Stuff & Nonsense: January 2010


30 January 2010

Nothing: Something to Believe In by Nica Lalli


I have belief, I just don't have religion.

Nothing is not about making the case against religion from a scientific or logical standpoint -- if you are looking for that type of argument, you would do better reading Richard Dawkins. Instead, Nothing is an extremely personal memoir of being an everyday garden-variety nonbeliever in contemporary America -- we read about Lalli's early encounters with institutionalized religion, her struggles to define her nonbelief, and her efforts to defend herself from her rabidly Christian in-laws.

Nothing is a fast and easy read with a nice combination of humorous and cringe-worthy moments, but it's not very deep -- I ended up watching a whole slew of CFI Ontario YouTube videos to get a better grasp of Lalli's beliefs.

Nothing: Something to Believe In by Nica Lalli (Prometheus Books, 2007)

25 January 2010

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork


"He is remembering," I say.
"Remembering what?"
"It's a word I use for praying. Sometimes it's like waiting for music to come out of the silence.

Marcelo, a high-functioning autistic seventeen-year old, has always heard music no one else can hear, has always thought a lot about God, and has always attended a special school where his "differences" have been protected. However, the summer before his senior year, his father challenges Marcelo to experience "the real world" by working in his law firm's mail room. Marcelo does not want to go, but he does not really have any choice in the matter.

Out in the "real world" of the law firm, Marcelo meets Jasmine and Wendell, discovers truths not told, and begins to learn hard lessons about jealousy, desire, anger, and injustice.

I thought Marcelo in the Real World was an excellent read – the story read quickly and Marcelo’s narration was completely absorbing. Marcelo’s internal music and some of the questions he raises about his place in the world reminded me of Elizabeth Moon’s The Speed of Dark and I think if you enjoy one you will enjoy the other.

(There’s a great article on the Papercuts blog @ The New York Times which covers all the “real” music mentioned in Marcelo in the Real World -- I have to admit I was so taken with the description of Erik Satie Gymnopédies that I bought a recording).

Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork (Scholastic, 2009)

10 January 2010

The Lark and the Laurel by Barbara Willard


The Wars of the Roses have finally come to an end and the Earl of Richmond, Henry Tudor, has been crowned king. These are dangerous times for scheming traitors and turncoats like Cecily's father so he flees England for France. On the way, he makes sure his frail, spoilt, ornamental daughter is "safely put away" at his sister's country manor in Sussex. There is no love lost between siblings, but it is a convenient place to leave the girl and who would think to look for her there?

Happily, under the abrasive care of her altogether too forthright aunt, Cecily blossoms into a young woman of good sense and ability. She also meets a young man and falls in love, but will the secrets and mysteries of their pasts keep them from living Happily Ever After?

Of course not! Loved The Lark and the Laurel. And why wouldn't I? It's loaded with gobs of history, lots of wonderful descriptions of daily life on the manor farm, and wraps up tidily in very sweet happy ending. Reading it was like reading a Philippa Gregory novel if Gregory went in for descriptions of housekeeping and iron-mongering (and cut out all the naughty bits)!

The Lark and the Laurel (Mantlemass Chronicles, Book One) by Barbara Willard (Laurel Leaf, 1989).

07 January 2010

"This is what you shall do ..."

When The Husband placed our Christmas card order with Blue Barn House, I casually mentioned that I really liked the Whitman Broadside. I never thought he would add a copy to our order -- and yet there it sits on a chair in our dining room, waiting for the day I frame it and hang it on a wall. It's a beautiful quotation beautifully rendered and looking at it makes me so happy.

This is what you shall do: Love the earth and sun and the animals, despise riches, give alms to every one that asks, stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others, hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people, take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men, go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families, read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life, re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul, and your very flesh shall be a great poem ...

Punctuation for the above quote taken from my Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass: The First (1855) Edition (Penguin, 2005) with it's sexy French flaps and excellent introduction by Harold Bloom. Punctuation in other editions (and on the broadside) varies.

04 January 2010

Bloody-Minded Poetry

Don't you just love poetry that gives you a crinkly feeling up and down your back? There is a piece in the Fifth Reader -- 'The Downfall of Poland' -- that is just full of thrills.
from Anne of Green Gables, Chapter V
While I have always loved how the Anne books are riddled with poetry, but I had never bothered hunting down and reading the poems referenced in the series. I wonder why? Anne (at least in Green Gables) seems to love some stirring, bloody stuff!

Other poems referenced in Chapter V of Anne of Green Gables:
Really, I should start reading The Annotated Anne of Green Gables (Oxford UP, 1997). It has only been sitting on my bookshelf for a year and a half now!


03 January 2010

"We are led to Believe a Lie ..."

Saturday night, we were kvetching our way through Neverwas when the Gabriel Finch character started spouting gibberish which sounded really familiar to me. And well it should, as it was an excerpt from William Blake's Auguries of Innocence:

A truth that's told with bad intent
Beats all the lies you can invent.
It is right it should be so:
Man was made for joy and woe
And when this we rightly know
Through the world we safely go.
Joy and woe are woven fine,
A clothing for the soul divine.


ENGL 211 ftw!

Oh, and Neverwas? Fail.

01 January 2010

That Anne-Girl!

I've been listening to Anne of Green Gables on a Playaway while I do the treadmill thing. I've not been listening to it very long -- Matthew is just fetching Anne home from the Bright River station. I'm plodding along, only half listening while Anne chatters away, when I am struck by this passage:

Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive-- it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there?

Right there, that's the whole reason for living. Certainly, it was a good reason for becoming a librarian.