Friday, May 29, 2009

Name Fifteen Books in 15 minutes!

Originally uploaded by jhhymas
My nephew challenged me to name 15 books that stick with me (think fast!) and challenge 15 other people on Facebook. Well, it took me half an hour (which was This Blog time) and I want to talk about some of the titles, so I'm challenging YOU (wherever you are) and he gets his answer here, as follows:

The Little White Indian Boy; given to me at age 11 by my parent's friends when I started it while babysitting for them. I think they got it from the Book of the Month Club. It started my fascination with Indian Captivity Narratives, which endures to this day.

Mistress Masham's Repose by T.H. White which began my fascination with books about little people. (See The Borrowers, etc.)
Also a model of excellent writing.

Stuart Little/Charlotte's Web I think now that Charlotte's Web is the better book and an enduring classic, but true to my fascination with the SMALL, for years I preferred Stuart.

Gone with the Wind, which I read in one sitting far into the night about age 12 and rewrote the ending for YEARS!

Kristin Lavransdatter; this one took me all night (it's a trilogy) and I got up at 6:30 and went to high school. The impressive remembered thing (for this reader) was the handful of books (five, seven?) owned by this entire family in the Middle Ages.

The three perfect short novels (a previously assembled list) (not one superfluous or awkward word!) are:
The Life of Martin Guerre by Janet Lewis,
The Hessian by Howard Fast and
The Light in the Forest by Conrad Richter

The Shipping News--every odd person and word a delight, and completely unlike anything I knew.

The Face of Battle: A Study of Agincourt, Waterloo, and the Somme
also Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America both by John Keegan. I am still reading this military historian after seeing him on CSPAN's In Depth. These are quite short and perfect books, which gave me the ability to think about wars with balanced and factual information I never had before. You will never be the same, if you read the Face of Battle!

Cadillac Desert; the American West and its disappearing water, by Marc Reisner. Of all the ecology books, this really made me see how all life is interrelated. It opened my eyes in the way Silent Spring did for an earlier generation.

Father and Son by Edmund Gosse; a son's recounting of a dysfunctional relationship--really puts the nail in the coffin of unbending religion which comes before all else.

Now we have entered the biography/memoir zone:

Grant by Jean Edward Smith. A fantastic recreation of the life of the General and President, never dull, allowing opinions and conclusions to be stated, and recreating the life of an era.

The Road from Coorain by Jill Ker Conway

John James Audubon; the making of an American by Richard Rhodes

A life of Picasso (3 vols. so far) by John Richardson

Mornings on Horseback by David McCullough
The River of Doubt; Theodore Roosevelt's Darkest Journey
and Theodore Rex all these books on TR are good, can't choose.

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Wild Swans; three daughters of China

Party in the Blitz by Elias Canetti

Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje

Angela's Ashes by Frank McCourt

Bells in Winter by Czeslaw Milosz is my favorite book of poems but I've had to leave the rest of the poetry off this list. It will require another post.

Have You Read 100 Great Books? I haven't dared to make a final count, but the list has more than 15. This is the book that started it all, an oversized paperback that I had in my teen years. It was assembled by asking 100 (?) of the famous, educated and smart to list their best 100 books. Then a master list was assembled of the 100 most-cited books. I made it my goal to read all of these. I had the most trouble with The Meditations of Marcus Aurelius, which I cannot claim to have finished. I also had trouble with Of Human Bondage and David Copperfield, maybe because the male protagonists were silly about women, if in different ways. But I read all the others and was quite proud of having done so. It was probably the first big goal I set for myself that had no relation to what others might plan or suggest for me, or indeed to anyting sensible or useful . . . Good night, for tonight!!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Looking up

My granddaughter and her cousin at play at a Memorial Day get-together. We had the luck to see a quail with very young chicks. Here are some pictures from today.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Today's Iris

Found out how to water them today--the faucet makes a leak next to the house. Sigh. Spent most of the day with my Kindle pursuing various texts. Except for a wonderful long phone call with my brother. You must read

A Lucky Child: A Memoir of Surviving Auschwitz as a Young Boy

which is simply and wisely told. I keep thinking of my grandson who is just the age of this boy near the end of his sourjourn in ghettoes and extermination camps. Particularly affecting is the number of times when a family member or new or old friend simply falls out of the story in medias res. At some point in the experience comes the information: "I never saw or heard of him again. And then the narrative continues.

Friday, May 22, 2009


A squirrel nest, I think. It's high in the cottonwood tree that the beaver took a fresh chunk out of just before we got here. So far, the tree is leafin out OK and the leaves aren't wilting; yet, I wonder if it will show the damage when the hot weather comes. They have some pretty hot weather here in the Treasure Valley. Someone told me that squirrels put leaves on the outside of nests, but crows don't. At least, that's how I remember it, it may be the other way round.
Ah, memory.
We just watched an old PBS documentary about Hugh Everett, the man who created the (quantum mechanics) theory of parallel universes, as his son, Mark, the leader of a band called Eels, searches for understanding and memories. The father was a pretty weird genius, with a family history of bipolar/depression and the son only a little less weird, only in a non-mathematical sense. His only sibling, a girl, left a suicide note that mentioned that she was going to join their father in a parallel universe. At least, that's what I thought he said, the information came out during a conversation with a couple who knew his parents years ago, pried out by the woman's interested question because of the bipolar people in her own family, and was so quick and mumbled that I missed it when I saw the end of this documentary a year ago.
My own father was much more present for me than Everett. Still, going through papers after my mother's death, I was surprised to find some papers he wrote and addresses he gave during his early years at General Electric. I knew he was well-respected and always earned a good living, but I hadn't realized he made such a splash. It was nice to know, and sad, too--the way the trajectories of life often are. Good night!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Blue Iris

I finally found out the name of the small man-made watercourse behind this Idaho house. It is called the Little Union Canal. Now I want to know when it was built; and where the water comes from and where it goes. The blue heron who flies over every day and takes up his customary position downstream doesn't care, but this sort of hunt is more in my nature.
We have decided to stay here another week or two, and try to get to Michigan for the irises we planted there, which bloom a little later. See my Justsquares blog for the purple iris which bloomed today.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


This was yesterday morning in my new wild garden. These iris are the first to bloom, but a dark purple one opened today in another clump.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Appleblossom with White Goat

The whole immediacy thing about blogging seems to escape my grasp. This was in the barnyard of the Plumas County place where we keep our dogs when we visit our son who has asthma. I loved seeing it just at the peak of the springtime!
Today I spent a long time looking at the Idaho creek. The number of bachelor mallards was nine! The wood duck couple swam upstream as they do every evening. The willow and the cottonwoods were alive with birds. A lot of iris are blooming, and most of them seem to be pale blue, which disappoints S, a big fan of the expensive new hybrids. Tomorrow, I will try to make the picture match the text.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Her sister's birthday cards

So elegant and graceful--this is my granddaughter; her brother is two posts below. We are having quite a time setting up a house near them. Today a blue iris bloomed at the new place. I saw two male wood ducks swim by the end of the yard. A house finch is nesting in the patio cover and red-wing blackbirds are courting through the large cottonwoods by the stream. I saw a goldfinch through the scope. Still no glimpse of the beaver!

The Tulip Greeting

This is what greeted me the day we got to our new place in Idaho. It's across the street from the family of the boy in the photo below. We had seen it, but bought it long distance. So some tulips were over, but these and a cluster of red ones and some yellow ones were glorious! I'm still getting used to the stream behind the house and the wonderful bird life. We've been on the trip and then on the Great Furniture Hunt. Now I hope I'm back for a while. I've missed this. . .and hope I haven't lost all my readers.