Tuesday, February 26, 2013

My note on the Academy Awards

I have always loved the glit and glamour of the Academy Awards! Just like everyone else I love the Red Carpet walk-throughs. It's kind of like seeing the American version of nobility, although, God knows, some of those people do not behave nobly--but on screen they give us all kinds of chills, laughs, sadness, joy--they represent the human condition at its finest, at its worst.

Jennifer Lawrence is an example: so graceful, so elegant in her fall and rise to victory, so vulgar in her confession of saying the F-bomb and giving the finger. I haven't seen that performance with Bradley Cooper, but I have seen "The Hunger Games" and "Winter's Bone." This young woman has a future (written in under tones). Indeed! She is also my pick as Most Beautiful for the night.

I adore Anne Hathaway, think she is truly one of the most beautiful women in the world and love her acting, but I did not like her dress. I liked the pale pink, but not the style--not flattering at all. But I'm only one--most loved her dress!

Jane Fonda still rouses feelings of hatred among Americans. Let it go, I say. Her hair was perfect, but, ug, that horrid yellow dress. I don't see through the same lenses used by Hollywood critics who loved her dress! On the other hand, I totally agree with the assessment of that gorgeous red dress Jennifer Anniston wore. She looked absolutely amazing!

Why is George Clooney sporting that tacky beard when he is so handsome clean-shaven?  I don't like Ben Affleck's beard either. He must have had some kind of domestic dispute before the show that he felt the need to address how hard marriage is. Yeah, we know, Ben. Frankly, I'm surprised he and Jennifer are still together. Three children, one wife, and how many years, Ben, and you're still with her? Good for her, good for you. "Lincoln" should have won, but the Academy gave the honor to you because you were not nominated for Best Director. Just a little poetic justice, don't you think?

Seth McFarland--that segment with Captain Kirk was sooo embarrassing and clumsy and awkward and NOT funny at all! "We saw your boobs"? Oh, really, you thought that was funny? It was tacky and tasteless. Well, maybe, a bit funny-- (if I'm being honest). John Wilkes Booth in Lincoln's head? That image was so ugly! Someone suggested Tina Fay and Amy Pohler for next year. I totally agree! We would get sharp humor, wit, and maybe hosts who could clip along instead of stalling for 22 minutes! Just saying....

Friday, February 15, 2013

For your reading pleasure

Words and pages, my blog, is supposed to be about books. I've digressed into personal matters the last two or three posts. To make up, I'm going to review several books I've read over the past few weeks. All come highly recommended.

1. The Paris Wife is an absolutely wonderful novel about Hadley Richardson, Ernest Hemingway's first wife and mother of one of his children. I used to teach Hemingway, loved him, loved his books. I was a real fan. It was with great excitement when I found Paula McLain's book about the daughter of the Richardson Drug Store chain, who became Hemingway's first wife. I was so enamored of the story that I sought out on my shelves a Hemingway I had not read but which was described in the novel. Garden of Eden is Hemingway's novel about Hadley and one of his lovers during his marriage. His description of Hadley was repulsive and I threw the book aside. I had become attached to her. As a connoisseur of literature, I know that writers can shine light or darkness on a biographical character, depending upon their like or dislike. Ms McLain obviously liked Hadley. Hemingway seemingly had another view. This Eden book with its negative view of Hadley was written after she had accidentally lost his first important manuscript on a train (Psychologically, she must have purposefully left it because it took precedence over her every time he had to choose.) I don't think he ever forgave her. Also, after reading the carefully scripted wording of McLain's novel, Hemingway's prose seemed clumsy and awkward in contrast.

Bottom line: Whether you are a Hemingway fan or not, you will come to love Hadley Richardson, his first wife, and the exquisite writing that puts her on the pages.

2. Just finished Storm Prey by John Sanford (I've always thought he could not have invented a better writer's name than he has). This book presents a totally different reading experience from The Paris Wife, although both books center on wives. Lucas Davenport is the beloved and beleaguered detective in a Minnesota setting. This must be at least the 12th book in the series. Lucas's wife's name is Weather. Two people seek to kill her throughout the novel with a snow storm covering the last few chapters, but I prefer to look at Weather's name for the title: Storm Prey. Very clever, Mr. Sanford. If McLain's book is a study in well-crafted phrasing and word choice, then Sanford's book is a study in plot development. As a reader, I was there, in the story, clipping along with the characters, oblivious to words. It was a movie rolling in my head. Basically, the story is one of stupid mistakes. Five men stage a robbery of a hospital pharmacy. One of the men kicks a pharmacist to his ultimate death. From that point on the story becomes a comedy of errors and the police tracking them down.

Bottom line: This book is a great action thriller/ police procedural. Inside that is the story of Weather's surgical participation in the separation of twins joined at their heads with the fascinating inclusion of relevant details and general information.

3. Tenderness, by Robert Cormier, a writer of young adult fiction, is the troubling story of two teenagers, the boy 18, the girl 15. Eric has just been released from juvenile detention after three years for killing his parents. The detective believes he is also a killer of young girls. And he is. He kills them for "tenderness." Lori was 12 when she met Eric and 15 when he was released. When she saw him on television, she developed an obsession for him and became his stalker. Then they met again and all sorts of interesting things begin to happen.

Bottom line: A fascinating study of deeply troubled teenagers who find each other for "right" and "wrong" reasons. Cormier is one of a kind writer of young adult fiction. This is a good introduction to his body of work, although my favorite is We All Fall Down.

4. Room by Emma Donoghue is the story of Ma and Jack who live in this room. Since the story is narrated by five-year-old Jack, the reader accepts the premise of "Room" as their happy little environment. Until the reader settles in with this simple story telling,  it is initially annoying. However, when Old Nick enters, the reader realizes the true premise: Jack and Ma are prisoners to Old Nick's brutal behavior. I don't want to give anything away, so let me say that the story is one of the most unsettling you will ever read, much like The Deep End of the Ocean, in which there is an ambiguous and haunting conclusion.

Bottom line: Be ready for an unusual and disturbing story.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

It's a rant....

I am 66 years old and cannot find a job. I retired from teaching 10 years ago, thinking I was done. After two years and serious spending problems, I had to file bankruptcy and fell into a deep, deep depression. Add to that the post-traumatic stress situation following my divorce. I was a wreck. I was broken. I even asked my therapist if I was broken and she did not reply. OK, could I be healed?

I worked as a children's librarian for seven of those years. During my teaching career I excelled. I was special. I had magic. I could hold students' attention (reasonably so). As this librarian, a broken person, I struggled. Some days I excelled. Most days I fell into shock--you know, little children. I never had any or babysat or had any kind of dealings with them. I repeat, it was a struggle.

Add to that a principal who was not pleased with me. I found it profoundly difficult to discard old books. This was a library in need of extreme make-over. I painted all the walls, added rugs all over the place, created little nooks with floor pillows and the rugs, added posters and pictures and maps--all teaching devices. I worked every weekend for six of those seven years and stayed until seven at night many working days. I worked hard, but never could grasp how to work with middle school children until my last year. The odd thing is how much I looked forward to going to work every day.

So, in January of 2012, I turned in my intent to retire. In anticipation of having all the things I bought and brought to make the library eye-candy friendly all discarded, I totally packed it all up and took it home. It's a good thing because my replacement re-did everything! Worse, she discarded half the books in the library and put the paperbacks on the wood shelves. Made me sick, but I had to let it go. It's not my library any more.

What retirement is about is letting go. You're old, you're tired, and you are no longer needed. True or not, that's how I feel. After two months I knew I had made a mistake--not leaving that library, but retiring in general. I needed the money. I've been putting in applications, interviewing, but not asked to be a part of any team. I'm a has-been. I knew it would happen one day, but, you know, you never think TO YOU!

The worst thing, the very worst thing is how retired teachers are treated. I cannot begin to say how hard I worked for 41 years. Preparing lesson plans to teach literature, creating interesting, informative assignments as extended learning, creating meaningful tests, and grading all those papers, homework, tests, essays, and research projects. I was an English teacher, a humanities teacher, fine arts, creative writing, conversational French, teacher of gifted, philosophy teacher, an inspiration to hundreds of students.  What happened? Why am I no longer valuable to some employer?

In Louisiana retired teachers cannot be rehired after they retire--it's called double dipping, although a law was passed that in certain cases, following certain stipulations, some retired teachers can be rehired, but at sub pay. I was grandfathered in. Sub pay is so insulting! Even so, I recently agreed to accept that pay, then the principal disappeared with her job. I have no idea what happened because she did not return my call.

I look at those old faces of those old white men being interviewed in Washington as Obama's potential new leaders. How does he recognize their value (his opinion) instead of choosing much younger men OR women.? Then I must ask: Is it me? Am I the problem?

A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.