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Monday, March 27, 2017

Harder Books

I was perusing a post by the divine Duchesse; she discusses ways to keep your aging mind working. She mentioned a post she wrote a few years ago on reading harder books, so I took a look. There was my comment about just having read Louise Erdrich's "Round House."

I had no recollection of reading that book. So I looked at a plot summary on wikipedia. I still have no recollection. That is depressing.

Another reason to keep teaching. I teach "harder books" all the time. And I teach them over and over again. I know them quite well. So well that I could do all the quizzes on the Iliad and the Odyssey on a great Harvard mooc by classicist Gregory Nagy even though I haven't taught those works for many years.

I started teaching a Shakespeare course after the fellow who "owned" the course retired. I felt somewhat rusty at first, but I can now say--after 15 years--that I know the plays quite well.

I just completed the Neapolitan novels by Elena Ferrante. I do remember them (so far).

It turns out that I remember my reading of Proust (took me over a year). That might be because I listen to an audiobook on the way to work.

Two harder books that I have been unable to finish because they are so painful: The Radetsky March and Austerlitz. I keep returning to them. I can only read a little at a time.

Perhaps re-reading is the key. One Erdrich book I loved and remember quite well is The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse.  I read it several times in a short space because I loved it so much.

Ditto for the master of harder books Henry James: Wings of the Dove, Portrait of a Lady, The Golden Bowl. The harder the better as far as I'm concerned.  Same for his somewhat less-difficult friend Edith Wharton: Age of Innocence and House of Mirth.

And how can we forget Middlemarch and Mill on the Floss?

Does re-reading help keep one's mind at work? Or is it the book and the reader's mind? I remember some Trollope. But I REALLY remember lots of Dickens.  I read about eight books by Anita Brookner recently but barely remember anything--except a sense of melancholy.

What to read next?



Friday, March 24, 2017

Comfort Reading: Dashed

Is there no escape?????

From Laurie Colwin's "More Home Cooking" (1993). I've probably read this book, or parts of it, 100 times. Top 1% in the Comfort Reading Pantheon.

If I had a dollar for every time someone said to me, "I don't have time to bake bread anymore," I would be as rich as Donald Trump used to be.


No escape.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

More Comfort Reading: Some of the Books that Fell on the Floor


I have been much in need of comfort reading. It is difficult to find the right book. I like cookbooks with a personal sensibility (Diana Kennedy, John Thorne, many others); I like reading organization books (though it would be better if I actually followed some of the recommendations); I like Diana Phipps (a frugal countess!). Fiction is hard. I don't like reading most best sellers, even those of higher brow (sorry Ann Patchett; I do like your essays on owning a bookstore and I love that you spoke about my favorite clothing shop UAL, which has a branch in Nashville). 

So to continue the list I started a few days ago: my efforts were interrupted by the falling down of a teetering pile. 

John Mcmcgahern: The Leavetaking (a book I bought at a library sale, had never heard of author---WONDERFUL)

Coln Toibin: The Master (a fictionalized bio of one of my faves--Henry James. The book has a creepy sense of repression, perhaps appropriate to its subject)

Somerset Maugham: The Painted Veil (We saw the film based on this. The book is ok, but I got bored and skipped a lot--a privilege of age. What is so great about Maugham??? Not feeling it)

Maugham again: The Razor's Edge. (See above)

Lily King: Euphoria (a loan from a colleague. She said "Don't give it back." OK, but I can hardly believe that the main female character would submit to....spoiler. Must find someone to give it to.)

Deneice Schofield: Confessions of an Organized Housewife. (A Mormon mom of 5 who is super-organized. Worst tip: chop suey recipe containing canned mushroom soup and bean sprouts. Best tip: use dish pans for easy and cheap shelf storage--genius).

More on the floor, alas. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

What is my Gift?

Thinking about retirement. The thing about frugal people. We don't fear retirement (TOOOOO MUCH) because if the stock market tanks, we can always be MORE frugal. Though, of course, we'd rather be less frugal. That's why I've been frugal all these years.

Reading/Literature: LOVE
Teaching literature: LIKE, sometimes a lot
Doing Academic things: not so much anymore

The only one I can't do in retirement is #2. And no, running book discussions at the library is NOT the same and, in fact, I don't like doing that.

One of my favorite things to teach is Shakespeare's Twelfth Night. One of my favorite lines in the play is this one:

What is yours to bestow is not yours to reserve.

Viola, disguised as Cesario, is urging Olivia to reciprocate Duke Orsino's love. The larger point is a Biblical one (from the Parable of the Talents): what is yours to give is not yours NOT to give.

You need to use your gifts.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Personal Bookshelf: Bedside Stack

Once again, I must note that this is no longer a blog about frugality, but a personal site for my musings about this and that. Older posts on frugality remain. Frugality is timeless!



From Roy Strong, "A Country Life": "The classification of a private library ought to reflect the structure of the owner's mind, and that inevitably changes over the years" (147).

That explains why this book (by the great scholar of Elizabethan portraiture among other things) is in a stack with Ferrante's "The Story of the Lost Child" (I cried to finish this series, but am also angry/annoyed at the cruelty of the ending--to readers?--and the cruelty shown by the narrator to her friend), Laurie Colwin's "Home Cooking" (comfort reading/comfort cooking in these stressful times), library copies of BOTH Marie Kondo books (which are spiritual at core), plus a bunch of others that have now fallen on the floor.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Refugees:" What country, friends, is this"

Note: this space is for personal musings. See older posts for frugality!


"What country, friends, is this?" Shakespeare, Twelfth Night.1.2.

My father's family

Harry G: arrived with mother and siblings in 1910 from Russia. Father Benzi already in America. Benzi died at age 32 from a botched hospital procedure, leaving a pregnant widow and four children. The two oldest children sold candy to support the family. the mother, Rose, opened a grocery store and took in boarders.

Sylvia F: arrived with parents and several siblings from Poland in the teens. They had one baby, the beloved David, in 1920, assuming that a baby born in America would protect their status.

My father B, named for his grandfather, was born in NY in 1928.

My mother's family

Leo O and Emma O and my mother Renee arrived from Vienna (by way of Belgrade and Cherbourg) in 1938.

All refugees, save one. All fleeing persecution.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

A dream

please note: this is now a space for my writing. older posts on frugality remain for those interested.



A dream from a few weeks ago:

I was sitting with my grandparents Emma and Leo. We were cuddled together watching a video. The video was one that was recently sent to me by Evan, the son of my mother's late first cousin Herbert.  Herbert's parents had made a movie of their doted-on son--then named Heinz--in Vienna 1937. I hardly know Evan, but we saw him in Seattle last spring and he promised to make a copy of the video for me.

The video shows mostly Herbert at age 3--in the park, on the city streets. Near the end are a few glimpses of his older cousin, my beautiful mother at age 7. There are even a few glimpses of Leo, easy to spot with his round, completely bald head.

My grandparents and I were waiting for the parts with my mother. We were joined by a blog-friend, whom I've met. I said to her,  "Wait; I want to show you my mother."

My grandfather turned to me and spoke for quite a while. It was all in German. I was trying to figure out if I could understand any of it.

********************************************************************************

It has occurred to me that my grandfather never really knew English very well. The only thing I remember his saying to me is "I just want to live long enough to see you get married." That didn't happen. I was so happy to see my grandparents in the dream.