Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Library Loot: February 23 to March 1

Library Loot is a weekly event co-hosted by Claire from The Captive Reader and Marg from The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader that encourages bloggers to share the books they’ve checked out from the library. If you’d like to participate, just write up your post-feel free to steal the button-and link it using the Mr. Linky any time during the week. And of course check out what other participants are getting from their libraries!

Marg has Mr Linky this week

Everything from my haul on Sunday's visit to the Ashland library can be seen here tho not well. There are close-ups of the covers below.

The audio book though is from a much earlier haul and is due this week. I'm preparing to listen as I tie knots in the thread tails of the baby afghan--150 some--a step that must be done before putting on the fringe. I might watch a DVD or stream Netflix instead though. I'm still making up my mind on that.

I've set up my work station in the living room tonight for the first time in weeks so I have the option of watching DVD on the big flat screen. Though the primary reason was because I hadn't gotten the pics for this post taken before Ed needed the bed. But because of the move to the living room I had Ed pull my mini-tramp out from behind the lamp and recliner also for the first time in many weeks as it is the first time since the onset of the virus I've felt able to get on it for even after my strength began to return as the virus was routed the dizziness did not abate enough for me to feel safe on it.

The book open on the book easel is The Decameron by Giovanni Boccaccio which was on the shelf next to something I'd gone looking for and drew my eye with its gorgeous deep blue faux leather with gold emboss and page edges. And even though I suspected I could find an electronic download of it which would allow me to control font size and be free of due dates I brought it home with me anyway.

That night I checked Wikipedia for info on this 1300 era precursor to the modern novel and was astounded that I'd not encountered it as more than a mention in other books before this.

The book is a series of shorter stories framed by another story. A bit like Scheherazade's 1001 Tales. The frame story is of a group of young adults (as we would call them), seven maidens and three young men, forced to flee a city for a country villa to escape the Bubonic plague. To while away the time each of the ten shared a tale for each of ten days. Hence 'Decameron' which is a mating of two Greek words meaning 'ten' and 'day'.

The tales are mostly love stories of one sort or another. Many of them bawdy by even today's standards. According to the writer of the Wiki article the book is an exploration of the story form itself. If so that adds to my astonishment that I'd not encountered it before.
For big books like this I need to have them propped up in some fashion for any sustained reading and my book easel is ideal for this.

I've added to it an old elastic headband for holding the pages flat. I recently discovered a method for turning the pages without removing the band--by partially closing the book and lifting the band a smidgen with one index finger while turning the page with the other. You must control the page and the band though until the page is completely flat on the other side or risk crumpling it with the band.

This was the book I'd gone looking for. Hunger's Brides by Paul Anderson is a reloot. I started it during my 6 month stay in Longview helping with my Mom's care post hip surgery and stroke in 2009 but in all that time was not able to complete the first 100 pages let alone all 1300 and some odd pages.

I blamed this on three factors:

  • it was too awkwardly big and heavy to carry about the house with me to read in the odd moments of free time I had--like waiting on a timer in the kitchen or sitting outside the bathroom door while my Mom showered and dressed once she'd begun doing so without one of us hovering no more than a few inches away.
  • I did not yet have the book easel which I found at Powell's in Portland only a few weeks before my return home in June
  • the cataract in my right eye had advanced too far into the center for me to read with it anymore and the RP had long begun to encroach on the central vision of my left eye making reading slow and difficult as I could see only 3 to 5 letter spaces at a time. A hard thing for someone who loves big words.
I sent for it through our library system even before I'd left Longview but barely touched it the entire nine weeks I had it. Partly because I'd been greeted by a huge pile of review books in mailers and boxes upon my return home and partly because my obsession with crochet had begun that April when my Mom gave me a refresher course in it by teaching me to make a bookmark patterned off of one I'd found in a book in my Dad's office.

Mostly though it was the cataract which was not dealt with until that fall.

I was loving the story though and hated having to stop reading. It has never completely slipped my mind and I've often gone to its catalog page and hovered over the Request button but refrained for it seemed never a good time there always being too many library books crowding shelf space, mind space and time. But when we ended up at the Ashland branch Sunday (to take advantage of their WIFI while our Internet connection was kaput over the weekend) I thought of it and went to the shelf to look at it. And of course, having it physically present made it nigh impossible to resist taking it home even though all the reasons why its not a good time are still in play.

In the next pic I emphasize the size of this tome by setting beside it Ann Brashares' My Name is Memory, a love story for adults spanning centuries by the author of The Traveling Pants series. The premise is that this couple have been lovers in multiple lifetimes and one of them always retains the memories of it while the other does not.

The best way to explain my enthusiasm for Hunger's Brides is to share here, from the April 24 hour Read-a-Thon, my entry in the Hour 11 mini-challenge at Flight into Fancy which was to write a letter to a character in one of the stories we read that day.

Dear Juana Inez de la Cruz

Your precociousness in verbal and reasoning skills do not amaze me nearly as much as your tender heart. It is one thing to learn how to read at age three by spying through your sister's schoolroom window, it is another to notice and be disturbed by the way in which your family's native born servants are treated as less-than.

It is one thing to read with comprehension the reports of Thucydides at age 9? 10? it is yet another to be heart-broken when Thucydides' Athenian compatriots (representing to your mind the epitome of rationality and civilization) follow their logic to the bitterest of conclusions thus displaying it's empty heart when they slaughter all the males on the isle of Menos and sell their women and children into slavery because the people of Menos refused to swear loyalty and subservience to Athens.

You, at such a young age, 9? 10? were able to see the equality of the Athens and Menos peoples, even the parity of their respective logic (ATHENS: Exceptions would weaken us in our enemies eyes; MENOS: Acquiescing to slavery is cowardice and worse than death.) As head-shaking stunning as that achievement, it is as nothing compared to the way in which you saw your own beloved Abuelo (Grandpa) through new eyes and found him wanting in some unnameable crucial thing when he attempted to explain that ancient conflict as pragmatism (ATHENS) vs. idealism (MENOS) clearly favoring pragmatism.

The only explanation is that you were born with the soul of a poet.

Oh that we had a few such as you living in our generation.

If I could ask you to answer one question for me, it would be: Why, as an adult, did you choose to enter a cloister and take not only the vows of a nun but a vow of silence as well? Based on the reason suffused with heart you exhibited as a pre-teen, I cannot believe it was simple expediency. Not even the expediency of protecting your own life.

Your awed admirer from beyond the 'Unstable Margins'
Joy Renee

This novel too is a story framed inside a story inside a story. The outer frame being of a Professor's investigation of his protege's obsession with the life of Juana Inez de la Cruz, a nun living in Mexico in the 1600s who's remembered today for her mystical poems and who died of Plague in her mid 40s just five years after taking a vow of silence for some mysterious reason.

The plague again. And stories inside stories. Are we hearing faint notes of The Twilight Zone score?

The professor has taken from the room where she lies mortally wounded his protege and one time lover's personal journal which includes entries about himself,
and her travel diary from her excursion into Mexico tracing the story of Juana Inez, translations of the nun's poetry, research notes on the Inquisition and the Spanish conquest of the Americas and a mysterious manuscript in the poet's own voice that is part biography and part fiction.

Here I've set a chunky NF--The Culture of Make Believe by Derrick Jensen--atop the Brashares book and it still doesn't come even with the 1323 page tome that took Anderson 12 years to write.

Raising the volume on that Twilight Zone music is the eerie connection the theme of this NF has to Hunger's Brides.

From the back cover:

Exploring the lines of thought and experience that connect the atrocities of our culture throughout history, Jensen leads us on an extraordinary journey from early twentieth century lynchings in the United States to today's death squads in South America. The Culture of Make Believe is as impeccably researched as it is moving, with conclusions as far-reaching as they are shocking. What begins as an attempt to reconsider the nature of hatred soon explodes into a reckoning with the very heart of Western civilization.
I learned also from the back cover that this book is a follow up of his earlier A Language Older than Words but not until after I unpacked it at home. When I looked it up on the online catalog I learned that the Ashland branch is proud owner of that one too and it was 'in' the day I was there. Ah well, I can send for it.

I've rambled for long enough here so I'll just leave you with the titles of the remaining three:

Toward a True Kinship of Faiths: How the World's Religions Can Come Together by His Holiness The Dalai Lama

Worshiping Walt: The Whitman Disciples by Michael Robertson

The Complete Guide to Self-Publishing: Everything You Need to Know to write, publish, promote, and sell your own book. by Marilyn Ross & Sue Collier 5th ed

All three of those as well as the Brashares and Jensen books were on the New Books shelves. Ashland's New Books shelves are ten times larger than Phoenix's.

0 tell me a story:

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