howe an instant celebrity.  I love this song because it clearly articulates the basis of social justice in Christ and in the "glory" of God.  "Our God is marching on."
  2. Katherine Lee Bates:   American the Beautiful  was written in 1893, published in 1895 in The Congreationalist, and Bates revised the words in 1904 and again in 1913.   Before being published with the music Materna written by Samuel A. Ward in 1910, it was sung to other tunes, notably Auld Lang Syne.  Was Samuel Ward related to Julia Ward Howe?  I don't know.  As Michael T. said last night the original poem was a bit different:

O beautiful for halcyon skies, 

For amber waves of grain,

For purple mountain majesties

Above the enameled plain!            

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

Till souls wax fair as earth and air

And music-hearted sea!

O beautiful for pilgrims feet,

Whose stern impassioned stress

A thoroughfare for freedom beat

Across the wilderness!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

Till paths be wrought through

wilds of thought

By pilgrim foot and knee!

O beautiful for glory-tale

Of liberating strife

When once and twice,

for man's avail

Men lavished precious life!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

Till selfish gain no longer stain

The banner of the free!

O beautiful for patriot dream

That sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam

Undimmed by human tears!

America! America!

God shed his grace on thee

Till nobler men keep once again

Thy whiter jubilee!

Finally, a poem I began on the morning of  11 September 2001 shortly after the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.  I finished it several months later on Memorial Day 2002.  The poem is a riff on America the Beautiful or perhaps a dialog with Katherine Lee Bates.

Oh, beautiful for spacious skies...

In a world with too little room

on this Tuesday morning,

death hurtled through the clouds.

...for amber waves of grain...

While we dwelt in peace and plenty,

a hate harvest ripened,

an explosion of horror, watched.

...mountain majesty... fruited plain...

Dreadful September day

when innocence crumbled to ruin

and fear took us hostage.

America, America...

Pilgrims fleeing persecution,

patriots overthrowing tyranny

stood once where we now stand,

...sheltered by God-shed grace...

cried "Freedom;" paid the price.

More than once the price paid in blood;

common man sought uncommon good,

beyond the shining seas

for brotherhood does not

in isolation live.

Costly, too high, too dear—but, still—

America, America...

We are resolved; tears dim

our eyes, not our vision.

Still, alabaster cities gleam.

1:08 pm pdt

Once upon a time...
I love fairy tales.  I have always loved fairy tales.

Since one of my current interests is children's literature, I'm getting to revisit my own childhood reading. A couple of months ago I read Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know by Hamilton Wright Mabie, Doubleday, 1905. KindleLink: Project Gutenberg books by Mabie

When I was in the 3rd & 4th grades--yes, two grades in the same classroom, at the same time, with one teacher--there was a bookshelf along the back filled mostly with volumes of  fairy tales.  I especially remember The Golden Book of Fairy Tales, translated (from the French) by Marie Ponsot and illustrated by Adrienne Ségur.  Link:  Terri Windling's tribute Segur The book, published in 1957, was well worn when I first saw it 1959 and it was one of the few on the shelf that I actually had to share with my classmates.  When I thought I could get away with it, I hid the book in my desk and read it or studied the illustrations when I finished Mrs. Vardeman's boring lists of glossary words that we were forced to copy into notebooks. Seeing little use to copy things that I could look up in a dictionary, I was already in training to become a reference librarian.

I was fascinated by the various printed versions of Snow White.  I became interested in the transitions that stories undergo from generation to generation, and from story to book to movie.  Walt Disney's  Snow White (I secretly thought she should skip the prince and the palace and stay at the lovely little house in the woods with the animals) and Fantasia (which I credit for my first experience of classical music) were and perhaps still are my favorite movies.  Mrs. Vardeman also had us listen to music while we used Crayolas to "draw what the music makes you feel."   For a brief tour of comparative fairy tale illustrations visit

One of my rediscovered delights is Der Struwwelpeter.  Heinrich Hoffman (1809-1894) who wrote and illustrated the book in December 1844 as a gift for his three-year-old son.  Link: illustrated Project Gutenberg Struwwelpeter may notice a resemblance between Hoffman's drawing of Straw Peter and the movie character of Edward Scissorhands, a movie fairy tale which is evocative of numerous other fairy tales and movies.  "Children are bewitched by this book because it challenges them in ways that adults can no longer fathom nor recall. Struwwelpeter stands or falls on the credo that children can bear to be scared by art and thereby grow."  Link: review of the new Dover edition by Ellen Handler Spitz in The New Republic

Der Struwwelpter is one of several books that Evelyn Whitaker mentions in her novels.  In Gay, [Little Brown, W.R. Chambers, 1903] Oliver Bruce is writing a book " London he would be more within reach of books of reference, and be able to consult authorities, and get in touch with those strange and mysterious powers, the publishers, of whom Mrs. Bruce spoke with bated breath, dimly imagining them to resemble Great Agrippa in Struwwelpeter with his gigantic ink-pot." 

I remember being very pleased with the Great Agrippa illustrations.  The story spoke to issues of racial equality which, even as a child, were important to me.  I was also pleased with the ink pot since I was the proud owner of my first fountain pen and ink bottle with which I wrote Mrs. Vardeman's lists in a blotty cursive that was never up to her standards of penmanship.  Hoffman's The Story of the Inky Boys is undoubtedly referenced when later in the book the children, Gay and Do, put a poppy flower in Oliver's ink pot. "...the two children always called his flat the Ogre's Den, and Oliver surmised that the festive mother might have encouraged the idea... The children had added on their own horrifying and blood curdling details selected from Jack the Giant Killer, with a flavour of the Three Bears."

Lovers of fairy tales will fairy tale illustrations will want to take a peek at Instructions.  Everything you'll need to know on your journey by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Charles Vess, Harper-Collins.  The book was first published as A Wolf at the Door, Simon & Schuster, 2000.  Vess dedicates to the above mentioned Terri Windling. A reviewer has called it "how to survive a fairy tale" but I think it could as easily be called "how to survive life."  "Trust dreams.  Trust your heart, and trust your story."

From "once upon a time" to "happily ever after" this is the life I read...

1:03 pm pdt

Thursday, May 6, 2010

What I'm reading...

The list for this month is much shorter than usual.

As I have noticed before when I'm writing I read less.

I've been thinking about what I learned at BWWA 2010 and exploring websites related to Victorian literature.  I've been reading technical stuff on archives, libraries, and website design.  I've been exploring HASTAC - Humanities, Arts, Science Technology Advanced Collaboratory which I had not been aware of until I was interviewed (link on the sidebar) but this subject is fascinating to me.  link:  Bridget Draxler's current blog on the future of thinking. 

I've been catching up on periodicals and catalogs.  Shopping on-line for clothes;  they've quit making my trousers!  I hate to shop so it's a good thing that my view on fashion is:  "Fashion is for those who have sense of personal style."

Probably spending too much time on Facebook but I'm enjoying reconnecting with my cousins, classmates, and kids I know & loved from my Sunday School classes.  


Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn:  Mary Barton. 1848. Kindle. Project Gutenberg.   This book is essentially a love story with characters about whom it is easy to care.  That empathy is the snare to engage the reader in a discussion of capitalism and the conflict between mill owners and workers, in an investigation of power, money, and faith.

Bedside book:

Brueggemann, Walter:  The Prophetic Imagination.  2nd edition.  Minneapolis:  Fortress Press, 2001.   Brueggemann is never boring but his texts are incredilbly rich;  I expect to linger over this reading.   The first edition (1978) is the "first publication in which" Brueggemann says he "more or less found my own voice as a teacher in the church."  I am an admirer of Brueggemann and my mature views of scripture have been significantly shaped by his writings.  In this early book I recognize the roots of some of the later works--particularly Message of the PsalmsAwed to Heaven, Rooted to Earth, the prayers of Walter Brueggman lives on my bedside shelf so that he prays for me when I cannot pray for myself.  In February 2005, Bobbie and I attended his lecture:  Psalms:  the good, the hard, the surprising.  Some quotes from my notes:  "The Psalms invite  us to push the edges of our emotional alertness to the reality around us."  " requires candid entry into suffering..."  "good authoritative speech... generates a new world... why our speech must be imaginative and not cliched."  "Breath is a gift; it is not a possession.  Breath is the property of the life-giving God."  "There is nothing in your life that you cannot bring to the presence (orientation) to the absence (disorientation) of God."  "Biblical faith traffics not in certitude but in relationship."   "Church... too much an echo of the culture...  need to recover our idenitity...  as  ...the place where the truth is told and things are called by their right names..." " God responds to authentic trouble..."  the purpose of  worship is "to re-preform creation... people come to church overwhelmed by chaos... liturgy transforms chaos into creation."  "...the promise of new orientation is not a quiet deal between me and Jesus.  It is a BIG cosmic event in which I may participate."

link: some of Brueggemann's texts available on-line

2:03 pm pdt

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

What I'm reading...

I've been spending a lot of time working on my Victorian author project.  Newly unearthed:

  • a new work of short fiction in an Anglican parish publication and credited to Evelyn Whitaker.  I've long suspected that she first published in religious press.  I also have hints of a couple of other similar publications to chase.
  • a listing of her name in a church history: Christ Church, Saint Pancras, London
  • which strongly suggests an association with Cristina and Maria Rossetti which accounts for the presence of painters in a number of Whitaker's writings and perhaps for the Pre-
    Raphaelite illustration on the cover of the 1886 Walter Smith edition of Tip Cat bookbinding exhibit of library University North Texas
  • the repository of records for Roberts Brothers (Boston) who were the authorized publishers of Evelyn Whitaker's works in the USA.  Catalog information notes re. endorsed royalty checks indicate a variant spelling "Whittaker" which may facilitate biographical research.  A trip to Boston is in my future.
  • so I'll have a lot of updating of my website:

I've done a major review of the medical literature re. myasthenia gravis for a private client.

I'm reading a lot of Britsh Women Authors preparing for the BWWA conference at TAMU in April:

  • Mary Augusta Ward 1851-1920 a prolific and best selling writer of novels with religious themes and Victorian ideals.  She was one of the founders of the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League.  For more information:  Wikipedia Mary Augusta Arnold (Mrs. Humphry Ward)

Ward, Mary Augusta (Mrs. Humphry):  Robert Elsmere1888.  Kindle. Project Gutenberg. The best known of Ward's novels is this story of a young Anglican minister married to an orthodox wife with a "spiritual" sensibility.  His reason/intellect leads to doubt and he resigns his pulpit.  He struggles (they struggle) as he seeks a new path to faith and ministry through a historical Christ.  This book is an excellent presentation of the religious and philosophical discussions which grew out of the higher criticism (the biblical textual criticism) of the late 19th Century.  Ward, through Elsmere, attempts to answer both traditional faith and "positivism"  e.g. the philosphy of August Comte.  Fiction is my favorite way to read philosophy and theology and this book was interesting, engaging, informative, and a wonderful love story.  "Where and when and how you will, but somewhen and somehow, God created the heavens and the earth!"  "The decisive events in the world take place in the intellect.  It is the mission of books that they help one remember it."  "It is the education of God! Do not imagine it will put you farthr from Him!  He is in criticism, in science, in doubt, so long as the doubt is a pure and honest doubt...  He is in all life, in all thought."  "All things change,--creeds and philosophies and outward systems,--but God remains." 

Ward, Mary Augusta (Mrs. Humphry):  The Mating of Lydia1913.  Kindle.  Project Gutenberg.  Is friendship without romantic love possible between men and women?  A look at the New Woman who turns out to be the old Victorian ideal of woman as "redeemer" of man.  Like Robert Elsmere this book has a strong villan, an older man attempting to destroy the faith/self of a younger/better man.

  •  Elizabeth Cleghorn Gaskell, 1810-1865, biographer of Charolotte Bronte and author of the delightful Cranford which was popularized in the 2007 BBC production, has been one of my  favorite authors for some time now.  Her religious views are Unitarian in the best sense as one who seeks common ground and unity among people of good will.    Victorian Web: Elizabeth Gaskell  Wikipedia Elizabeth Gaskell beautiful portraits of her

Gaskell, Elizabeth:  North and South.  1854.  Kindle.  Project Gutenberg.  First published in serial form in Household Words 1854-1855 and in volume form in 1855.  The story concerns a dissenting Anglican minister and his family (wife and daughter) who move from their parish in the South to the cotton textile manufacturing city in the North and interact with both the owner of a mill and the men and women who work in the mills.  Well-crafted characters and social interaction, especially between classes, are Gaskell's strong points.   A compelling read. Highly recommended.

  • Marie Corelli, 1855 -1924,  the People's Choice of her time, the best-selling author in both Britian and  America, although not greatly admired or appreciated by academic readers.  Her writing style is over-the-top, laden with  sensationalism and emotionalism. She presents an odd mix of religion/Christianity with theories of parallel universes, astral projection, and reincarnation.  I find Corelli's scientific knowledge shallow and pretentious.   Any writer who was so widely read and wildly popular must be considered interesting, but I did not much enjoy nor do I recommend Corelli.         VictorianWeb Marie Corelli

Corelli, Marie:  The Mighty Atom. 1896.  Kindle.  Project Gutenberg.  A quick read with an interesting view of childhood, faith, education.  Depressing in the same way that Joyce Carol Oates, Emily Bronte, Sylvia Plath are often depressing to me.

Corelli, Marie:  A Romance of Two Worlds. 1886  Kindle. Project Gutenberg. The author's first novel deals with art and music and parallel universes.  She attributes much (too much) to ELECTRICITY, particularly to "human electricity"   This book reminds me of John Fowles The Magus and Emily Bronte Wuthering Heights and magical realism, best represented by Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

I download books free of charge, directly to my Kindle (.mobi format for Kindle 1) from  which offers thousands of books preformatted in many formats for computer, smartphone, electronic books, ipod etc. etc.


Foster, Thomas C.: How to Read Novels Like a Professor. A jaunty exploration of the world's favorite litereary form. New York: Harper, 2008. I'm still nibbling this book.  In addition to being helpful to students preparing to attend or taking college literature classes, I think it would be helpful to writers.

11:58 am pst

Thursday, February 18, 2010

What I'm Reading...

It's mid-February so what I'm reading is IRS pubs as I prepare to do our taxes.  Ugh!  I hate this.  And I miss Donald Booker whom we could really trust to do it for us.  Now we TurboTax.  When I was growing up Mother always served salmon croquettes (she made hers with Post Toasties) with canned tomatoes and store-bought (vs. the homemade we took for granted) cookies when she worked on taxes.

It's an election year so what I'm reading is information in the hope of making an informed choice in the primary elections.  Early voting begins today so I'm hoping to have my endorsements before the weekend so we can VOTE!  One source of good information is the League of Women Voters with links to the party sites. I agree with the Chronicle's endorsements of Kay Bailey Hutchinson and Bill White for gubernatorial candidates.

We're also having a colder than usual winter so instead of working in my yard I'm browsing seed catalogs and websites.  Houston isn't Pennsylvania, California, or Virginia--it isn't even Dallas--so don't expect general garden books to work.  I get my gardening advice Kathy Huber's garden site at The Houston Chronicle but there are a couple of books I also recommend: 

River Oaks Garden Club:  A Garden Book for Houston and the Gulf Coast which is unfortunately out-of-print although used copies are available and so much the better since this book is going to be more at home in your garden than on a shelf.  Its circle of the year and monthly lists of what to plant and what is in bloom are much needed.

Cathey, H. Marc & Bellamy, Linda:  Heat-Zone Gardening.  How to choose plants that thrive in your region's warmest weather is most useful because it's a colder than usual February but July & August will be HOT!.

I was invited to read and comment on two works by friends:

McGrgor, Keith:  The Beacon.  I was privileged to have a pre-production read of Keith's newest play.  Visit his webiste:

Becker, Joseph Peter is completing his Ph.D. thesis.  He has done some really fascinating work on grace.  His thesis deals with a short section of Corinthians but it has implications for all scripture and for the life of believers.  I told Joe that "this changes everything."  One of the things it has changed is my view of Pauline scripture.  As my theology has grown increasingly "feminist" I have found Paul to be a "thorn in my side."  No more.  I cannot wait until Joe's work becomes more generally available. I have not read a book that more changed my understanding since Dallas Willard's The Divine Conspiracy. 


Eugene Peterson's Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. A conversation in spiritual theology is still on my Kindle and I am finishing up and rebrowsing this book which I highly recommend.

Foster, Thomas C.:  How to Read Novels Like a Professor.  A jaunty exploration of the world's favorite litereary form.  New York:  Harper, 2008.  David finished and passed this one on to me which is proving almost but not quite as delightful and informative as this author's previous book How to Read Literature...  I highly recommend this book to students who are preparing to attend college.

Austen, Jane:  EmmaKindle.  The recent PBS programs remind me that it's time to re-read Miss Austen. 

Bedside Books:

Mabie, Hamilton Wright: Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know. Doubleday, 1905. Project Gutenberg. Kindle. I'm reading one or two a week.  I forget how frightening some of these stories are. I'm pretty sure that I would not choose to read them to a young child.  Let's rate them PG.

Paulson, Beth: Wild Raspberries. 2008 I'm prolonging the pleasure from this delightful poet. Previous books are The Company of Trees and The Truth about Thunder.

Merrill, Nan C.: Psalms for Praying: an invitation to wholeness. New York/London: Continuum, 2006. This reworking of the Psalms emphasizes "God is love..." It is by no means an accurate translation but it is a response to the timeless text and gives a fresh voice to psalmic prayer. I am only allowing myself a psalm or two at a time hoping to make the book last through Easter.


Whitaker, Evelyn: Laddie. We finished our discussion of the 19th Century woman novelist as theologian.  My introduction and downloadable .pdf of Laddie with my annotations are available at my domain:

9:41 am pst

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

What I'm Reading

Today is Epiphany, Twelfth Night, which celebrates my favorite aspect of the Christmas story:  wisdom and power bow down before mystery and vulnerability and offer gifts of wealth, worship, and sacrifice.   Our tree is remains since it's still drinking water and its needles remain soft and its fragrance fresh but eventually I will have to take it down. It's not surprising that I'm still reading Christmas notes, newsletters, gift books, post-holiday sale catalogs, and catching up on periodicals.

I have been reminded of why I bother subscribing to and reading The Economist as I have greatly enjoyed the holiday double issue, dated December 19th 2009-January 1st 2010.  Of particular note were articles on violin-making, the virtues of pessimism, too many chains (religious freedom), the Harry Potter economy, hedonism & claret, dark matter rumors, language, joys of dirt, network effects (techonology and newpapers), an interesting books review (Wade, Nicholoas:  The Faith Instinct:  How Religion Evolved and Why It Endures.  Penguin Press.), and comments on an exhibition on human identity and on the vampire lit phenom.  .

I also read all the fine print at as I gathered information and helped people enroll in Medicare Part D Prescripiton Drug Plans.

My daily Bible reading this year will be from


Mabie, Hamilton Wright:  Fairy Tales Every Child Should Know.  Doubleday, 1905.  Project Gutenberg.  Kindle.  Beatrix Potter got me started so I'll be nibbling children's lit for a bit.

Numeroff, Laura & Bond, Felicia:  If You Take a Mouse to the Movies.  Harper-Collins, 2009.  The latest addition to the charming series that both DMP and I enjoy.  We love to share the "if you give" books with children who come to visit.  This edition is a gift from Sonya and includes a CD and sheet music and cookie recipes and family activies.  What fun!

Willems, Mo:  Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!  New York:  Hyperion, 2003.  Caldecott Honor Book.  Another gift from Sonya.  A clever little book that teaches a young child how to say "no."  I'll be adding this book to the children's collection in the church library.


Paulson, Beth:  Wild Raspberries.  2008 Another gift from David because "she seems to speak what you feel" and this Ouray, CO poet is one of my favorites.  Previous books are The Company of Trees and The Truth about Thunder.

Bedside Book:

Merrill, Nan C.:  Psalms for Praying:  an invitation to wholeness.  New York/London:  Continuum, 2006.   This reworking of the Psalms emphasizes "God is love..."   It is by no means an accurate translation but it is a response to the timeless text and gives a fresh voice to psalmic prayer.

Peterson, Eugene H.: Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A conversation in spiritual theology. Kindle. I've lingered in the section on Eucharist and hospitality.  I have been fascinated with  the discussion of Dom Gregory Dix:  The Shape of the Liturgy (1941) which notes four verbs:  take, bless, break, and give.  In fact, I'm probably going to read that section again.


Whitaker, Evelyn: Laddie. We continue our discussion of the 19th Century woman novelist as theologian.

7:30 pm pst

Saturday, November 28, 2009

What I'm Reading...

Barrie, James M.: What Every Woman Knows. (1906) Project Gutenberg. Kindle. We watched Finding Neverland (Netflix) and the movie prompted me to review Barrie's life and browse a couple of his books. (It's a good movie but it does play fast & loose with the facts.) I don't remember having read this particular play before. Clever, fun and I think it would stage rather well.

Potter, Beatrix: The Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter. Project Gutenberg. Kindle. We watched Miss Potter (Netflix) and so I'm reading bedtime stories.

Richmond, Grace S.: Red Pepper Burns.
Richmond, Grace S.: Mrs. Red Pepper. (1913)
Richmond, Grace S.: Red Pepper's Patients. (1919) Project Gutenberg. Kindle. I read these books as a child and have read them at least more as an adult. The stories are about a doctor in the early 20th Century. What stricks me about these books on this reading is the frequent mention of drug addition. These writers are part of the "living clean" movement: fresh air, exercise, don't drink.

Palmer, William J.: The Detective and Mr. Dickens. A Secret Victorian Journal Attributed to Wilkie Collins, Dicovered and Edited by... New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990. The author is/was English prof at Purdue. He writes a compelling story set in the dark underbelly of London at night . The sinful pleasures of male Victorian life are the primary plot device. Every woman in this book is a prostitute or a pander or a victim. As one would expect given the sub-title, several scenes are quite graphic and push into pornography.

Bedside Book:

Peterson, Eugene H.: Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A conversation in spiritual theology. Kindle. I continue my slow exploration, reading and re-reading, of issues of salvation and the relationship between Exodus and Mark.


Whitaker, Evelyn: Laddie. We are exploring the 19th Century woman novelist as theologian.

Barrie, James M.: What Every Woman Knows. (1906) Project Gutenberg. Kindle. We watched Finding Neverland (Netflix) and the movie prompted me to review Barrie's life and browse a couple of his books. (It's a good movie but it does play fast & loose with the facts.) I don't remember having read this particular play before. Clever, fun and I think it would stage rather well.

Potter, Beatrix: The Great Big Treasury of Beatrix Potter. Project Gutenberg. Kindle. We watched Miss Potter (Netflix) and so I'm reading bedtime stories.

Richmond, Grace S.: Red Pepper Burns.
Richmond, Grace S.: Mrs. Red Pepper. (1913)
Richmond, Grace S.: Red Pepper's Patients. (1919) Project Gutenberg. Kindle. I read these books as a child and have read them at least more as an adult. The stories are about a doctor in the early 20th Century. What stricks me about these books on this reading is the frequent mention of drug addition. These writers are part of the "living clean" movement: fresh air, exercise, don't drink.

Palmer, William J.: The Detective and Mr. Dickens. A Secret Victorian Journal Attributed to Wilkie Collins, Dicovered and Edited by... New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990. The author is/was English prof at Purdue. He writes a compelling story set in the dark underbelly of London at night . The sinful pleasures of male Victorian life are the primary plot device. Every woman in this book is a prostitute or a pander or a victim. As one would expect given the sub-title, several scenes are quite graphic and push into pornography.

Bedside Book:

Peterson, Eugene H.: Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places: A conversation in spiritual theology. Kindle. I continue my slow exploration, reading and re-reading, of issues of salvation and the relationship between Exodus and Mark.


Whitaker, Evelyn: Laddie. We are exploring the 19th Century woman novelist as theologian.
6:27 pm pst

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans' Day. A love story...
Today is Veterans Day. Daddy still calls it Armistice Day, remembering "the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" of 1918 marking the cease fire on the Western Front of WWI. His father, Pvt. Zach Carter Cummings, Co. D 39th Infantry 4th Division, was marching toward the sound of the guns when over the hill he heard the silence of peace. Instead of fighting in the bloody trenches of France, his war experience was with an occupation force in Germany. Here is a photo of my grandfather, taken "on the Rhine River Germany April 1919."
And a photo of the girl he left behind him, Miss Oma Calahan, in Farmersville, Texas. She wrote on the back of this photo: "I wasn't mad when this was made. I was just facing the sun." This photo was made in the autumn of 1918 and was one of those she sent to him in a letter.

For family and others who would like a bit more of the story, I've transcribed and linked three of my grandfather's letters:

  1. in late October as he sailed for Europe
  2. on November 19 at the edge of the battlefield in France
  3. on November 28 from Germany

at my domain:

And as she always does on this date Mother recited a poem:
3:13 pm pst

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Autumn Leaves of Grass
My favorite season has always been autumn. Morning cool. The last of the garden. Harvest. I'll never forget driving over a hilltop in the Poconos and seeing a child-gone-crazy-with-the-Crayolas landscape. During my childhood, the family often made an October drive to the mountains of New Mexico to look at the aspens and to gather apples. David & I vacation with the Colorado colors.
It's commonly said that Texas doesn't have seasons but like much that is commonly said that's incorrect. Our deciduous trees are turning now although they are out-numbered by evergreen live oaks and pine and magnolias and tropicals--Houston truly is the emerald city. When we make our Christmas road trip across Texas there is often great color; we're all just too busy looking at Christmas lights to notice. It's like the robins which in Houston are not a sign of spring but of winter. Each place has seasons of its own but one must have eyes to see.

As I've been driving across Texas from the Gulf Coast to the Hill Country, I've enjoyed being back in touch with the seasons. What I've seen on the most recent trips are the autumn grasses which are truly as lovely as the wildflowers of spring.
There is great variety and diversity of grass--tall, short, straight, stiff, plumed, lacy. This photo is pink-haired grass waving in a row at pavement's edge but the colors are limitless: green, chartreuse, gold, brown, black, red, maroon, orange, purple, aubergine, silver, copper. Grass in fields, grass in roadside clumps, grass in swaths of self-sown sweeping waves. Seed time and harvest. A festival of grass.
I, of course, named this post for Walt Whitman's famous poem:
But in looking for that link, I found this poem by Brian Patten:
Mighty is our LORD and great in power
whose wisdom is beyond all telling...
Sing a song of thanksgiving to the LORD...
who clothes the hills with grass.
Psalm 147: 5,7,8
10:00 am pst

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

What I'm reading...
September is always a very busy month for me and this year the busyness lingers into October. A trip to Clifton, a family wedding, Colorado vacation, a trip to Clifton, David's surgery, church library, church chairs, another trip to Clifton... Yikes! who has time to read. I do. The crazier things get the more I need words, words, words to keep me sane.

Vacation reading:
Poole, Ernest: His Second Wife. Kindle. Project Gutenberg. Originally published in 1918. Having enjoyed his Pulitzer Prize winning novel, His Family, I gave this author who is new to me another chance. Another good read by an author I plan to read again.

Showalter, Elaine: A Jury of Her Peers. American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2009. Kindle. This compelling book by the author of A Literature of their Own sabotaged my vacation fiction binge. I've spent the last month reading and chasing rabbits e.g. women authors I've read and those I haven't and I was surprised at the number in both categories. I've got more reading to do than I'll have time to do it. What struck me most was how time and again a woman writer was "silenced as much by her activity in a repressive political movement as by her domestic life." And, I wonder if feminism is not at least to some extent yet another repressive political movement. Women who celebrate heterosexual marriage and motherhood (certainly in the late Victorian era and I suspect in other past eras and the present) are still silenced by women as well as men with the label "sentimentalist." Surely some of those writers have something of interest to say and a few at least say it well. But then I have a hobbyhorse:

Kelley, Jacqueline: The Evolution of Calpurnia Tate. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 2009. Recommended by my friend, Cathey R. This coming-of-age book focuses on a young girl and her grandfather, interweaving rural Texas in the early 20th Century with Darwin. This a wonderful story beautifully told. Must reading for anyone (of any age, of any gender) who enjoys good fiction. I found it even more delightful as a break from and continuation of the study of Showalter.

Bedside Book:
Peterson, Eugene H.: Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. A conversation in spiritual theology. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans, 2005. Kindle. Yes, a Kindle book works at bedside if I remember to keep the battery charged. I plan to linger with the book for quite a while. It is dense and rich in food for thought. I have long loved the introduction to John's Gospel and his presentation of Christ--the Word, the Logos, the creative speaking of God. Peterson is building on and expanding my appreciation of this text and helping me see application in my own life.
2:56 pm pdt

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What I'm reading...
Not much. I've made another trip to visit parents in Clifton. Road music:  Best of the Righteous Brothers, Yanni In My Time, Schumann Symphonies Nos. 2 & 4, and Juilio Inglesias Tango.  That list is almost a definition of eclectic.  Miss Mandy Whitepaws, my sheltie, is in love with Juilio and found several of the Righteous Brothers' vocals intriguing.  It was a good trip.
But it was not a break from the church library.  I spent a lot of time looking at the Highsmith catalog making lists of furnishings and supplies.  When I got home I prepared a budget for the coming year.  I spent all day yesterday on-line making purchases from Highsmith and from Amazon,, and  [If you're looking for a rare out-of-print book, give them a try.  My first choice is because I like the way they manage the orders from a plethora of independent booksellers.]  I was really fortunate--or should I say blessed?--to find all but one of the thirty-three books that had to be replaced.  Hurricane Ike destroyed four dozen or so others but I elected not to replace them.  Given the state of the church library after the storm, the losses were really far fewer than I'd expected.
Other than catalogs I've been reading:
Poole, Ernest:  His Family.  New York:  MacMillan, 1917.  Project Gutenberg.  Kindle, free download from  The first winner of the Pulitzer Prize for literature.  A beautifully crafted story of the interior life and family relationships of a man as he nears the end of his life.  In New York at a time of transition (early 20th Century), his three daughters encounter their father, their family, each other, and themselves as three graces, if you will.  What does it mean to be woman in the Modern world?  How does a woman decide issues of career, marriage, motherhood?  Poole examines issues of education, urbanization, war and conscience, and eternal life.   A delightful read that is also thought provoking.  FICTION 20th CENTURY PULITZER NEW YORK MODERNISM FEMINISIM
Chairside Nibbles:
mostly Kindle sampling for an upcoming reading binge
Bedside Book:
I was slow to make a new selection so I read Gerard Manley Hopkins and finally memorized
That Nature Is a Heraclitian Fire and the Comfort of the Resurrection
CLOUD-PUFFBALL, torn tufts, tossed pillows | flaunt forth, then chevy on an air-
built thoroughfare: heaven-roysterers, in gay-gangs |they throng; they glitter in marches.
Down roughcast, down dazzling whitewash, | wherever an elm   arches,
Shivelights and shadowtackle in long | lashes lace, lance, and pair.
Delightfully the bright wind boisterous | ropes, wrestles, beats   earth bare
Of yestertempest's creases; in pool and rut peel parches
Squandering ooze to squeezed | dough, crust, dust; stanches,  starches
Squadroned masks and manmarks | treadmire toil there
Footfretted in it. Million-fuelèd, | nature's bonfire burns on.
But quench her bonniest, dearest | to her, her clearest-selvèd spark
Man, how fast his firedint, | his mark on mind, is gone!
Both are in an unfathomable, all is in an enormous dark
Drowned. O pity and indig | nation! Manshape, that shone
Sheer off, disseveral, a star, | death blots black out; nor mark
Is any of him at all so stark
But vastness blurs and time | beats level. Enough! the Resurrection,
A heart's-clarion! Away grief's gasping, | joyless days, dejection. 
Across my foundering deck shone
A beacon, an eternal beam. | Flesh fade, and mortal trash
Fall to the residuary worm; | world's wildfire, leave but ash: 
In a flash, at a trumpet crash,
I am all at once what Christ is, | since he was what I am, and
This Jack, joke, poor potsherd, | patch, matchwood, immortal diamond,
Is immortal diamond

Peterson, Eugene H.:  Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places.  A conversation in spiritual theologyGrand Rapids:  William B. Eerdmans, 2005.  Kindle.  Can a Kindle book work as bedside reading?  Just started but it promises to be informative and inspirational.  I remain grateful to Peterson for his Psalms study, How do I answer the God who speaks to me?
Linn, Dennis; Linn, Sheila Fabricant; Linn, Matthew: Good Goats: healing our image of God. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1994. vi, 101 p.  Next month will finish this book and after our last group discussion I liked this book much better.
9:03 am pdt

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Stranger than fiction
We enjoyed a rare movie night at home; we don't make good use of our Netflix subscription. Watched Stranger than Fiction selected purely because Emma Thompson and Dustin Hoffman are such a superb actors and they do not disappoint. We don't really like Will Ferrell but he was perfectly cast in this movie. Queen Latifah was a delight also. An excellent movie! David said, "It's funny but the three movies that I've found most thought-provoking were all comedies: Joe and the Volcano, Groundhog Day, and now Stranger than Fiction."

I've looked at more books (and done less reading) this past week than in any other week of my life since I've been unpacking and reshelving the church library as we finally get to move back after Hurricane Ike and all the repairs. About 6000 books in 45 or so hours. I was pleased that the damages were much less than I anticipated. I was delighted to come across some of the very lovely books that I had forgotten about and to realize that our church library is really a very strong collection.
I hope folks know that David and I didn't really skip the work day since we've had a number of workdays already the past couple of weeks and we got there at 7:30 a.m. this morning to finish the library and clear the table so that SEASONS could meet there this morning. It was a good session. It's wonderful to have a circle of sisters who truly nurture one another.
12:23 pm pdt

Monday, July 27, 2009

What I'm reading...
Still working on my annual review of medical literature re. scleroderma.

Doing some reading about the kidney and its various disorders.

Still catching up on my periodicals:

From Much ado about nothing, The Economist, Vol. 392, No. 8639, July 11th, 2009. A book review of Nothing: A very short introduction by Frank Close, Oxford U. Press, 2009. "Does anything remain when everything is taken away?... Big Bang... Where did all this stuff come from? Science says that it came from quantum fluctuations in the void.... Mr. Close surveys 3,000 years of thinking to arrive at the modern solution... The answer is nothing." I like both physics and metaphysics so I'll probably take a closer look at this book which is due out in the USA next month. Based on the review, the modern solution of nothingness closely approaches the Zen solution. In my reading and practice (which is no longer Zen) I've found those unexplained "quantum fluctuations in the void" to be a less poetic way to phrase the Judeo-Christian solution, "In the beginning, the Spirit of God moved across the face of the deep." The answer is not nothing" but rather The One out whose being {I AM} flows all that has being.


Fforde, Jasper: Thursday Next First among Sequels. New York: Penguin, 2007. Not the first sequel but the fifth book in this delightful series: The Eyre Affair, Lost in a Good Book, The Well of Lost Plots, Something Rotten, First Among Sequels. {There is also a companion series, The Nursery Crime series which I do not read: The Big Over Easy, The Fourth Bear.} Quote, p.52: "Reading, I had learned, was as creative a process as writing, sometimes more so. When we read of the dying rays of the setting sun or the boom and swish of the incoming tide, we should reserve as much praise for ourselves as for the author. After all, the reader is doing all the work--the writer might have died long ago."

Schweizer, Mark: The Diva Wore Diamonds: a liturgical mystery. Hopkinsville KY: St. James Music Press, 2009. 159 p. illustrator: Jim Hunt. Hip, hip, hooray! The slipcase didn't mean the end of the series. This is the seventh book featuring an Episcopal choir director who is also a small town chief of police and a wanna be writer who channels Raymond Chandler... The usual delightful read and a good laugh when I needed one. The series in order: The Alto Wore Tweed, The Baritone Wore Chiffon, The Tenor Wore Tapshoes, The Soprano wore Falsettos, The Bass Wore Scales, The Mezzo Wore Mink. Visit the link, not only for the liturgical mysteries but also because St. James Music Press is a serious press offering really superb church music and you can listen to practically everything in their catalog. MYSTERY EPISCOPAL CHURCH POLITICS SMALL TOWN ROMANCE 21st Century

Bedside Book, just finished and have not yet selected another:

Andreach, Robert J.: Studies in Structure: Stages in the spiritual life in four modern authors: Gerarad Manley Hopkins, James Joyce, T.S. Eliot, Hart Crane. London: Burns & Oates, 1964, Fordham University Press. This is an exceedingly odd book; it is less literary criticism and more an analysis of stages in spirituality in the works of these authors referring to Dante, St. Augustine, and St. John of the Cross as sources. I enjoyed this fresh viewpoint and I enjoyed revisiting those writers which I rarely read voluntarily e.g. Joyce and Crane. During my college years, when I was first reading Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, I threw the book across the room {A real no-no for a librarian.} in disgust at what I thought was "really screwed up color imagery." Andreach explains that Joyce has consciously "inverted" the stages of spiritual life. At least now I understand why I have never liked Joyce nor Crane nor really most of the Modern writers.  Quote from section on Hart Crane, p. 118: "The more he seeks among the particulars of a debased society, the more his spiritual consciousness in diminished."

Chairside Nibbles:

Patten, Robert L.: George Cruikshank's Life, Times, and Art. Volume1: 1792-1835. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1992. Kindle BIOGRAPHY ARTIST ILLUSTRATOR 18th Century 19th Century 20th Century This award winning biography by one of my English literature professors from Rice University is proving a most enjoyable re-read. One of Patten's strong points as a professor was rooting the literature in the history, the sociology, and the culture of the time, He offers rich details in a very readable frame. With my new interest in book illustration it is even more interesting to me now than it was on my first reading some years ago. Since I'm spending much time in my chair of late, this reading may take quite a long while.


Linn, Dennis; Linn, Sheila Fabricant; Linn, Matthew: Good Goats: healing our image of God. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1994. vi, 101 p. I'm finding the Linns to be difficult authors. I agree with most of their conclusions but I find their arguments to be shallow and repetitive.  Their attack in this month's reading was on St. Anselm's view of the atonement struck me as a bit insulting to both Anselm and God.  I am, as always, enjoying the discussion with the circle of sisters. FEMININITY OF GOD JUDGEMENT DAY HELL DOCTRINE 20th Century

Anselm of Canterbury who in the Preface to the Proslogion wrote, "I have written the little work that follows... in the role of one who strives to raise his mind to the contemplation of God and one who seeks to understand what he believes.
I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created your image in me, so that I may remember you, think of you, love you. But this image is so obliterated and worn away by wickedness, it is so obscured by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do, unless you renew and reform it. I am not attempting, O Lord, to penetrate your loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but I desire in some measure to understand your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that "unless I believe, I shall not understand." (Isa. 7:9) . "
For more information visit these links:

5:57 am pdt

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Fly Me to the Moon...
Yesterday the world remembered "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind."

The date is also an important one in my personal history.

I was home following my sophomore year at Rice. My sister and I attended a summer session at Texas Tech: she, to jump start her college career since she was targeting graduation in three years rather than four; I, to take a history course for my teaching certification and to make up the math class I'd failed to pass. {Matrix algebra. At Rice it was the standard 1st semester 200-level course. At Tech it was a 400-level course taken by math majors and graduate students. A red-headed guy from my section at Rice also repeated the course at Tech. He and I got lots of negative attention for blowing the curve and we each took a 4.0 back for our transcripts. At least in summer school, the Tech course covered the part of the course I had understood; I had a good solid "B" after the first exam at Rice before it all fell apart. The Tech course never got past that point; everything I hadn't gotten the first time around was in Appendix Two which we never looked at in that summer course. The best thing I learned from my semester at Tech was that I really hadn't suddenly turned dumb. It helped me relax and start learning not for grade points but for the sheer joy of learning. But, I digress...}

Shift work at David's summer job in Houston gave him a four day weekend about once a month. So on the momentous day in history he drove clear across Texas to see me. It was his first visit to my family's farm. He was driving up the caprock between Ralls and Floydada and listening to the car radio just as the men first stepped on the moon. I had one eye on the T.V. and one eye on the road, looking for a cloud of dust that might indicate David's arrival. That night, he and I sat up late watching reruns of the moonwalk, holding hands, and talking. {There might have been a kiss or two... "fly me to the moon... in other words... hold my hand..." But, I digress...}

Which is how it came to be David, rather than my brother, asleep on the sofa bed in the living room when my mother walked in about 6:30 a.m., picked up the pair of jeans at the foot of the bed, and threw them on the sleeper,
"Get up, you lazy bones! It's past daylight; time you were in the field."
She jumped about six feet when a bass voice replied,
"Good morning, Mrs. Cummings."
On his second visit, the line from our one bathroom to the septic tank collapsed and David ended up digging about the front yard with my daddy and my brother.

And he married me anyway. Must have been true love.
12:59 pm pdt

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the life I lead
is the life I read;
the life I led
is the life I read.

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