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The Tatty Cover

The love of learning, the sequestered nooks, and all the sweet serenity of books. ~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Poems

No One Says It Like Hardy

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It’s no secret that I love Thomas Hardy. My favorite poem remains his Neutral Tones, which I memorized in high school and have never forgotten. But, Hardy’s verse doesn’t end in his poems. Readers of his other works would be hard pressed not to find beautiful, lyrical passages there as well. For example, this, taken from Tess of the d’Urbervilles, on a woman’s past being brought to light:

“The figure near at hand suffers on such occasion, because it shows up its sorriness without shade; while vague figures afar off are honoured, in that their distance makes artistic virtues of their stains.”

So simple, yet so elegant. Hardy was always on point in observing everyday life. Perhaps that, coupled with his beautiful use of language, is why his work has endured for so long.

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Yeats’ Castle

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I, the poet William Yeats,

With old mill boards and sea-green slates,

And smithy work from the Gort forge,

Restored this tower for my wife George.

And may these characters remain

When all is ruin once again.

I got the chance to visit Yeats’ castle, Thor Ballylee, in County Galway several years ago. I love the tower house, which is set in such a peaceful, serene location on the Streamstown River . I especially love the dedication to his wife that is set into the castle stone. Only a poet….

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All Things Irish

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“I dreamt I reach’d the Irish shore and felt my heart rebound. From wall to wall within my breast, as I trod that holy ground.”

-Thomas D’Arcy McGee

It’ s no secret that I love Ireland. For as long as I remember, I’ve heavily identified with the land, the people and the culture.  And while I visit as often as I can, it’s not the same as living there (as I one day plan to do–just waiting for the hubby to agree). In the meantime, I do what every other Irish-wannabe American does…read Irish lit and poetry.  Ireland has a rich and robust literary heritage.  Just think, without Irish writers we’d never have Dorian Gray, Leopold Bloom or even Dracula.

Hands down, William Trevor is my favorite Irish writer. His books and short stories are heartbreakingly beautiful.  Other contemporary writers I like include Colum McCann, Sebastian Barry, Frank Delaney and Colm Toibin.

In honor of Paddy’s Day, I encourage you to try an Irish author or poet you’ve not read before. I guarantee you’ll be hooked.

Classic Club Spin–What Will You Read?

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I am participating in the Classic Club Spin #5 throughout Feb. & March. The goal is to read a classic that’s been on your to-do list for a while. Simply, you numerically list 20 books and come Feb. 10, CC will throw out a number. That’s the book you read! More detailed rules are below.

And my 20 are:

1.      Oliver Twist

2.      Howard’s End

3.      Watership Down

4.      Rabbit, Run

5.      The Scarlet Letter

6.      The Hound of the Baskervilles

7.      Shakespeare’s Sonnets

8.      Picture of Dorian Gray

9.      Jude the Obscure

10.  Villette

11.  Mayor of Casterbridge

12.  Age of Innocence

13.  The Bride of Lammermoore

14.  Saturday Night & Sunday Morning

15.  Mrs. Dalloway

16.  The Bell Jar

17.  Little Women

18.  Of Mice and Men

19.  For Whom the Bell Tolls

20.  David Copperfield

CC Rules:

It’s easy. At your blog, by next Monday, Feb 10, list your choice of any classic 20 books.

This is your Spin List. You have to read one of these 20 books in February & March. (Details follow.) So, try to challenge yourself. For example, you could list five Classics Club books you are dreading/hesitant to read, five you can’t WAIT to read, five you are neutral about, and five free choice (favorite author, rereads, ancients — whatever you choose.)

Next Monday, we’ll post a number from 1 through 20. The challenge is to read whatever book falls under that number on your Spin List, by April 2. We’ll have a check in here in April, to see who made it the whole way and finished the spin book.

Twitter hashtag: #ccspin

Christmas Loot

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For me, the best gifts are books. And I got some gems for Christmas. Can’t wait to start reading😊.

A Few of My Favs

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I was recently asked, so, off the top of my head….

Every Man Dies Alone(H. Fallada)What a tragic book. Written by Hans Fallada during a 24 day period  after his release from a Nazi asylum, it’s based on a true story of a Berlin couple who takes a stand against Hitler and his regime. Most all of the characters were sympathetic to me, of course some more than others. It’s one of those I couldn’t stop thinking about long after I read its final page.

To Kill a Mockingbird(H. Lee)No explanation needed on this American classic, except my dad tried to get me to read it when I was a kid. Instead of waiting until college, I wish I’d listened to him sooner.

The Things They Carried(T. O’Brien)–My favorite book. It’s pure magic. Told in semi-autobiographical, interwoven short stories about the Alpha Company, Tim O’Brien’s account of the Vietnam War, both at the front and at home, is special. My favorite of the stories are On the Rainy River and the title chapter, The Things They Carried.

Anything Hardy–What can I say, I love Thomas Hardy’s work. It’s bucolic at its best. But Hardy is more than pretty English countrysides and everyday characters. Virginia Woolf called him the greatest tragic writer among English novelists. Furthermore, I find both his prose and poetry beautiful and thoughtful, but most importantly I can identify with it. His ‘Neutral Tones‘ remains my favorite poem ever and just read this from ‘Tess of the d’Urbervilles’ about a woman’s past being brought to light: “The figure near at hand suffers on such occasions, because it shows its sorriness without shade; while vague figures afar off are honoured, in that their distance makes artistic virtues of their stains.” Lyrical.

The Killer Angels(J. Shaara)–A snapshot of the Civil War during the Gettysburg Battle, I loved the strategy and minute-by-minute account of how the most deadly battle in the U.S. unfolded. I walked away idolizing Col. Joshua Chamberlain and thinking what a pompous showoff  J.E.B. Stuart was (I still don’t understand why the South immortalizes him).

The Three Musketeers (A. Dumas)I love being swept away by Alexandre Dumas’ swordplay and chivalry. I’ve not read one of his books I didn’t like. But the Musketeers are oddly comforting to me. I first read the book when I was down and out with the flu and it made me forget how miserable I was feeling. Now I can only think good things when I hear reference to Athos and the gang.

Into the Silence (W. Anderson)–See previous Mallory post.

A Prayer for Owen Meany‘ (J. Irving)–I don’t know what it was about this book by John Irving, but I couldn’t put it down. I loved the time period in which it was told (the 1950s), I adored all of the vivid characters (not only the two boys it’s centered around, but their family, friends and townspeople, too) and the mystery of who is Owen Meany and why is he so special?

 

Tying Up Loose Ends

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I’m tying up loose ends, finishing books I have been lagging on or either putting off reading completely. I recently realized the year will be done before we know it and I had some reading to check off my list (Gretchen Rubin would be proud) before I could sing Auld Lang Syne. And, as all good things must come to an end, so, too, do library renewals.

When I set out at the beginning of the year to read a multitude of books for the WV Reads 150 program, I made a list of books I’d been neglecting. For the self-improvement category I included Rubin’s ‘The Happiness Project.’ While I did pick up some useful tips from her on leading a more productive, uncluttered, happy life, the book was just ok for me.  To be honest, I was turned off by her constant fight not to nag her husband and her incessant need for “gold stars.” As far as self-improvement books go, I much prefer reading the likes of Malcolm Gladwell, Suze Orman or even Emily Post. I know, apples and oranges, but these books play more to the way I think.

I finally finished David Robertson’s ‘George Mallory’ after picking it up and putting it back down for months. Robertson was Mallory’s son-in-law. And although he never met Mallory, he had complete access to all the family letters and papers. Robertson’s is considered the definitive biography on Mallory, but to me it was too academic.  Mallory wrote a lot in his life: letters, papers, lectures, articles, etc. And it seemed it was all included, but no other voices–just Mallory’s. And while it is a great resource to have, there was no personality in the biography. I would think being that close to the family there would be more insight and stories, but instead it read like a one-dimensional textbook. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad to have it on my bookshelf, but for me, David Pye’s (a close friend to the Mallory’s) biography was much more compelling with personal stories and anecdotes. Although, I have to say toward the end of the Robertson book, I found myself wanting to go to it more. I don’t know if that’s because I was having Mallory withdrawal or because my only other option was the Gretchen Rubin book.

I am almost done with ‘A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare:1599,’ by James Shapiro. This one just couldn’t hold my attention. There were interesting bits here and there, but not enough meat about Shakespeare (understandable since very little is known about the man) to keep me interested in the huge tome of a book. It was more about the year 1599 and what was happening in London and around the world. Instead, I really enjoyed ‘Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare,’ by Stephen Greenblatt, which I read earlier this year. While also built on facts and anecdotes, Greenblatt’s book had more personality and kept me engaged.

Maybe Rubin’s book did me good after all. Patience and task completion were definitely in order for me on some of these reads. I guess I can say I get a gold star. 🙂

A Gem of a Poetry Book

I’ve got a thing for George Mallory. I’ve got a thing for vintage books. That’s why I love my rare find of ‘The Spirit of Man,’ a compilation of poetry from 1915 created to motivate and inspire England and its allies during WWI. My copy, which I received earlier this year, has been housed in the West Point library since 1916. I love the way in which Robert Bridges presents the poetry in his book–he doesn’t label the poems with titles or authors, just numbers. He didn’t want to distract the reader from the message.  The poetry includes passages from Yeats, Shakespeare, Shelley, Bronte, Milton and many others.

George Mallory took his copy to Everest during his climbs and would read from it with his mountaineering companions during the nights at 20,000 plus feet. Such a gentleman, such a lovely book.

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A Year of Reading

A Year of Reading

This year marks West Virginia’s 150th birthday. Having left the state more than 18 years ago, I’m still a mountaineer heart and soul. That’s why I couldn’t resist joining a team of avid readers (a.k.a. dad and stepmum) this year to read 150 books in celebration of WV’s big year. It’s a year of reading. And right now I’m enjoying a year with the Bard. I recently finished Robert Greenblatt’s Will in the World, a life history of Shakespeare, so I’m now looking forward to a more thorough and microscopic examination of his life and work.

More to follow once I delve deeper into 1599 and the life of Shakespeare…and more on the other books that have occupied my life this year.

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