Saturday, December 11, 2010

Start 'Em Young

Whether you work in a bookstore, a library, or are simply a parent of small children, if you are familiar with children's literature, you'll be chortling when you read Five Sci-Fi Children's Books by Caldwell Tanner.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Star of Wonder

I just got an email from Zazzle that they are having a one day sale on greeting cards: 50% off and free shipping! Fillius, my son, is selling his Christmas card there. He did the artwork on his computer and the verse inside is from G.K. Chesterton's The House of Christmas. I think they're rather nice, but I'm his mother so I may be just a teensy bit biased. Here's the link, and the discount code is ZAZZLECARD50. The sale ends at 11:59 PM (Pacific Time) tonight.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Elizabeth Bennet's Email, Etc.

Sherwood Smith posted a link to Lizzy Bennet's Inbox this morning. Having just also read Austenbook (Pride & Prejudice via Facebook), I am excessively diverted.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

The Hobbit -- Happy Anniversary!

September 21st was the 73rd anniversary of the publication of The Hobbit by JRR Tolkien.

You'd think I would have remembered such an important date. For had The Hobbit not been a financial success, The Lord of the Rings might never have been written. And if it hadn't, the Mythopoeic Society would never have existed. My husband I would never have met; our children would never have existed. (This is beginning to sound like a Twilight Zone episode.) Needless to say, I would never have become acquainted with most of my oldest and closest friends, and the great flowering of fantasy fiction in the late 20th century might not have taken place.

So in belated honor of the day, here is a link to a site with a side by side comparison of the two versions of "Riddles in the Dark," the crucial chapter in The Hobbit in which Biblbo Baggins acquires Gollum's magic ring. (The differences between the two are helpfully marked in blue.)

The Riddle chapter was my first encounter with Tolkien's work. I read it in the early '60s when I was just a kid reading my way through the Azusa public library. It appeared in Just For Fun: Humorous Stories and Poems, edited by Elva Sophronia Smith and Alice Isabel Hazeltine Lothrop, Lee and Shepard Company, 1948. Although it was very odd coming into the story in media res (I had no idea what a hobbit was or how Mr. Baggins had gotten into such a tight place), I enjoyed the chapter so much that I tracked down the original book and devoured the whole thing. Of course, I was a bit puzzled by the differences between the version in the anthology and the one in The Hobbit. At the time, I didn't know that Tolkien had made revisions between the first and second editions of The Hobbit in order to make it more consistent with The Lord of the Rings.

By the way, I'm not usually keen on audio recordings of my favorite books because they never match the cadence of my mind's internal voice which I hear when I read. But Nicol Williamson did a skillfully abridged recording of The Hobbit in the '70s which is brilliant. He gives each character a distinct voice with accents from different parts of the British Isles. A friend gave us a copy when our children were young and they never tired of listening to it. Unfortunately, it has never been released on CD, and our cassette copies of the LP degenerated long ago. So you can imagine how pleased I was to discover a recording posted on the Nicol Williamson website.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Finding God in the Everyday

Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life by Karina Lumbert Fabian & Deacon Steven Lumbert, Tribute Books, 2010.

Long ago I read a book written by a well known Catholic convert* who said that one of the things that most surprised him about becoming a Catholic was that everyday life had become suffused with the supernatural, and that the supernatural was now everyday.

Being a sacramental religion, Catholicism does use ordinary, physical things -- oil, water, bread, wine, the marital embrace -- as conduits for God's life giving grace. And simple, tangible items, such as a humble string of beads or two bits of cloth joined by a cord, can actually become a powerful spiritual weapon or a protective shield. Tempted by demons, guarded by angels, and given an occasional assist by the saints, ordinary life is a deceptively disguised battle-field adventure that rivals any fantasy or science fiction epic.

The problem is, it can look so ordinary. God may whap a few of us upside the head with a spiritual two by four, but the vast majority of us will only come to a radical conversion of mind, heart, and spirit through the small, everyday choices we make in classroom, kitchen, or cubicle.

This idea is the major thrust of Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life. This is not a book about figuring out what to believe -- though both authors had to do that at different points in their lives. (Deacon Steven Lumbert is a convert; Karina Fabian is a cradle Catholic who made a full commitment to the Faith as an adult. ) Instead it's about how God led them to a deeper faith through seemingly ordinary incidents in their everyday lives.

Writing alternate chapters, Lumbert and Fabian recount personal stories with elements as disparate as a Puerto Rican chicken and rice dish, a barefoot stranger at Mass, an unexpected flower delivery, an incense-triggered acid reflux attack, and an armed auto thief who couldn't manage to get his gun out of his pocket. Each is followed by a "Life Lesson" meditating on what the author brought away from the experience, how it contributed to his or her relationship with God, and the possible application it might have to the reader's own life. (I could particularly identify with Fabian's chapter about her disorganized approach to housekeeping and how it paralleled her spiritual life. I have so done that deranged drill sergeant thing to my own kids during the rush to clear things up before guests arrive!)

A related scriptural quotation and an extract from the Catholic Catechism rounds off each chapter. And at the end of the book is a list of resources for further reading which may also be seen here. In the mood for a sample? You can read an excerpt of Chapter 2 on the sidebar of this page.

By the way, Karina Fabian is also the author of Magic, Mensa & Mayhem a fantasy novel about Vern, a dragon detective, and his partner Sister Grace, a high mage of the Faerie Catholic Church, as they shepherd a Faerie contingent to a Mensa convention in the mundane world. Fabian is also the editor of and a contributor to Leaps of Faith, an anthology of Christian science fiction and Infinite Space, Infinite God, a collection of Catholic science fiction stories. (Having read all three of these is what made me interested in reviewing Why God Matters.)

[Disclosure: The publisher sent me a free PDF copy of this book.]

*And my middle-aged brain can't remember his name.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Blog Tour Announcement

Hey, there's a blog tour for Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life by father and daughter team, Steven Lumbert and Karina Lumbert Fabian. Karina is also the author of Magic, Mensa & Mayhem, a fantasy novel, and the editor of (and a contributor to) Leaps of Faith, an anthology of Christian science fiction, and Infinite Space, Infinite God, a collection of Catholic science fiction. (Woo-hoo! How cool is that?) So you can see why I'd have a more than ordinary interest in her new nonfiction title. And that's also why I agreed to write a review for for her blog tour.

You can see the other tour bloggers here. And please come back tomorrow to read my review.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chinese Fortune Cookie

Yesterday my mother took my daughter Fillia and me out to lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Look what came out of one of the fortune cookies! (Had this occurred in a novel, I would have thought it too unbelievable. But real life is not restricted to what is probable.) If the words on this little slip of paper are true, I must live in a house almost completely made of window glass. Except for the bathrooms, I don't think we have a single room without bookcases.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

More Catholic Fiction

Only a few days left to enter The Dog Days of Summer Catholic Fiction Giveaway at The deadline is 12:00 midnight Pacific Time. To enter just click on their link above and leave a comment. They have 28 books to give away and will be selecting the winners randomly.

I was surprised to see so many titles, only two of which I had previously read. (They were Bleeder and Awakening, in case you were wondering. And I can recommend both.) So I'm kind of wondering if all of them are Catholic fiction as such or just fiction which Catholic readers like and recommend. Either way I'm looking forward to searching for these titles.

I have a special collection of Catholic fiction housed in a separate bookcase in my bedroom. Since my definition of Catholic fiction is "a work which takes place in a universe in which Catholicism is true," it's a motley collection ranging from Declare by Tim Powers to Catholic Tales for Boys & Girls by Caryll Houselander. And I'm always looking for new books to add. So if you have any titles to recommend (or can tell me anything about the books in the give-away), please speak up in the comments box.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Introducing Youngsters to the Bronte Sisters

No matter what's going on in my life, I never stop reading. In fact, I may find myself reading more than usual because my need for escape is greater. Unfortunately, writing is not as easy as reading, so blogging becomes sparser as real life becomes more . . . um . . . real. However, I am hoping that everything will soon be under control. (Now, if I can just find the off switch for the trash compactor!)

In the meantime, here's a biblio-themed video featuring the Bronte sisters as action figures:

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Catholic Book Sales

Aquinas & More is having an Inventory Reduction Sale right now -- 40% off lots of good stuff! Mostly books, of course, but also some gift items.

Father Dwight Longenecker is having a Summer Book Sale until August 15th -- $5.00 off all of his books (except More Christianity which is being reprinted by Ignatius Press this fall.) I particularly recommend The Gargoyle Code, his take-off on C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. It's much better than anyone else's attempts at this genre. Fr. Longenecker extends Lewis's sketchy world building and gives a good sense of the deception and betrayal that is inevitable among Satan's troops.

Sophia Institute Press could use some business right now. (They recently sent out an email to their mailing list pleading for donations or orders.) Although I'm not usually sympathetic to that sort of appeal, I always like to promote Sophia Institute Press because they are one of the few Catholic publishers that print fiction. And so far, every novel I've ordered from them has been pretty good -- which, sad to say, is not often the case with religious fiction.

A few of the titles I've bought and enjoyed:

Bleeder by John J. Desjarlais. Classics professor Reed Stubblefield retreated to rural Illinois to write a book on Aristole while recovering from a disabling injury. Though religiously skeptical, he makes friends with the local Catholic priest, an Aquinas expert with an excellent library who is reputed to be a stigmatic and a healer. When the priest bleeds to death during the Good Friday liturgy, Stubblefield finds that he's the chief suspect. Can he find the real killer before he himself is arrested or killed?

The Tripods Attack! by John McNichol. A young G.K. Chesterton and H.G. Wells join forces with Father Brown and a mysterious man known only as "The Doctor" (but not the one you're thinking of) when the Martians invade England in this steam-punk novel for kids.

The Blood-Red Crescent by Henry Garnett. This novel about the Battle of Lepanto, originally published in 1960, is just the sort of thing I loved reading when I was a kid. The protagonist is a sixteen year-old boy from Venice who takes part in the historic naval battle and learns important lessons about manhood from Miguel de Cervantes. Homeschooling parents of boys might use this book as an intro to Chesterton's poem, "Lepanto."

Ignatius Press is having a Summer Super Sale which ends on August 31st with some books marked down as low as $3.00.

I recommend Dayspring by Harry Sylvester, a novel originally published in the 1945 which has been marked down to $5.00 ( a real bargain -- especially since Ignatius paperbacks are signature sewn and printed on very good paper). The book is about Spencer Bain, an anthropologist who is studying the Penitentes, a brotherhood of men in New Mexico who practice severe religious penances. Spencer feigns a conversion to Catholicism in hopes of obtaining first hand observations of them. But he gets much more than he bargained for. This book is a little modern for my taste, but the writing is very good.

I'd also recommend Lord of the Elves and Eldils: Fantasy and Philosophy in the works of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien by Richard Purtill. Originally published in 1974, this revised edition contains two additional essays on Lewis and some new notes on the Silmarillion in Chapter Six. And it's only $3.00!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

It's a Book!

Video trailers for books -- it's a concept I can't quite wrap my head around. (Yes, I know I'm a bit of a dinosaur.) I haven't seen the book which this one advertises, but I love the sentiment it expresses.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Two Books

"There are two novels that can change a bookish fourteen-year old's life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish fantasy that often engenders a lifelong obsession with its unbelievable heroes, leading to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood, unable to deal with the real world. The other, of course, involves orcs."

(Shamelessly swiped from Happy Catholic who posted it on her blog last year.)

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Jane Austen's History of England

One thing leads to another on the Internet.

Hoping to improve my English paper piecing technique, I was searching through tutorials when I discovered a link to the British Library which has a number of virtual books one can peruse online.

On their page of most viewed works is a link for Jane Austen's The History of England from the reign of Henry the 4th to the death of Charles the 1st: By a partial, prejudiced, & ignorant Historian. (Scroll down the list until you see it.) Originally written when she was a mere slip of a girl,* The History of England is a parody of popular historical writing. It also contains allusions and in-jokes which would have been most fully appreciated by their intended audience -- her family. But the little book is amusing on its own even for modern readers. The illustrations were painted by Austen's older sister Cassandra, to whom she dedicated the work.

Should you find Miss Austen's handwriting difficult to read, do not despair! At the click of a button, a small window will open with that page's text in an easily read font. Or if you prefer, pressing another button will trigger a oral version of the text which is read aloud by a young lady with a delightful voice and appropriate accent.

I was particularly pleased to have found her History of England during my convalescence because of my firmly held belief that "Jane Austen never lets you down." Every time I went to the hospital to have a baby, I took one of her novels with me in the Oxford World Classic editions. (They are conveniently sized hardcovers, smaller than my hand.) Whenever I have been sick, or sad, or sorely tried, I turn to Jane Austen to take me elsewhere. In fact, I even took a copy of Persuasion with me when I went to have my foot surgery, just in case there was a long wait.

As it turned out, mine was the first surgery scheduled for that morning, so there was no waiting at all. But after I was gowned and prepped and waiting on a gurney, I was so incredibly nervous that I was afraid I might dissolve in tears despite the comic antics of the anesthesiologist (whom I suspect of moonlighting as a stand-up comedian). But then I asked my mom to hand me my copy of Persuasion, and as soon as my hand closed around it, a feeling of quiet calmness

spread from my palm through the rest of my body.

As I said, Jane Austen never lets you down.


*The British Library says she was 13, Wikipedia suggests 15, and volume 6 of The Oxford Illustrated Jane Austen (edited by R.W. Chapman) dates the work as having been composed in 1791 when Austen would have been 16.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Seven Quick Takes -- I've Been Sick Edition

A bit belatedly, I'm joining Jennifer at Conversion Diary in presenting "Seven Quick Takes," a medley of mini-topics, each of which is too slight to support its own blog post.

1) I had foot surgery at the beginning of May. Because my house has stairs, I decided to spend my convalescence next door at my mom's house, and I'd brought my laptop with me hoping to catch up on my blogging. After all, my wireless network extends to my mom's house, and I wouldn't have much else to do, would I? You'd think, wouldn't you, that having had similar surgery on the other foot twelve years ago I would know better! (Note to future self: lying in pain with foot elevated is not conducive to writing.)

2) Previously read Georgette Heyer novels are probably the best sort of books to read after surgery. They are light and undemanding, -- essential qualities for a book intended to distract one from pain and nausea. (Note to self: No fear of ever becoming a drug addict -- everything seems to make me throw up.)

3) Netflix is wonderful resource for light and cheerful movies, and since my new laptop can use their instant play feature, there's no waiting for the US Postal Service to deliver the next disc. However, I still had a DVD of Housewife 49 which had been delivered before the surgery, so I decided to watch it. Big mistake. I'd originally ordered it because I couldn't get a copy of the book on which it was based. The protagonist is a withdrawn and depressed housewife in Britain at the start of World War II. Though her husband had previously discouraged her attempts to become involved with people who might be outside her class, she heeded her doctor's advice to join the Women's Volunteer Services and gradually blossomed into a stronger and more independent person. She also volunteered to write a journal for a British agency which was documenting the lives of ordinary people during the war. Now that I'm feeling better, I still want to read the book. But the movie did nothing to improve my spirits while I was still on my bed of pain. (Note to self: Timing is everything!)

4) Since I cannot drive yet, my mom's been taking me to my weekly followup appointments which means that I can actually look at the scenery along our route. (I did not learn to drive until I was middle-aged, so I still feel like a relatively new driver. I tend to grip the steering wheel with a white-knuckled grip of death and fear to let my eyes stray from the road by even a fraction of an inch.) So yesterday I enjoyed being able to look around, but then I noticed a billboard with a blatantly misused apostrophe. Normally, I can hide the fact that I'm a grammar geek. But abused apostrophes make me twitch. Coincidentally, this morning I stumbled across this poster: "How To Use An Apostrophe" which I think ought to be widely distributed as a public service announcement.

5) Okay, as long as we're on grammar peeves, I also love "The Alot is Better Than You at Everything" which my daughter just emailed to me. (Is she trying to tell me something?) It will not improve anyone's grammatical usage, but it could definitely help someone like me develop coping skills.

6) While I was still too weak to sit up and use my 4 lb. laptop, my brother came to show me his new iPad. Kewel! It's so light I could have held it up while lying flat on my back (with my foot elevated) to watch movies and read books. And it comes with an ebook version of Winnie the Pooh! What fun I could have downloading obscure short stories by Louisa May Alcott. (Note to self: Don't be silly. You can do that on your laptop. Besides, you just spent all your money on your foot!)

7) On the bright side: I have no more feet eligible for surgery. I will never have to do this again!

For more Quick Takes, join Jennifer and her posse at today's Conversion Diary.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Life, the Universe, and Everything

Today is Towel Day. No doubt, the rest of you already know that. (I am always the last person on Earth to know anything.) But on the off chance that you don't, I'll just mention that May 25th is the day on which fans the late Douglas Adams carry about a towel in honor of the author and his work, especially the multitudinous permutations of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

This is an embarassing admission for a bibliovore, but I have never liked the novels of Douglas Adams. I thought they were over-written and that there were far too many of them. And I just didn't think they were that funny.

However, I thought that the original radio broadcasts were brilliant! (How sad I sometimes feel when reading cranky reviews on Amazon from young people who think that the novels came first and that the radio shows are recent and faulty adaptations.)

I first heard the radio series in the early years of my marriage, possibly on KPFK and probably in the late '70s or early '80s. My husband recorded the two original series (including the bridge episode) on our reel-to-reel recorder from which he later made cassette copies for everyday listening. It must have been a recording of the original broadcast since it includes the Pink Floyd background music which was later cut from the segment where our heroes land on Magrathea. (Copyright problems.)

Over the years, The Hitchhikers's Guide to the Galaxy became an important cultural influence in our family. Our children grew up using phrases such as "You've got to build bypasses!" or "Forty-two?" in everyday conversation -- even though they had never read the book, heard the radio broadcasts, or seen the television series. And when they were not washing their heads at us, they generally considered their parents to be hoopy froods who really knew where their towels were. Until, of course, they got old enough to swipe our cassette tapes and discovered that we weren't actually witty, but merely given to inveterate quotation.

Actually, they may have first encountered Hitchhiker's in our library. For there, in the media and humor section, we had a copy of The Original Hitchhiker Radio Scripts. Every now and then I reread them and "hear" once again the original voices, music, and sound effects of that long ago broadcast. And they still make me smile.

So despite not liking his novels, I'll raise a glass to Douglas Adams (carefully spreading a towel on my lap in case of spills) and thank him for enriching our family vocabulary. May he rest in peace.

(By the way, the shirt pictured at the beginning of this post can be found at Think Geek.)

Saturday, April 3, 2010

When the Universe Paused and Held Its Breath...

This morning, as I was flipping through The Liturgy of the Hours to find my place in Lauds, my eye fell on the following selection in the Office of Readings. The harrowing of hell, when Christ descended to the abode of the dead to free the imprisoned souls of the just, is a popular theme in Early and Middle English literature, especially in the mystery plays. I've always found them charming -- a sort of early Catholic fan fiction. In the Creed, we affirm that "he descended into hell" -- but no one knows exactly what it was like. It is a gap which human imagination longs to fill.

I suppose this sermon is much older. In a fictionalized form, it depicts the meeting of Adam, the first man, and Christ, the new Adam.

From an ancient homily on Holy Saturday
(PG 43, 439, 451, 462-463)

The Lord descends into hell

Something strange is happening — there is a great silence on earth today, a great silence and stillness. The whole earth keeps silence because the King is asleep. The earth trembled and is still because God has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and Hell trembles with fear. He has gone to search for our first parent, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives Adam and Eve, He who is both God and the Son of Eve. The Lord approached them bearing the Cross, the weapon that had won him the victory. At the sight of him Adam, the first man he had created, struck his breast in terror and cried out to everyone, ‘My Lord be with you all.’ Christ answered him: ‘And with your spirit.’ He took him by the hand and raised him up, saying: ‘Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.’

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in Hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I in you; together we form one person and cannot be separated.

For your sake I, your God, became your son; I, the Lord, took the form of a slave; I, whose home is above the heavens, descended to the earth and beneath the earth. For your sake, for the sake of man, I became like a man without help, free among the dead. For the sake of you, who left a garden, I was betrayed to the Jews in a garden, and I was crucified in a garden.

See on my face the spittle I received in order to restore to you the life I once breathed into you. See there the marks of the blows I received in order to refashion your warped nature in my image. On my back see the marks of the scourging I endured to remove the burden of sin that weighs upon your back. See my hands, nailed firmly to a tree, for you who once wickedly stretched out your hand to a tree.

I slept on the Cross and a sword pierced my side for you who slept in Paradise and brought forth Eve from your side. My side has healed the pain in yours. My sleep will rouse you from your sleep in Hell. The sword that pierced Me has sheathed the sword that was turned against you.

Rise, let us leave this place. The enemy led you out of the earthly Paradise. I will not restore you to that Paradise, but will enthrone you in heaven. I forbade you the tree that was only a symbol of life, but see, I who am life itself am now one with you. I appointed cherubim to guard you as slaves are guarded, but now I make them worship you as God. The throne formed by cherubim awaits you, its bearers swift and eager. The Bridal Chamber is adorned, the banquet is ready, the eternal dwelling places are prepared, the treasure houses of all good things lie open. The Kingdom of Heaven has been prepared for you from all eternity.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

National Grammar Day

Today is National Grammar Day, hosted this year by Mignon Fogarty (a.k.a. Grammar Girl). Click
here to join in the festivities which include a special Grammar Day song.

Naturally, my favorite part was the links to a grammar noir series written by writer and editor John MacIntyre on his blog, "You Don't Say."

Part I, 2010

Part II, 2010

Part III, 2010

As for myself, I plan to celebrate by curling up with a nice grammar book today. But which one? My trusty copy of Warriner's English Grammar and Composition? (I picked it up at a church rummage sale for only 10 cents and it has given me decades of useful service.) My massive copy of Writing Handbook by Bernard J. Streicher, S.J.? It's my go-to source for when to capitalize religious terms. One of Karen Elizabeth Gordon's slim, light-hearted volumes such as The Transitive Vampire: A Handbook of Grammar for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed. Or perhaps the granddaddy of them all, The Elements of Style by Strunk & White. I think that may have been my very first grammar purchase, either at the end of high school or the very beginning of my freshman year at college.

I suppose there is something pathetic about admitting that one enjoys reading grammar books. How much worse it must be to admit to having two shelve's worth of books about words, grammar, and writing. Can we say, "doesn't have a life"? But given my love of reading, is it surprising that words and the use of words are the very breath of life to me?

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Administrative Update

A troll has seriously spammed my comments, so until further notice I have enabled Comment Moderation. It seems to be a somewhat inept troll since all the posts it "commented" on were one or two years old. But it was such a pain to delete them (over a dozen!) that I'd like to prevent any further occurrance.

Monday, February 1, 2010

In a World of Books

I liked this little walk through a book world:

This Is Where We Live from 4th Estate on Vimeo.

This stop motion film was made for 4th Estate Publisher's 25th anniversary. I don't know anything about this particular publisher or its books, but I loved the image of the little man coming out of a volume and walking through a world of books. (By the way, if you have trouble watching it, be sure to click the HD IS OFF button.)

When I was a little girl, I couldn't help feeling that there was something magically alive about books. That if one could only find the key, one could, like Gumby, slip inside a favorite title and live in its world. Though I suppose it would feel dreadfully Calvinist to live inside a book you'd already read. Everything would seem depressingly preordained. (I recall in Edgar Eager's Time Garden, when the children wrangled a trip into Little Women from the Natterjack, how relieved they were that Beth was home with a cold that day rather than out sledding with Jo and Laurie. They'd felt a bit queasy at the thought of meeting her, knowing that she dies in the second volume.

Or perhaps a book's characters might somehow slip into our world. I still recall a very old cartoon (Was it a Max Fleisher or a Warner Brothers?) which took place in a bookstore. During the night the book characters crept out and frolicked on the shelves. Seemed plausible to me.

Friday, January 22, 2010

7 Quick Takes - Catch All Edition

Seven Quick Takes hosted by Jennifer at Conversion Diary

1. Seraphic not only finished "Eilidh and the Empty Fame," but she's now posting segments of "Eilidh and the Christmas Spirit." If you were pitching this as a movie it would be "Bertie and Jeeves, only female and in Scotland -- and um, Catholic." Though it seems to me that some of Lady Bramble's relatives could have wandered in from an Evelyn Waugh novel. Both stories are posted here (in reverse order since it's a blog). I really like Catholic fiction that's not what people expect when they see that label.

2. Yesterday, while shelving books in the library, I noticed an unintentionally amusing title: The Little Book of Atheist Spirituality by Andre Compte-Sponville. We aides aren't supposed to pause to read jacket blurbs, so I'm not sure how the author reconciles spirituality with a belief in the existence of nothing beyond the material world. Perhaps, like many people, he equates spirituality with simply being nice. (Reviews on Amazon are mixed.)

3. I had a really weird dream last night, possibly triggered by my visit to the Road to California quilt show on Sunday. Though the details have faded, I distinctly remember that I was in search of dish towels with embroidered redwork designs showing Cthulhu engaged in different chores for each day of the week. You know, wash on Monday; iron on Tuesday; sew on Wednesday; etc. When I was a girl, you could buy Aunt Martha's iron-on embroidery transfers for this sort of thing at Woolworth's. But they featured cute little girls, kittens, or duckies. Not Cthulhu. And the really odd thing is that I don't think I've ever read any Lovecraft.

4. Having recently noticed that Neil Gaiman won the Newbery in 2009 for The Graveyard Book, I decided to give it a go. Ho, hum! An interesting premise -- human baby raised by the ghosts in the local graveyard -- but rather disjointed in execution. Perhaps that is not surprising since the author says that it took him twenty-some years to write the book and that it initially started with what is now chapter four. The Graveyard Book doesn't really begin to act like a novel until near the end.

5. For more timely Newbery excitement, click over to Everyone's a Winner as Peter Sieruta of Collecting Children's Books uses Twitter and a cell phone to help a book seller friend place her orders for the new award winners as they are being announced so that she'll have have copies in stock for the Award Day rush.
I was very glad to help her out. In these uncertain times, independent bookstores -- the kind where they know your name and make personal recommendations -- are having a terrible time competing with the big chains and dealers. When Awards Day rolls around, everyone --from local libraries to first edition collectors -- calls or drops by my friend's store, trying to find the winning titles. So it was very important that she have these books in stock; her business depended on it.
I also enjoyed reading his reflections on the books that won and those that didn't.

6. Who knew that there was a blog devoted to the Dewey Decimal system? Appropriately, it is called 025.431: The Dewey Blog. Tuesday's entry concerns dark matter and the Milky Way.

The comprehensive (and interdisciplinary) number for dark matter is 523.1126 Dark matter; an example of a work classed there is In Search of Dark Matter.

The comprehensive (and interdisciplinary) number for the Milky Way is 523.113 Milky Way; an example of a work classed there is The Milky Way.

Where should a work about dark matter as part of the Milky Way be classed?

If this is the geeky sort of thing that makes your heart go pitter-pat (and I have to admit that mine does), click here to find the answer and the reasoning behind it. Someday I'll have to write about the fun I had cataloging the library at my previous parish.

7. Have you been to see my other blog, Quilting Bibliophagist? (When I'm not reading, I quilt.)

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Don't Go Out Without One

". . . Laurie led the way from room to room, letting Jo stop to examine whatever struck her fancy; and so at last they came to the library, where she clapped her hands, and pranced, as she always did when especially delighted. It was lined with books, and there were pictures and statues, and distracting little cabinets full of coins and curiosities, and sleepy-hollow chairs, and queer tables, and bronzes;l and best of all, a great open fire-place, with quaint tiles all round it.

"What richness!" sighed Jo, sinking into the depth of a velvet chair, and gazing about her with an air of intense satisfaction. "Theodore Laurence, you ought to be the happiest boy in the world," she added impressively.

"A fellow can't live on books," said Laurie, shaking his head . . ."

--Little Women by L.M. Alcott

Oh, I don't know. A fellow might try.

I remember, when I was in high school, standing in line to enter the gym for one of those mandatory pep rallies which regularly interrupted our alleged education. As usual, I'd brought a book to help me endure the tedium. (I am so not into sports!) Upon seeing me, a girl whom I knew slightly gave a snort of exasperation and said, "You know, there is more to life than books." Without raising my eyes from the page, I replied, "Yes, but there's more to life with a book than without." I'm still pretty much of that opinion. Cosmically speaking, books may not be the most important things in life. But they certainly help you get through the bad bits.