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Niagara on the Lake, Ontario, Canada
My virtue is that I say what I think, my vice that what I think doesn't amount to much.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Crackdown on Little Free Library Book Exchanges

Alas, a subset of Americans are determined to regulate every last aspect of community life. Due to selection bias, they are overrepresented among local politicians and bureaucrats. And so they have power, despite their small-mindedness, inflexibility, and lack of common sense so extreme that they've taken to cracking down on Little Free Libraries, of all things.

More: The Atlantic

Elections 101

New York Public Library staff recommends some primers to help kids feel a part of the election buzz. Young citizens can learn about the two-party system, the primaries and the caucuses, the general election and the electoral college, and some of our past presidents. Most importantly, they will recognize mud slinging when they see it and will cast their votes for those who stay true to themselves.

The US electoral system baffles me. Perhaps I should read some of these.


Monday, April 25, 2016

Franz Kafka's Literary Importance

Franz Kafka turned the stuff of nightmares into redemptive, consoling art.


“Life’s Short; We Need Beautiful Things”

Diamonds and Pearls
by Sadie Stein

“You’re in scarves.”

“Oh, you mean this?” I fingered the cotton scarf around my neck.

“You make them. I see the way you touch the material. It’s okay—I’m a designer, too. We all have to get ideas.”

“No!” I said. “I’m not a designer! I got this at the flea market!”

“It’s okay, I can tell,” she said. “Don’t lie.”

“I’m not lying! I’ve never made a scarf in my life! I mean, I knitted a couple, but—”

“I know,” she said. “I understand. It’s okay. I can tell by the way you dress.”

Let it be known that I was wearing Converse sneakers, jeans, and a green army jacket, so I guess that’s the uniform of sneaky scarf designers.

Read the entire story here

How An Insurance Man Became America's Quintessential Poet Of The 20th Century


"Paul Mariani’s excellent new book, “The Whole Harmonium: The Life of Wallace Stevens” (Simon & Schuster), is a thrilling story of a mind, which emerges from a dispiriting story of a man. It’s hard to think of a more vivid illustration of T. S. Eliot’s principle of the separation between “the man who suffers and the mind which creates.” For most of his life, Stevens was an elaborately defended introvert in a three-piece suit, working as a Hartford insurance executive. He came slowly to a mastery of language, form, and style that revealed a mind like a solar system, with abstract ideas orbiting a radiant lyricism. Mariani persuasively numbers Stevens among the twentieth-century poets who are both most powerful and most refined in their eloquence, along with Rilke, Yeats, and Neruda."

Read the entire story: The New Yorker

In Between Days - A Graphic Memoir

Teva Harrison was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer at the age of 37. Her graphic memoir, In Between Days, is a profound account of what it means to live with the disease. She also examines those quiet moments of helplessness and loving with her husband, her family, and her friends, while they all adjust to the new normal.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

A Little Life

A Little Life is a hefty (more than 700 pages) novel by Hanya Yanagihara and reading it has taken up a good chunk of my own little life, not that I'm complaining. It opens with four college graduates of a prestigious university who have moved to New York to start their careers. Willem is an aspiring actor, working as a waiter.  JB is a painter who has a job as a receptionist at an artsy magazine. Malcolm is an architect working for a well known firm. Jude, the enigmatic one, is a lawyer. Initially it looks like there will be four parallel stories about the men but A Little Life is about Jude. His history is revealed bit-by-traumatic-bit. One wonders how he can carry on. The truth is that Jude copes with his past by self-mutilating. Despite a loving circle of friends he needs to feel the sting of the razor to set free the demons that reside within his frail, damaged body. The novel revolves around his pain, emotional and physical, and the difficult subject matter made it necessary for me to put the book down when it became too painful to read it. But I was drawn back because it's a damn good story. That being said, there are weaknesses. All four men rise to the top of their respective fields and become rich and famous. What are the odds of that? Jude's problems are so profound that it is unlikely that he could maintain a successful career as a brilliant litigator without his colleagues becoming aware that there was something terribly awry with him. The friends, Jude's adoptive family and his caring physician wring their hands and make only feeble attempts to stop Jude's self destruction. There are no shades of grey. The good people are too caring, too patient and ultimately powerless. The bad guys are beyond villainous and hold all the power. I'm glad I stuck with it to the end but this book is definitely not for everyone. My advice is to read it if you have a lot of time, the ability to suspend disbelief and a strong stomach.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

William Shakespeare, The New York Times Obit

On this date — April 23, 1616 — the creator of “Hamlet,”
“Macbeth” and “Romeo and Juliet” left the beauty of this
world. To us, he bequeathed his tragedies and comedies,
his sonnets and verse, which would survive 400 years.

More here 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Like a tree in full bearing

In 1848, Charlotte Bronte's sister, Emily, died from tuberculosis; she was just 30 years old. A few days after her death, Charlotte wrote to her publisher. 
December 25th, 1848.
My dear Sir,—I will write to you more at length when my heart can find a little rest—now I can only thank you very briefly for your letter, which seemed to me eloquent in its sincerity.
Emily is nowhere here now, her wasted mortal remains are taken out of the house. We have laid her cherished head under the church aisle beside my mother’s, my two sisters’—dead long ago—and my poor, hapless brother’s. But a small remnant of the race is left—so my poor father thinks.
Well, the loss is ours, not hers, and some sad comfort I take, as I hear the wind blow and feel the cutting keenness of the frost, in knowing that the elements bring her no more suffering; their severity cannot reach her grave; her fever is quieted, her restlessness soothed, her deep, hollow cough is hushed for ever; we do not hear it in the night nor listen for it in the morning; we have not the conflict of the strangely strong spirit and the fragile frame before us—relentless conflict—once seen, never to be forgotten. A dreary calm reigns round us, in the midst of which we seek resignation.
Read more at Letters of Note

Teacher seeks to solve mystery of 200-year-old Jane Austen book mailed to high school

The tattered book with the small golden stag embossed on its cover, bearing the initials “JA” underneath, arrived in March in an envelope that read, “Ayer High School. ATTN: English Department.”

Along with the musty leatherbound book there was a letter. It had a picture of a rose in the bottom right-hand corner and was addressed to “anyone who cares.”

More here 

Wearable Books


Thursday, April 21, 2016


A short story by Tom Curren

I know exactly how I ended up on that wall, nonchalantly swinging my feet and letting the hazy mist of drink descend upon my thoughts.
The bit that still confuses me is how she got there.

Trailer for the Girl on the Train Movie

An eerie new trailer grants us our first peek at the movie adaptation of Paula Hawkins’ best-selling thriller, The Girl on the Train, out Oct. 7.


Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Something You Never Want to Hear a Man Say—“It’s Like Sex, Right?”

The Wrong Scent
by Sadie Stein
When I rejoined my husband, the first thing he said was, “I love that perfume!”
“That’s just as well,” I said shortly.

Read more 

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Modern Retellings of Shakespeare for Every Reader

There’s no shortage of Shakepeare-inspired fiction. Many of the basic plots and the character archetypes of the Bard have been remixed by modern writers.