Friday, April 22, 2022

Recent Reads

 The Lincoln Highway: A Novel

I loved this book! Towles previous novel, "A Gentleman in Moscow" was one of my top favorites so I was eager to read this one as well. Towles' storytelling is mesmerizing and his writing is brilliant. He not only writes beautifully and descriptively but he brings his characters alive in such a way that you really know them. The story in "The Lincoln Highway" is not complex but it is compelling. You can't help but become personally invested in the plight of the characters. I easily give this a five star rating. My only complaint is that after reading such a good book, my next read is destined to be a letdown...

The House of Mirth (Signet Classics): Wharton, Edith, Quindlen, Anna,  Gorra, Michael: 9780451474308: Books

Well, well, well. Not such a letdown after all. I can't even say why I chose this book but I am so glad I did. Two five star books in a row is unheard of but here we have it! I have never read anything by Edith Wharton before and this was new territory for me. To be more accurate, I listened to this novel on Audible. The narrator, Eleanor Bron, was masterful in her reading and spoke in that perfect east coast aristocracy that was familiar to the ear earlier in the 20th century. This is a tragic tale about a woman born into high society but left penniless by her father at his death. She must keep up a certain standard of living in the only circles and lifestyle she knows however, it becomes more and more difficult as time goes by given her lack of money. Wharton's familiarity with society during this time period is personal, from what I understand. Gossip, elitism, old money, new money,  and women whose only goal is to marry well are the driving force behind this tale. Wharton's writing is of the time period and beautifully done. It makes me a little sad that all of this beautiful language and grammar has gone by the wayside.

Mass Market Paperback Swann's Way: Remembrance of Things Past, book one Book

I am currently listening to, "Swann's Way, Remembrance of Things Past" by Marcel Proust. This is the first of seven volumes of Proust's memories of his childhood in high society France in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. It is elaborate and rich in detail. While the detail may bore some readers, I find the depth of memory from this author astounding. I doubt Proust was aware of the historical journey he would be providing to 21st century readers simply by telling of his childhood. He recalls in detail the little Madeleine cakes he would be given dipped in tea. In his heavenly description of their flavor, I find myself wanting one and wondering where can I get a Madeleine and even if I could procure one, would it would taste the same as Proust's French baked cake of the 19th century? He also has me pondering high society parenting in that time period which seems a little harsh to me today and leaves me shaking my head in wonderment. Yet, here we have a literary genius which leads me to think perhaps not coddling children, as they did back then, built strength and character. Oh well, so far I am enjoying the journey on which this book has taken me. *Amazingly, I was at Sam's club on Saturday morning and I saw Madeleine's on the baked goods table! I read the label and they were made in California. I would have bought three or four but a box of twenty-five was too many.

The Angel and the Assassin: The Tiny Brain Cell That Changed the Course of Medicine

Another amazing book that I am currently reading is, "The Angel and the Assassin" by Donna Jackson Nakazawa. This is a scientific piece that explores tiny cells in our brains called Microglia. First discovered in the early 2000's, these little cells play a huge role in the immune function of our brain. Scientists once thought our brain was separate and excluded from our body's immune system but recent research has proven otherwise. Anyone who struggles with auto-immune diseases, mood disorders, Alzheimers, and an array of other health issues may want to explore this book further. A doctor recommended it to me after I mentioned the brain sluggishness and other health issues that followed my contracting Covid last year. This is a fascinating book, although I have no idea where it is leading as I am only one third of the way through. I really hope it has positive leads and a good ending, of sorts.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Beauty, Beauty Everywhere!


     Imagine the gaudiest procession of bridesmaids dressed in poufs of ruffles and flounce in all different colors. Wedding guests would whisper at the fashion faux pas of such a thing and consider it to be an overindulgence.  However, when Spring puts on such a show, we can't get enough! Everything is in bloom right now; daffodils, crabapple, redbud, tulips, wild mustard, cherry, and pear. It's a crazy riot of color and we love it. The periwinkle and ajuga ground covers add purple and blue from below and yellow daffodils and trees in every shade of pink bloom along the interstate. Even the new grass in its bright shade of lime green adds vibrancy to the color palette. This morning, in the dim light of dawn, the pink crab apple tree looks like it's covered in snow. The red crab apple tree is bloomed in a pink that is beyond description. Every time I walk past the window it startles me. I try to soak it all in and save the memory of it. I want to recall it long after it's passed. Inevitably the memory fades and I forget about the vibrancy of color during the dead of winter because I am startled and surprised anew by it each spring. I suppose that's the way it is with new life. It's meant to excite and stir us (and the bees) into action.

     This week I paid a visit to a couple I hadn't seen in several months. They had some health issues last year and I last visited after the gentleman had come home from the hospital. He has recovered very well and it was good to lay eyes on them and have a catching up visit. Julida served me a piece of cake on a china plate and a glass of sweet tea poured over ice in a cut glass goblet. While I sat at the table, she brought me their guest book to sign. What an old fashioned idea! It made me giggle to think of signing my name. That thought was quickly overtaken by how to present a nice signature. It's rare to have to present a pretty signature fitting of a guest book. After I signed the book, she took out her camera to snap my photo. I gave her my best smile and said that I would not let so much time pass until my next visit. 

     After I left from my visit, I drove to a dry cleaners in Roanoke called Wheelers. It has been there since 1950 and it looks like it has not changed one bit. It smells like the dry cleaners I remember from childhood. It has a warm, hot-iron-on-clothing smell. It makes me feel warm and cozy. The geared and numbered clothing racks pass behind the front counter and snake up and around the high warehouse-like ceiling of the place. I imagine they can accommodate a lot of laundry and the racks looked fairly full. I had dropped off eleven yards of white denim to be washed and pressed before sending it to a seamstress who will sew slipcovers for me. The owner handed my package to me across the front counter. My fabric came back to me as a large parcel neatly wrapped in brown paper. The paper was sturdy, yet thin and crispy to handle. It was an old fashioned bundle and I bet this is exactly how they have been returning bundles of cleaning to customers since 1950. I had to break the seal to make sure I had the correct item but I hated doing it. I wanted to keep the parcel just as it was. 

     All these little incidents of the day were wonderful as they occurred. Simple, old timey things like sweet tea in cut glass, a guestbook, and paper wrapped laundry. These are such grounding things to me, things that say life has not changed so much after all. Spring will always come, we can rely on it. We can also choose to make beauty happen by taking the time to serve cake on china if we feel like it and wrapping parcels in brown paper if it makes us happy.