The Story of A Marriage - Andrew Sean Greer: Quickie Review

The Story of A Marriage
Andrew Sean Greer

Quick Thoughts:
Do not be fooled by the feather weight of this book. Pardon my pugilist metaphors, but, I suppose marriage could be considered a prize fight, with a winner, a loser, a draw. Yes, a very bleak analogy, and quite telling, but let's not get into to that. Regardless of how you view marriage, Greer's book should certainly be ranked as a heavyweight among books. I will confess I rolled my eyes at the title, but still opened to the first page. I bought it immediately after reading the first sentence. This book will surprise you in the way any intimate relationship you've ever had has. You, the reader, think you know what a marriage is, thinkn you know your partner, you think you know these characters and their world. The reality is that we can never truly know another person. (Back to the boxing metaphors), After a few brief pages, the book suddenly switches from steady right jabs and throws a surprise left hook that knocks you out of your dogged assurance of who you think the narrator is, and blam!, you're on the ropes, realizing the sentence you just read changes everything you thought you knew, and this knowledge sends you scrambling to the corner to reread. Reading this book you realize assumptions say more about you than the words you speak. All the big issues of every age: politics, religion, gender, race, predilections, preferences, persuasions, are questioned and examined, stealthily.

First Sentence:
"We think we know the ones we love."

Favorite Parts:
" know the heart: every night, it grows a thorn." p. 34

"A whisper in my ear: "I need you to marry me." He might have said: "I need you to hide me." p. 41

"Like a protected witness, a life in our little house, calm as can be: a boy, a wife, a barkless dog.Some love in there, for all of us." --

"1953. It was a world with a war that had just ended and, like a devil that grows a new tail after you've chopped one off, another war had begun." p. 45

"Life could be exchanged; could be better, what you'd dreamedd of; could be built on a cliff above the roaring world." p. 48

"A choice: ake this, or nothing." --

"What an attractive fantasy: to believe you could leave race problems behind." p. 52

"Holland chose--as men often have the luxury of choosing--to do nothing." p. 54

"It set the tone for our lives together, those days in a warm seled room, reading books in a whisper, terrified of discovery...Children hiding from our country,, that angry father." p. 57

"How hollow, to have no secrets left, you shake yourself and nothing rattles. You're boneless as an anemone." p. 60

"I am sure we each loved a different man. Because a lover exists only in fragments, a dozen or so if the romance is new, a thousand if we've married him, and out of those fragments our heart constructs an entire person." p. 64

How remarkable we are, in our ability to hide things from ourselves--our conscious minds only a small portion of our actual minds: jelly fish floating on a vast dark sea of know and deciding...." p. 65

"I do not know wht joins the parts of an atom, but it seems what binds one human to another is pain." p. 71

"I felt like a magician who has decided to retire, and one afternoon, over a drink, tells a younger man all of the secrets to his lifetime of tricks." p. 88

"What a cool, crisp silence we sat in." p. 105

"I thrust my arms out at the open sky, the clouds as bright and crenellated as the grass below, all of it moving, rustling, in the strong wind that smelles of the ocean." p. 125

"Something had been tugging at me throughout the dance, and it turned out to be just myself, as a girl, with some piece of hte past to show me." p. 137

"America, you give a lovely death." p. 147

"...that was how she wore themm, those blackened pearls; as a token, a holy relic around her neck." p. 150

"We would not fight to kill in a war or set the world aright, not for a country who disowned us..." p. 151

"A prison made entirely of light...Nothing keeps you from it; ther is no electric fence or wall around a life, a marriage." p. 153

"This is a war story. It was not meant to be. It started as a love sotry, the story of a marriage, but the war has stuck to it everywhere like shattered glass." p. 156

Author Bio:
Andrew Sean Greer is the bestselling author of The Story of a Marriage, which The New York Times has called an "inspired, lyrical novel," and The Confessions of Max Tivoli, which was named a best book of 2004 by the San Francisco Chronicle and the Chicago Tribune while garnering many other coast-to-coast honors. His first novel, The Path of Minor Planets, and his story collection, How It Was for Me, were also published to wide acclaim. His stories have appeared in Esquire, The Paris Review, The New Yorker, and other national publications, and have been anthologized most recently in The Book of Other People and Best American Nonrequired Reading. He is the recipient of the Northern California Book Award, the California Book Award, the New York Public Library Young Lions Award, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York Public Library. Greer lives in San Francisco.

He was born in Washington, DC, the son of two scientists. He studied writing at Brown University, where he was the Commencement Speaker at his own graduation. After years in New York working as a chauffeur, television extra and unsuccessful writer, he moved to Missoula, MT, where he received his MFA from the University of Montana. He soon moved to San Francisco and began to publish in magazines before releasing a collection of his stories, How It Was for Me. His first novel, The Path of Minor Planets, was published to much acclaim in 2001, and his second book, The Confessions of Max Tivoli, came out in 2004. John Updike first put this novel on the literary map when, in the pages of The New Yorker, he called it "enchanting, in the perfumed, dandified style of disenchantment brought to grandeur by Proust and Nabokov." Mitch Albom then chose Max for the Today Show Book Club and it soon became a bestseller. The New York Times has written that in his new novel, The Story of a Marriage, Greer ascends "to the heights of masters like Marilynne Robinson and William Trevor." from bookbrowse

Best Reviews:
The New York Times Review:Comparisons to Proust, but ultimately makes a case that the novel has roots in Poe's lexicon.

NPR:Glowing review, an excerpt of the novel provided, as well as the author reading from the book. review that piques interest.

The Independent:Not the most flattering of reviews, downright devil's advocate, but I like how the review conflates the opening line of Sylvia Plaths,s The Bell Jar with Greer's opening line, to make his case against heavy-handed symbolism, despite the beauty of the writing. Hmmmm.

Artist of the Day: Each Day. Dog Sleeps in Bed - Sara Pulver

Each Day Dog Sleeps in Bed - Sara Pulver

It's true possessions possess us, none more so than our pets, as if my dogs are possessions, as if I own my dogs. They own me.

I love this painting. This could be a self-portrait with me as the pet at the foot of the bed.

You can see more of Sara's work on her flicker, facebook, and etsy shop.

Artist bio:
I am Sara Pulver and I have been making things and painting since I was just a wee kiddy.

I love doing commissions because it gives me a chance to see picts of your furry friends:O) You can come up with your own scenario, or use one of my previous paintings as a template, adding as much or as little as you want, (send picts, pick colors, add a personal touch, etc)

Voodoo Collage - Summer 2011

Minotaur - center panel.

Pomegranate Buddha - lower left panel.

Yellow Spiral Woman - upper right panel.

White Kangaroo - upper left panel.

One of the books I'm reading on writing is Julia Cameron's The Sound of Paper. The first assignment is to create a collage and then write about it.

You may notice that I did not include the lower left panel, which essentially consists of a bare winter tree, a zebra striding forward, a yellow butterfly with superimposed - Buddha eyes, and a half of a blue whale's tail flipper, an an image of a book, Bitter in the Mouth by Monique Truong. I just realized that was the title and author of the book - when I glued it there I did so because I like the image. This panel is spare. I don't want to share it visually here, so this means something under the surface is bump-bumping for my attention. I'll have to figure it out. I think it's the future saying "what are you waiting for, hurry up, come on in, the water's fine." I think I'll go ahead and just jump before somebody gets fed up and pushes me.

The assignment was to create a collage, a snapshot of your unconscious mind and then write about it. I did, but funny thing is that I can't find the notebook. I do remember wriing about opposing forces in my self represented by the swimmer, blue fish, blue whale facing west, while three zebras, ancient bull figure, and a yellow butterfly head east.

Utah Arts Festival - June 23-26, 2011

Utah Arts Festival June 24, 2011.
Urban Arts interactive rope man. I love it! I wish I could hang it on my living room wall.

BUOSC - Bring Your Own Spray Can graffitti mural.

Juggler on the courthouse mall.

Mailbox wearing a knitted sweater.

Mr. Chat with bow and arrow.

Crocheted flower and vine trellis overlooking waterfall at Library Square.

Mr. Chat with a car wearing a knitted sweater.

Mr. Chat and his mum in the waterfall shallows.

Mr. Chat with a new friend.

June Morning Photo Essay

A typical summer morning: walk the dogs, breakfast on the side deck.

The Coffee Project: June 16-June27, 2011

June 27, 2011.

June 26, 2011.

June 24, 2011.

June 22, 2011.

June 21, 2011.

June 20, 2011.

Father's Day 2011.

June 17, 2011.

June 16, 2011.

The Chronology of Water - Lidia Yuknavitch: Quickie Review

The Chronology of Water
Lidia Yuknavitch

Quick Thoughts:
Before I say anything regarding the book, can we agree on just this: Fathers of the world, sublimate your rage and spare your daughters and sons your particular perversions. And mothers, remember the number one rule of the jungle is to protect your young.

"Make up stories until you find one you can live with."

Therein is the strength and bane of memoir. Telling the truth slant is how we humans understand or make our world real, cut ourselves a break while damning others, or extend generosity through disremembering.

The latest research in neurobiology claims that the only pure memories are those locked away,forgotten, in the secret recesses of our gray matter, and that once a memory is given voice, the narrative alters, ever so slightly, and that a memory recounted numerous times is more fiction than truth. Isn't it just marvelous that our brains and our bodies believe memory is a real experience, that it is happening in real time, just like the brain and body believes the dream state is the same as being awake. It appears that even when a memoirist tells us they are telling it straight, that this is no effing Million Little Pieces, well perhaps just a minute fraction is. Yuknavitch plays on this when she tells us what happens, then tells us she was lying, and then retells it the real way, and then tells us she could say anything and we'd just have to take her word for it. Truth is, I don't care about veracity when it comes to memoir, because what happened only has to be true to the narrative you've chosen for yourself. What is particularly unsettling about this new memory research, it is Lidia's father who has the purest memories.

I did not cry one tear reading this memoir. I'm not saying that I didn't feel every emotion possible. What I'm saying is that I understand her rage, her narrative, her numbness, her escape into water, her ability to seek the very destruction that would take her to the edge of mortality. Help her to feel, something. I'm not appropriating her story or her rage or her brokenness or her stitching her bloody shreds back together again. All I'm saying is that I found a type of common ground. And I think you will too, no matter who you are.

I spent the day reading her life, watching Lidia go down, down the rabbit hole, to emerge somewhere else, the other side perhaps, into another self, another life.

There were sentences and sections that stopped me cold. Word and image like obsidian shards.

Twice, three times, I saw myself reflected exactly in the pages. I too gathered rocks when I was pregnant, lined the perimeter of my living room with field stones, placed head-sized rocks in the transoms, lined the windowsills and counters with miniature menhirs. I still have no idea why or for what purpose, other than I had to do it.

There were times when I lost my patience with Lidia. Thought if I have to hear one more time what is happening in or to her pants while looking at a beautiful man or woman, I would scream cliche or overshare or trite. And then times when I wondered how she survived her life. Also, how the people in her wake survived the tsunami of her. And then, I was grateful she left the details of what her father did with his hands to the imagination. Her pain, her dogged self-destruction, and Dantesque descent into each circle of hell were witness enough. She was generous with her father, who didn't deserve it, not really, even if he'd lost his memory of all that went before. Kind to a mother that didn't protect her, who dove into a bottle and stayed hidden from the reality of her life, her children's lives, in the shallows.

I suppose our makers deserve generosity and kindness, regardless of the dark places they press into us. I believe her father felt remorse but his need was greater than the need to stop. I believe her mother knew, all of it, but believed herself too powerless to stop the hideous reality of her life, her children's lives. Too fearful, I suppose, to just, leave, take her children with her. No regrets. But that isn't this story. The story we know is of a man who damaged, willingly, a woman who looked out the window, willingly, and children who took it until they escaped, and Lidia gave her rage to the world, her body a battering ram, until she found a more gentle way for herself.

Here's the thing: I want to know what happened to the woman who had no English in her, and the fate of her baby. I know about Lidia's penance of working the highways, and I assume if the baby had died there would have been a stronger penalty, but I really don't know California law. I do want to know if there was another deathbaby.

I suppose it depends on who you are and what has happened to you and what stage of grief, recovery, denial, addiction you are in if this book is for you. I think this book is for you and you and you. Each reader will see her or his reflection on the page.

You may not cry, but, you will feel, everything.

First Sentence:
The day my daughter was stillborn, after I held the future pink and rose-lipped in my shivering arms, lifeless tender, covering her face in tears and kisses, after they handed my dead girl to my sister who kissed her, then to my first husband who kissed her, then to my mother who couldn't bear to hold her, then out of the hospital room door, tiny lifeless swaddled thing, the nurse gave me tranquilizers and a soap and a sponge.

Favorite Parts:
"Little tragedies are difficult to keep straight. they swell and dive in and out between great sinkholes of the brain." p. 25

"It's hard to know what to think of a life when you're knee-deep." --

"Laughter can shake you from the delirium of grief." p. 26

"The rocks. They carry the chronology of water. All things simultaneously living and dead in your hands." p. 33

"Sometimes I think my voice arrived on paper." p. 37

"All the rooms of our house carried the weight of father." p. 46

"I pictured a suitcase... Big enough to fit the rage of a girl." p. 47

"My sister and I, we were selfish. We wanted selves." p. 50

"To be born has many meanings. How many times we leave a life, enter a new one." p. 53

"Even angry girls can be moved to tears." p. 59

"Addiction, she is in me, sure enough." p. 71

"I didn't know yet how wanting ot die could be a bloodsong in your body that lives with you your whole life. p. 72

"I didn't know we were our mother's daughters after all." --

"They fed me bible passages. I brought Mary Shelly's Frankenstein with me every day for moral support." p. 73

"This is something I know: damaged women? We don't think we deserve kindness. In fact, when kindness happens to us, we go a little berserk. It's threatening. Deeply. Because if I have to admit how profoundly I need kindness? I have to admit that I hid the me who deserves it down in a sadness well. Seriously. Like abandoning a child at the bottom of a well because it's better than the life she is facing. Not quite killing my little girl me, but damn close." p. 76

"The fact was, we were both adult women now. Living adult women lives. Meaning we had something very deeply inn common: the tyranny of a culture telling women who they should be." p. 77

"I only know my father's anger built the house." p. 81

"The death of our children swam in the water with us, curling around us, keeping us twinned and floating." p. 101

"I felt most alive near death anyway." p. 118

"What's the best thing that's ever happened to you in your life?" p. 121

"I closed my eyes and waited for the hands of a man to do what they did to women like me." p. 122

"I liked books more than people." --

"When I as 13 I confessed my father secrets in the black box of catholic too another father in the house of our father who told me I should not tell lies." "Honor thy father." "Say seven Hail Marys." "It's wicked to make up stories." p. 131

"...Joan of Arc...Girl with a war in her. voice of a father in her head. --

"I'm the rest of my life a burning girl." p. 132

"Jesus. What is a thin man pinned to wood next to the image of a burning woman warrior ablaze?" --

"All that day I stomped around fuming the fumes of a woman who doesn't know how to own her own intellect and blames i on men." p. 139

"Upside down I saw the sun and sky at the surface make silver blue electricity...The upsidedownness of blood in my skull made my head ache." p. 150

"My body in deep water. Weightless. Airless. Daughterless void." p. 151

"In water, like books - you can leave your life." p. 152

"In a beautiful wooden box, I have the hair of people I love." p. 155

"My mother said that as a girl, she let her hair grow log enough to cover her body, her deformed leg, her scars." p. 157

"The transgression will write her very body." p. 165

"...we drink and pass out in Joyce's country...we wish we were part of history we wish we were part of drinking we wish we were part of anything not ourselves we walk and walk but why do the pictures we took of each other have no smiles? p. 177

"Ask me about writing, well, that's fierce private." p. 181

"I am a woman who talks to herself and lies." p. 182

"That's when the two mes had it out." p. 184

"My first book came out of me in a great gushing return of the repressed...There were words and their was y body, and I could see through my own skin." --

"This is what Mary must have looked like after jesus. No way for the body to bear the miracle, the burden, the unbelievable history that moves the world without her body." p. 188

"It is not easy to leave one self and embrace another. Your freedom will scar you. Maybe even kill you. Or one your yous. " p. 190

"You see it as important to understand how damaged people don't always know how to say yes, or to choose the big thing, even when it is right in front of them. It's a shame we carry. The shame of wanting something good." p. 198

"Addicts have a problem comprehending gravitas." p. 211

"I could see the woman who would pick up a bottle of vodka and never put it down...The marriage that went so horribly wrong, and still she couldn't leave. I can see the mother whose children drifted so quickly away form her like fish cut loose." p. 211

"Sometimes I think I've been everywhere before." p. 227

"Literature is the medium. You have to swim in it." p. 230

"I know you are not used to women saying this, but I wanted him to drive down into me and eat me alive." p. 233

"Sweet hidden life in the water of me - the best thing I had to give." p. 242

"My god. How many ways are there to love men? It's enough to break a heart open." p. 252

"There is a way for anger to come out as an energy you let loose and away. The trick is to give it a form, and not a human target. The trick is to transform rage." p. 259

"Words carry oceans on their small backs." p. 270

"My father lost his memory in the arms of his daughter the swimmer." p. 278

"I drove my father's ashes up to Seattle pretty immediately because I didn't want them. I didn't want them in my house, or my garden, or any waterway near me or my son." p. 282

"We laughed the laugh of women untethered, finally, from their origins." p. 283

"I can still see my mother sitting in her car as I'd come out of swim practice as a kid. The heater running. Whatever else she was, she was there." P. 290

"If your marriage goes busto, make up a different you." p. 292

"Make up stories until you find one you can live with." --

"Make up stories as if your life depended on it."

"...beautiful things. Graceful things. Hopeful things can sometimes appear in dark places." p. 293

Author Bio:
In 1986 my daughter died the day she was born. From her I became a writer.

My writing is informed, deformed, and reformed by these things:

1.I think gender and sexuality are territories of possibility. Nevermind what we've been told or what the choices appear to be. Inside artistic practice the possibilities open back up.
2.I think narrative is quantum.
3.I think the writer is a locus through which intensities pass.
4.I think literature is that which fights back against the oppressive scripts of socialization and good citizenship.
5.I think the space of making art is freedom of being.
6.I think things that happen to us are true. Writing is a whole other body.
7.I believe in art the way other people believe in god.

I have had lots of jobs. Some of my favorites were being on an all male house painting crew, because you could see and touch your labor and it had concrete meaning and I could drink beer, pee standing up, and fart anytime I wanted; seasonal farm work like picking basil and fruit because I got to be outside and meet cool people; working on the road crew with Mexicans two of the times I was arrested.

In the more recent past all my jobs have been bourgeois teaching gigs. I don't know what I think about teaching. Mostly I show up and beg people to have a dialogue with me about ideas. I do feel lucky to have a job and health insurance. Its just hard to be an isolate and do something so public every day.
In Eugene I invented a magazine called two girls review. In Portland my husband and I made a press called Chiasmus ( Both are the result of radical collaborations.

Oh. And I am a very, very good swimmer. Which must be why, as from http://www.lidiayukna my friend Mia says, I have not drowned. When pulled under, kick. from

Best Reviews:
Publisher's Weekly: If and when you ever write a book, this is the kind of review to pray to all the gods to receive.

Paste Magazine: You'll have to scroll down five paragraphs of memoir vs. novel argument to get to the review of Yuknavitch's memoir, so why not just read the whole review? A thorough review which addresses this fierce memoir, it's almost descent into sentimentality or the cliched territory of writing about addiction.

Bookslut:A site where you want to pull up a chair by the fireplace, kick your shoes off, and just let yourself surf until your heart bursts. The review is brief but covers just enough skin to titillate.

The Cult:Writer Chuck Palahniuk's site. A shout out and call to read. A wildly popular writer friend's grassroots campaign to get your book in the hands of as many readers as possible is another reason to genuflect.

Artist of the Day: Your Aura Is All Over the Place - Jill Emery

Your Aura Is All Over the Place - Jill Emery

I love this piece. The title and the energy remind me of someone who is going through a mid-life crisis. Probably a projection because I think I'm going through a mid-life crisis. No, I haven't bought a sports car, nor am I dressing like a teenager, or botoxing my face back to my twenties, but my energy, my interests, are all over the place and I can't do what John Dufresne advised in a writing panel, "to sit your ass in the chair and write."

I've thrown my energy into making art and sculptures, jewelry, basil farming, a literary magazine, all worthy pursuits, but the novel still is unfinished.

The question still is: what am I so afraid of?

The answer: Well, for starters, that someone I love will heart attack or stroke, (it's happened five times. Yes, that is the exact number that I've begun work on the novel. And yes, I know about coincidence, but if it were you, I bet you'd be a little freaked out that the book you were writing were some kind of voodoo).

The other answer: That it won't be good enough. Pathetic.

The solution: Sit my ass in the chair and write.

Artist Bio:
Jill Emery was born in 1962, in Los Angeles where she is also based. A self-taught artist/musician. who played with Hole, Mazzy Star, Shadow Project, Super Heroines, as well as her own project attempts. She loved playing, but throughout the nightmares of music, she continued working on art which gave her a solitary outlet, where she could explore subconscious fragments of life.

Her usual work is acrylics on canvas, though recently she has been experimenting with aceo in her art for an affordable way to introduce to the world outside art galleries.

Jill Emery's art deals with emotions whether through people, self or animals and nature, & how its all connected.

The God of Nightmares - Paula Fox: Quickie Review

The God of Nightmares
Paula Fox

I read a lot of books. My house is overcrowded with them. Hello, my name is Danna and I hoard books.

I write in almost every book I read: underline favorite lines, make seriously pithy comments like,(oh sure), chew out the characters, and the author in the margins, makes lists of vocabulary words on the back pages. I talk about books a lot. I am passionate about books. Once, I tore a book in half and threw it across the room because the ending was so ridiculous, (it was a hardbound book, and no, I've never done that again, but I have torn out the last few pages of a book and I wrote a note to the editor about never letting a writer get away with such a lame conceit, and no, I did not send the note to the editor). I also hate movies that wave all the wildness of a plot away with the excuse that it was all a dream. Hate them.

Back to the point. I realized that I spend a great deal of my real time reading and talking about books, but realized I hardly make mention of the books I'm reading on this blog, probably because it would be long, long, long. The solution? Quickie reviews, because sometimes a quickie book review is just as satisfying as... You know exactly what I'm talking about.

Quickie Review will include: book jacket, quick thoughts, first sentence, favorite parts, author bio, best reviews.

So, here goes.

Quick Thoughts:
This is the first novel I've read by Paula Fox, and although the book didn't grab me by the throat and shake me, it did manage subtle tremors and aftershocks. I'm still thinking of Claude and his libation to Epiales, the god of nightmares, of Helen and her inability to forgive her mother, or to keep herself from becoming her, of Gerald and his never ceasing capacity to forgive, and of Marlene and her too small shoes and her reinvention as a sociologist, and most of all, of New Orleans, so much so that I checked homes to rent for a writing retreat vacation. And Lulu, horrible, wonderful Lulu.

Fox's prose is beautiful and spare like a bone picked clean. Her characters inner selves, their secrets and motivations are revealed in the manner of a child's game of guessing what the hand behind your back holds.

I could have done without Part Two where all the loose ends are collected,betrayals unearthed, impotent accusations slung. All too late. But I suppose that is how life is. We have to wait a lifetime to make sense of our choices, of what we chose to see, to ignore, and to forgive ourselves who we are.

First Sentence:
In the early spring of 1941, thirteen years after he'd left home, my father, Lincoln Bynum, died far away from my mother and me in a seaside village in northern California.

Favorite Parts:
"The faint and steady clink of the spoon against the side of the pot suggested a dejected signal of distress." p. 9

"I used to wonder what she imagined the Armenians, restored to life and well-fed, would concern themselves with if not daily life and its troubles, those human concerns that from the huge perspective of catastrophe dwindled down to nothing." p. 12

" swiftly as a swallow flying psst a window at dusk, a shadowed image of myself somewhere else came and went." p. 22

"It was as if the whole visible world-- the train and the mysterious, continuously disappearing landscape through which it traveled--had been shaped by the blade of a knife, as sharply did I perceive it all." p. 28

"The air smelled of ripe peaches and unknown flowers and, faintly, of something brackish, watery, ad in the French Market, of a kind of coffee to which chicory gave a bracing bitter sting." p. 32

I stood and looked at the colored jazzmen whose derbies tipped rakishly over their brows; they huddled together on a small platform held up, it seemed, by the thick cigarette smoke, their instruments shining like streaks of gold in their dark-skinned hands." p. 33

"The Royal Street streetcars rumbled along, slow as sleepy mammals, and they had names printed on boards attached to their sides. I kept pace for a long block with Piety." p. 43

"I had the sense of a weight pressing down from above, an extreme darkness. The room was immense, circular. I looked up. The domed ceiling so far above was a blue-black sky across which were flung, like fishermen's nets, the constellations, each star as distinct as a white thorn." p. 45

"I liked gin... It glowed, amber, in the parlor bay window, and all the romance between us was held in those moments like a butterfly still alive in the net that has captured it." p. 57

"They spoke about themselves. It was as though they unfolded maps of their lives: here is a hill, a village, a river, here are the crossroads." p. 58

"Were people utterly unknown to themselves?" p. 71

"This is the end of the country--not the delta, not those vile little settlements in that hellish swamp..." p. 72

"The stars make me feel huge--as if I could eat them all up." p. 73

"People steal into one's consciousness and occupy what seems, in retrospect, to have been their place all along." p.79

"A knowledge I didn't want entered me stealthily...But there is a difference between knowing and seeing." p. 81

"Kindly thoughts aren't the issue. Thoughts change anyhow, but they'll never change without fair laws." p. 83

"Gerald's poems were not like any I had read. They didn't rhyme; they were short, eight or ten lines. They were like small explosions in bare rooms, and the last lines had a kind of delayed effect on me, the way you suddenly see something you thought you'd understood forever, in an entirely different way." p. 87

"We're speaking of tribes," Claude said. "In one way or another, it's what people mostly talk about." "And food."... "And love." p. 91

"Laws may be he nearest human beings get to self-criticism." p. 94

"How can sympathy be anything but cheap sentiment if you don't know the dark side?" p. 95

"I imagined poets caught their poems from the air." p. 116

"Poems are found and then made." --

"When we give our favors, we must bear the consequences." p. 128

"I heard in all our voices, in the things we said, a heightened awareness that perilous elements were gathering force at the core of his hidden life--which, in truth, was never truly hidden except in the sense that the ultimate being of another person is always, unavailingly, hidden." p. 151

"First comes the word, then a shove, then a slap and then a fist is doubled up. They both know it will happen. It's not the first time. Why do you suppose they let it happen?" p. 172

"People can defend themselves after all, even if they can't defend life." p. 173

"The ancients said that since we can't attain happiness, we might as well be happy without it." p. 192

"No," she had not married again. "Once was enough. There were more dignified choice for a woman to make." p. 196

"We do not grow old in our secret selves." p.203

"We don't have to face everything at once." p. 224

Author Bio:
Spurned at birth in New York by her mother, Paula Fox had a turbulent childhood in the US and Cuba. At 20 she gave up her own daughter for adoption. She went on to write controversial but award-winning children's books as well as autobiographical novels. At 80, she is enjoying a revival as her adult fiction is championed by a new generation of American writers. Aida Edemariam reports In the past few years Paula Fox has been rediscovered as the author of six novels, at least two of which, Desperate Characters and The Widow's Children - both published in Britain for the first time this month - have a cliam to a place on the list of 20th-century American classics. Fox is already well-known as the author of two dozen much-loved and generously garlanded children's novels. Yet until they were recently reissued in the US with specially commissioned introductions and much fanfare, the last of her adult novels had been out of print since 1992. Most of the earlier books had been unavailable for decades. Jonathan Franzen has, notoriously, ranked her above Roth, Bellow and Updike and others have compared her with Kafka, Chekhov and Flaubert.

Some of the recent fuss has focused on Fox's life. In 2001, prompted in part by a mugging that left her with serious cranial bleeding and a sudden intimation of mortality, she published a memoir of her childhood, Borrowed Finery, which was excerpted in the New Yorker and published here last year. It is a tale of startling neglect, told with a combination of directness and reticence unusual for the form. As with her fiction, the impression is of distanced, though not unfeeling, control - and so what you don't expect is the warmth and vigour of her physical presence (she turned 80 in April, but looks far younger) and her laughter. Then there's her voice: husky, perfectly modulated, very deep, capable of great "tonal drama", to borrow a phrase from The Widow's Children .

Fox's mother Elsie, determined not to have children, had already had three or four abortions, but did not realise she was pregnant with Paula until too late, so the baby was instead deposited at a foundling home in New York. From there she was rescued by Elsie's mother, Candelaria de Sola, once the beautiful Spanish child-wife of a Cuban plantation owner, now sad and passive, "the paid companion of an ancient cuckoo woman" on another Cuban plantation, and temporarily visiting the States. The baby was passed from friend to friend. When she was five months old, a Congregational minister, the Reverend Elwood Corning, doing the rounds of his parishioners in Orange County, New York, noticed her. "I struck him in some way - so he took me and he kept me with him until I was almost six years old." Fox laughs. "Mr Corning was my first conquest. Alas, my mother and father were not."

To read more about Fox, (and you really should, because it's so juicy, it reads like a Dickens novel), check out The Guardian's article, A Qualified Optimist by Aida Edemariam.

Best Reviews:
Boston Review:A thoughtful and incisive review by Randall Curb.

Publisher's Weekly:More a concise synopsis than review.

Poem Therapy: Bed in Summer -Robert Louis Stevenson

Bed in Summer
Robert Louis Stevenson

In winter I get up at night
And dress by yellow candle-light.
In summer, quite the other way,
I have to go to bed by day.

I have to go to bed and see
The birds still hopping on the tree,
Or hear the grown-up people’s feet
Still going past me in the street.

And does it not seem hard to you,
When all the sky is clear and blue,
And I should like so much to play,
To have to go to bed by day?

It doesn't make sense at all to me that the speaker of the poem, or Robert, felt the need to go to bed at all in the summertime. When the sun is shining, the birds hopping, I have to be right out there with them, or, at least watching them from the comfort of my bed.

I will confess, I have recently become a bed dweller.

Not the kind that lies in bed all day and night. The kind that has discovered the bed is the most comfortable piece of furniture. The kind that writes, reads, paints, creates, and yes, lounges a bit, on the bed.

I remember reading that Mark Twain, Colette, Walker Percy, Edith Wharton, Anais Nin, Proust and James Joyce all wrote sitting on their beds. Joyce spread his notes all over Nora's bed, and Colette called her bed a raft. I completely understand the impulse to write from bed.

It's been a slow progression from my studio, to the guest room, to the kitchen table, to the bed. I think I've finally settled on the bed because of the number of windows and the quality of light in the room, especially since the addition of French doors to the west.

I used to use a wooden breakast tray as my writing desk, but have since purchased a small sewing table, (the kind where the machine is inside and pops up), as a desk when I'm wriing on my computer. I write longhand sitting on my bed.

Hummingbird Breakfast

Purple Flower and Purple Hummingbird - Shannon Bailey

Yesterday morning as I was enjoying a quiet breakfast on the deck with my dogs, a ruby-throated hummingbird flew over the wood fence and flew straight to the geranium-filled planter near my feet. I tried not to move or alarm it. Far from frightening the bird, I think I piqued its curiosity. The tiny bird flew directly in front of my face and hovered there, then made something of a counter clockwise reconnaissance. I was wearing my glasses, so the majority of the time I was observing the hummingbird over my rims. I didn't want to move my head and scare it off, so most of my observation was blurred. It made a curious whirring sound. The bird finally made a decision about me or just lost interest, and flew off over the fence.

I took this encounter as a sign. A very good sign that all I desire is about to fly into my life, if I will only take the necessary steps to welcome it.

Hummingbirds are indigenous to the North American continent, so there isn't European or African mythology or folklore. There is a rich treasure of Aztec and Native American lore. A quick google search led me to, where I discovered that hummingbird is a messenger of hope and jubilation. When the bird appears in your life it asks only that you open your heart, observe the magic and beauty of the present moment and of being alive. Hummingbird asks to fight fair, recover the lost parts of yourself, and to be tenacious in the pursuit of your desires, and most importantly, to reach your destination.

The sentence that stood out for me was, "the sweetest nectar is within". Isn't that the truth!

Regardless of whether hummingbird has appeared in your life, go ahead and answer the following questions:

Where is your joy?

Is your happiness found within or do you seek it externally?

What is the source of your joy?

What must you do to increase your joy?

Artist of the Day: The Night Launch - Elizabeth Bauman

The Night Launch - Elizabeth Bauman

I'm into the first few chapters of Julia Cameron's The Sound of Paper, and the first assignment to unleash/unfreeze/redirect creativity, (and get my crazy self back writing my novel), is to cull images and words from magazines and paste them to a large poster in an hour's time, with the intention of opening a door into the subconscious. Collage as guide/therapist isn't a new activity. I've been doing this for nineteen years and have my own name for it - voodoo collage - if you've been reading this blog you may remember, or check out the collage posts under the tag my art or how to make a voodoo collage.

With this collage I'm still working on, (no, I did not adhere to the one hour rule), I really tried to stay away from default images and themes by gathering from magazines I generally don't read. I started my new voodoo collage with the intention of getting out of the box I've put myself in. Turns out I traded the box for a small boat, and I think this is a good thing. Over the last few days I've cut out at least a dozen boats, but then last night edited them out and kept only the ocean, lake, pond, and liquid images instead. (I'll post images of the collage once it's completed).

I have been a great admirer of Elizabeth Bauman's paintings and discovered this particular painting just today. Of course it features a boat.

If I were to paint a self-portrait today, I would place myself heading toward the horizon in a boat small enough for one and title it after the gospel song, Wouldn't take nothing for my journey now.

And there it is, the message that has been hiding under the surface all this week. I am enough. I don't need research, or a new desk, or yet another lined notebook, or better technology, or facebook, twitter, connections, or more time, or more money, or whatever. I only need myself. Myself and pen and paper. And the journey.

Elizabeth Bauman bio:
I am an artist living in Keizer, Oregon, with my husband and daughter. I received my BA in art from Willamette University.

Late Iris Blooms of Willow Pine Lane

View of Willow Pine Lane iris.

Daniel Eugene's iris.

Grandfather James Archie's iris.

Now that I'm on summer vacation, every morning at 6:15 - 6:30 I get out of bed, get the dogs up and out, eat a handful of nuts, call my neighbor to see if she's in town,and then head out to start the first leg of the morning's walk down tree and iris-lined Willow Pine Lane (I'll include photos from the next leg from the City's recently opened walking path later). The blooms are fragrant and so beautiful it feels like I'm in a well-tended park and I have to remind myself that opposite the trees and blooms is regular farm ground; sprawling acres of onions, garlic, melons and potatoes, and alfalfa.

Willow Pine Lane is part of my father's lifelong tree and flower beautification project. I think it's his personal mission in life to plant as many trees and flowers as he's able.

The Coffee Project: June 5 - June 14, 2011.

June 14, 2011.

June 13, 2011.

June 12, 2011.

June 10, 2011.

June 9, 2011.

June 8, 2011.

June 7, 2011.

June 6, 2011.

June 5, 2011.