Friday, December 29

Best Books of 2006

In the true spirit of the ever-questing librarian I aspire to be, I'm posting my list of my best reading experiences of the year on a page made with Google Labs' Page Creator. Take a look at my book page at And I recommend that people try out Google Page Maker. Just as with Blogger, you have a choice of attractive templates, and it's very easy to make a page. You can have up to five URLs, and I assume each one can have unlimited links to additional pages. I'm still trying to figure out whether I'm creating a site or a page and whether the distinction is real. My only complaint so far is that the discussion forum doesn't seem to be attended to too closely by the lab personnel. I'm spoiled by my experience with the amazing LibraryThing, where the blogs are read and responded to regularly by Tim and Abby. Of course, comparing LT with the Google behemoth is like comparing Malaprop's with Amazon.

Thursday, December 28

Merry Keshmish!

A Merry Keshmish, Froeliche Weinachten, and Merry Christmas to all! Happy Hannukah (over), Eid, Kwaanza, and Solstice! Let us reconcile the deep human need for light and warmth at the darkest time of year with all expressions of celebration both traditional and tacky, homegrown and commercial, religious and secular, pine green or pink aluminum. At the same time we are humbly aware of the desperation and intense want and need in places near and far. When we light the candle to warm our hearth and hearts we can use it to see as well the whole planet. In my head is the world; let my heart hold the world for a moment or a lifetime. Let us not be blind but see by the candle's light the world.

Heading west over the Tappan Zee Bridge in the river fog, you can't see Manhattan's towers to the south or the huge houses high up on the banks. I always wave hello to Simon Schama up there when I cross the Hudson, though he'd be baffled if he knew. It feels good to get west of the City, and to be headed for New Jersey and down to Pennsylvania. Radio is super as you drive through NJ: rock stations up and down the radio dial. Pennsylvania is good for surprises. You might be lucky enough to get an hour of polka music, including some modern polka folk-fusion, or you might, as I did this time, get to hear the incomparable "Second Week of Deer Camp." New Jersey rocks, Pennsylvania rolls. Though I'm glad to be going back home I'll miss these when I get to Virginia, where country and pop radio rule and local stations announce the upcoming Baptist funerals. ("Maisie Bledsoe of Clear Forks Community will be buried from the Clear Fork Hand of Jesus Independent Baptist Church on Thursday at 2 p.m. Mrs. Bledsoe was born in Grass Patch in 1918 but lived most of her life in Hay Stack. She will be missed by her six children, thirteen grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren. Mrs. Bledsoe was predeceased by her husband of sixty-four years, Elmer Wayne Bledsoe in 1998, her brothers Jack, Elmo, Lewis, Delmar, Buddy and Bobby, her sisters Della and Virgie, and a special friend Louisee Raymer. Memorials may be made to the Hay Stack Chihuahua Rescue Fund or to the Clear Fork Volunteer Fire Department.")

Enough. Glueckliche Neues Jahr!

Sunday, December 17

Cats and Curiouser

The cat has taste. She goes for the Pendleton bathrobe from the Sisters of Mercy Thriftshop (on Hendersonville Rd., in the K-Mart plaza) as soon as it's out of the bag. I have to wait till she lets me try it on.

Later. The old cat Tater has found another box. Earlier he tried three or four times to get into a Sam Adams box but tipped it over every time and then gave up. This shoe box is better, even if there's an empty tissue box in his way.

Old riddle: On which voyage did Columbus discover [sic] America? ..... His last one.

And now --- the most curious of all ---

Notice: I hope this isn't a violation of copyright. It's a snapshot of my fridge. I can hardly stop looking at it.

Tuesday, December 12

Blue and Pink Dawn

Hoy es la fiesta de la Virgen de Guadalupe en Mexico. The moon is in its last quarter, and it's the birthday of Dionne Warwick (1947), Frank Sinatra (1915) and Gustave Flaubert (1821). It is also the birthday of Jedidiah Luther Hyde, born in 1971, d. 1974, in Washington, DC.

Here's a poem for the waning moon:

Luna, la luna,

Comiendo su tuna,

Echando las cascaras

En la laguna.

And a reading from the Nova Scotia Public School Speller, henceforth referred to as NSPSS:

An ignorant vagrant lay by a crystal pool. His face was roguish. He had slept in the midst of an abundant growth of fragrant clover. It is a mystery how the knavish fellow lives. (Form III, Senior Grade, Lesson 22)

Monday, December 11


I've just finished my first reading of David Treuer's The Translation of Dr. Apelles, his third novel (after Little and The Hiawatha) and absolutely the best (so far). I began reading his books because David Treuer was a small boy in Washington, D.C., and was our neighbor when my children were small. Now he's a professor of English and a writer who deserves attention. His first two novels were fine but also fairly straighforward stories of Ojibwes who lived in two cultures, reservation life in northern Minnesota and urban life in a Minneapolis that you never hear about on Prairie Home Companion, a city with neighborhoods of poverty and bleakness, where Indians build skyscrapers because they can get paid for dangerous work that whites don't want to do. Both novels enmesh you fully in the lives of the protagonists and their families. The plotting is skillful, with important information revealed in successive layers, so that the reader doesn't fully understand the backgrounds and motivations of the characters until the end. Treuer's writing is strong and original.
But this new novel (2006) is a departure from the earlier, more traditional stories. While Dr. Apelles is also an Ojibwe living in the city and dealing with some of the same attitudes and stereotypes, his story is a more unique one, of a solitary man simultaneously translating an ancient Indian manuscript about a young pair of lovers and falling in love in his own life. Since's I'm puzzled by how it all turns out, this is all I'll say for now.
Treuer has also published a critical guide to Native American fiction, of which more later.

Sunday, December 10


Sparrows come in the first light, and the cardinal next, before the cats get out. I go out and pour warm water to make small pools in the ice and scatter seed. The birds peck on the ground, then drink. A little more light, and the cardinal and mourning dove arrive. A black neighbor's cat with white chest mirrors my cat, who is indoors, looking out. Then, attracted by the peanuts, blue jay lands, scaring off the cardinal. Later the cardinal returns with his mate. She feeds on the ground while he sits on the birdbath and drinks. Finally, the sun streams above the hemlocks.

Some keep the Sabbath going to church --

I keep it staying Home --
With a Bobolink for a Chorister --
And an Orchard, for a Dome --

I've never seen a bobolink, but the blue jay is enough for me.

Here are a few sentences from The Nova Scotia Public School Speller, 1917:

"The kingdom is to a great extent inaccessible and unexplored. Mountains run east and west, parallel to the straits. The almost perpendicular cliffs present a complex problem to the professional mountaineer."

Tuesday, December 5

Full Moon December Dawn

I have the best commute in the country, 25 minutes down a little valley with a view of the mountains to the west and a tall ridge to the east. Some mornings the back glow of dawn is stunning on the peaks of the Blue Ridge. It's a time to listen to npr and make the transition from home to work. I go under the Blue Ridge Parkway each time, but from the road, it's just an overpass. Because of increasing development, trees that previously blocked the view to the west have been cleared. This morning the full moon shone over the western ridge.

Saturday, December 2

December Morning

It's cold today, and bright, after a balmy spell. The winds came and blew away the warmth and clouds. The water in the birdbath was frozen. After I poured warm water over it to melt it, the small black cat was hanging out under the bath to catch the drippings on her paws and lick them off. Cats are certainly weird. I dreamed that I was at my inlaws and they had friendly kittens but I wasn't allowed to pick one up and talk with it or breathe into its fur. But when I went to bed, the kitten I'd erred with was there, waiting for me.

Later in the day the sun warmed everything up, and in the evening the gibbous moon rose among streaks of bright clouds. This picture wouldn't load, so now it's Sunday, less cold, no ice in the birdbath, mixed clouds and blue, and my picture has loaded. This is a new camera, and I vow to take good care of it. I'm trying to ignore the fact that I could have saved money by being patient and ordering the same model from J&R.

Later today: the fate of my totem. I miss him terribly.

Sunday dawn:
Note the bird's glowing egg. Okay, it's subtle, but it's a lovely egg.