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Personal

Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Our great staff here at Franke Tobey Jones provided a Cinco de Mayo party at yesterday’s weekly tailgate happy hour. We are indeed lucky to live in such a caring retirement community.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

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Notes in the Margin Personal

The Glossary is Back!

Back in November 2019 I had to do a complete overhaul of my website. I started Notes in the Margin back in the mid 1990s, and I had accumulated a lot of content over the years. When the old website went down last fall, I had time to copy and paste a lot of that content into text files.

I’m now happy to report that one of my original website’s most popular features, the glossary, is finally back. I spent three solid days (Saturday through today, Monday) updating all the old glossary material I had accumulated over the past 25 years, then copying, pasting, and formatting it in WordPress.

Please take a look and let my know what you think.

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Discussion Personal The Classics Club

CC Spin #23: A Change of Plan

2020 Discussion Challenge

Thanks to these two bloggers for sponsoring the 2020 Blog Discussion Challenge:

You can join the discussion challenge at any time during 2020 by clicking on either link above.


Related Post:

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Earlier this month the Classics Club announced a return of its spin, in which we make a numbered list of books, then read the book on our list with the number chosen at random. Initially I welcomed the exercise, because I have been  having trouble reading and writing in the current pandemic. I hoped this spin would help me break out of that slump by compelling me to read and write about a particular book.

But my heart sank when the lucky number was called because my book with that number is Absalom, Absalom! by William Faulkner. I originally put this novel on my Classics Club reading list because it is generally acknowledged as Faulkner’s masterpiece, the book that encapsulates his literary vision of the American South. I knew that reading it would be challenging yet rewarding.

And therein lies the problem with having Absalom, Absalom! come up for me right now. While this novel is acknowledged to be Faulkner’s masterpiece, it is also universally acknowledged to be a difficult novel to read. It’s dense with biblical and mythological allusions, a story peopled by archetypal characters comprising a multigenerational family saga of interlocking stories.

In other words, reading Absalom, Absalom! requires a lot of patience and concentration, two qualities that I’m still short on, although I have been slowly improving in those areas. I’m afraid undertaking this project now would be counterproductive because I can’t give it the extended, intense focus it requires. I’m afraid the effort would end up frustrating me enough to force me either to do a sloppy job with it or to give it up altogether. 

I’d rather save Absalom, Absalom! for a time when I’ll be able to give this difficult project my best shot. For that reason I’ve decided that I’m not going to read Faulkner’s novel for this spin.

Instead, I’m going to read The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles, another book on my Classics Club list. I first read this book probably about 40 years ago, and I’ve been wanting to reread it for quite some time. I know what to expect and what I’m looking for in this book. I’m eager to reread this book and welcome the opportunity to do so now.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Categories
Book Recommendations Personal Reading

World Book and Copyright Day

Source: World Book and Copyright Day

For additional information, including the importance of April 23rd, free book offers, and events you can watch “from the comfort of your armchair,” see this article from Newsweek.

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Personal

Last Night’s Super Moon

Here’s my husband’s photo of last night’s super moon over Tacoma, WA, USA.

We often can’t see the full moon here because of cloud cover, but the last couple of nights have been super clear for the super moon.

Here’s a photo I took with my phone to give you an idea of how big the moon looked. Of course the resolution of the moon itself is horrible, but you can see the moon in context.

Super moon over Tacoma, WA, USA, April7, 2020

And here’s an explanation of the super pink moon from The Seattle Times.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Categories
Book Recommendations Personal

5 Books to Keep You Company During Isolation

I recently came across the article “Kristin Hannah Recommends 5 Books to Keep You Company During Isolation.”

Since I’ve been having trouble writing much of anything at all, I decided to use the format of this post as a template for my own recommendations. 

Here are the categories, Kristin Hannah’s recommendations, and my own suggestions.

One Book That Made Me Laugh

Kristin Hannah’s recommendation: This is Where I Leave You by Jonathan Tropper

This is the hardest category for me, since I almost never read any book described as “comic.” In fact, I’ve had an adversarial relationship with comedy most of my life. As a kid I hated The Three Stooges and Marx Brothers movies. More recently, I tried reading Cold Comfort Farm by Stella Gibbons after a couple of cousins talked about how funny it is at a family gathering. I hated it and gave up after the first few chapters. I did read all 394 pages of A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole—it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1981, after all—and still regret every minute of my life thus wasted.

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

But I absolutely loved The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams and still believe that the answer to The Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything is 42.

One Book That Left Me Feeling Hopeful

Kristin Hannah’s recommendation: The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien

A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

My recommendation: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra. Who’d have thought a novel about the war in Chechnya could be so full of hope? But this one is, and it will make your heart swell.

One Book That Was a Total Escape

Kristin Hannah’s recommendation: Tell No One  by Harlan Coben

“You can’t go wrong with Harlan Coben,” Hannah says. My thoughts exactly.

The Boy from the Woods

That’s why I’m recommending Coben’s most recent thriller, The Boy from the Woods.

A Book I Binged in One Sitting

Kristin Hannah’s recommendation: Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice

This category was also difficult for me because I read very slowly and therefore almost never binge a whole book.

Our Souls at Night

But I did just that with Kent Haruf’s final work, Our Souls at Night. It’s a sorrowful story, but also compelling.

The Book I’m Currently Reading

Kristin Hannah’s: Mildred Pierce by James M. Caine

Before She Knew Him

My current read is Before She Knew Him by Peter Swanson.


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Categories
Personal Reading Writing

Reading & Blogging in the Time of COVID-19

2020 Discussion Challenge

Thanks to these two bloggers for sponsoring the 2020 Blog Discussion Challenge:

You can join the discussion challenge at any time during 2020 by clicking on either link above.


Related Posts:

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All of my recent posts have been lists of COVID-19—related links. I just kept collecting these links, almost obsessively. Now that we’re approaching the end of our third week of self-isolation and social distancing here in Washington State, I’m finally beginning to understand why.

When we first started this virus-induced cocooning, I was excited. As an introvert who likes nothing better than to kick back with a good book, I’ve been practicing for this my whole life. Bring it on, I thought. I’m going to get a whole lot of books read.

However, I wasn’t prepared for the emotional onslaught that accompanies this medical emergency.

And so I began curating those lists of links. For about 10 days I spent most of my time reading article after article about what was happening here at home and around the world. Every time I thought that I should start reading a book, I felt completely overwhelmed. I have so many books on my TBR shelves that I got flustered wondering which one to pick up. The more I thought about which book to select, the antsier I got.

I couldn’t concentrate, couldn’t focus on any one thing, so I just kept going from one article to another about the advance of COVID-19. Reading individual news stories and articles didn’t require the extended attention necessary for reading a book.

So I thought that, if I wasn’t going to read books, I should write. How silly that thought turned out to be, since writing anything more than the occasional Facebook post requires even more focused attention than reading a novel. For about a week and a half I did nothing but make those lists and wonder what was happening to me.

woman writing in notebook

My life has been a series of research projects.

Ever since I was a child, my way of dealing with anything new and different—and therefore confusing—has been to read up on it. If I learn all about whatever it is, I can deal with it. In the past, knowing about something meant that I had some personal control over it, or at least how it affected me. 

But of course there’s no controlling this virus. No matter how much I learn about it, it is still in control. And nobody knows how all this is going to turn out. We’re experiencing anxiety at a whole new level. In fact, anxiety doesn’t seem like the right word to use here. This situation requires a much stronger term.

I came across an article byScott Berinato in the Harvard Business Review called “That Discomfort You’re Feeling Is Grief.” I found especially enlightening his concept of anticipatory grief, that is, grief in anticipation of how different our lives are going to be in the future than they were in the past because of this pandemic. There is definitely a grief component to what I’m feeling.

“There is something powerful about naming this as grief. It helps us feel what’s inside of us,” Berinato writes. But while I agree that just naming something helps us deal with it, I don’t think that grief quite tells the whole story by itself.

So for now I’m calling it generalized dread

I did finally manage to break out of my reading slump, although whether the naming process or simply the passage of time is responsible I’m not sure. Probably both contributed. The book that rescued me is Long Bright River by Liz Moore. I hope to write a review of it soon, although I fear the ability to concentrate enough to do much writing is still a little way off.

I hope you are all staying healthy and dealing with this new reality. I’d love to hear how you’re coping.

© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Categories
Book Recommendations Personal

St. Patrick’s Day Reading

7 Books With Striking Green Covers to Read This St. Paddy’s Day

My own stack of green books appears at the top of this post.

15 IRISH CRIME WRITERS YOU SHOULD BE READING RIGHT NOW

This is reprinted from 2018.

8 Irish Writers We’re Lucky to Have on Our Shelves

10 Audiobooks with Incredible Irish Accents

13 Lucky Facts About St. Patrick’s Day

OK, it’s not about books, but it’s informative nonetheless.


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Categories
Book News Personal Publishing

Book-Related News for Self-Isolation and Social Distancing

B&N, BAM Remain Open

Publishers Weekly reports that Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million are currently staying open. I would imagine, though, that this situation could change at any time, so you’d probably want to check with your local store.

A dystopian reading list: books to enjoy while in quarantine

The U.K.’s Guardian advises that, in addition to all the pandemic novels everyone is talking about, you might also want to read “some novels about being alone. You should also add some comfort reads, and poetry, and books about people being thoughtful and useful and kind.”

KIDLIT AUTHORS STEPPING UP DURING THE COVID-19 CRISIS AND QUARANTINE

Ashlie Swicker writes, “Around the country, people who care about children are coming together and using their considerable talents to provide entertainment and education for the masses who are out of school and in need of stimulation.”

Here she offers links (current as of Monday, March 16) to several such resources.

How to Support Authors Whose Book Tours Have Been Canceled

Bookshop, “an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community,” offers a list of authors whose book tours have been canceled because of the epidemic. Since book tours can be crucial for sales, buying these writers’ books can help them weather the storm.

What It’s Like to Promote a Book in the Middle of a Pandemic

Amy Klein, author of The Trying Game: Get Through Fertility Treatment and Get Pregnant Without Losing Your Mind (Penguin/Random House), explains, “Canceling events and shutting down tours is crucial for public health—but it could tank my career.” 

“People like me—writers with books that are scheduled to come out or have just come out—are almost as worried about our book babies as we are about our personal health.” 

Lawrence Wright’s New Pandemic Novel Wasn’t Supposed to Be Prophetic

“Pandemics — like wars and economic depressions, with which they often coincide — leave scars on the body of history,” writes Lawrence Wright, author of the novel The End of October, scheduled for publication next month (April 2020). 

In fact, this is the second time he has written a novel that was published around the same time as an eerily similar historical event. “What may seem like prophecy is actually the fruit of research,” he explains. Read about how he researched and created these fictional narratives.


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown

Categories
Personal

Some of the Less Obvious Effects of the Coronavirus Pandemic

We’re all a bit frazzled about the current health pandemic and the mammoth amount of information out there for us to process. Like you, I’m concerned about the health of my friends and neighbors here in the retirement community where I live, as we’re all over 60.

But once we get past all the health information and necessary decisions, there are some less obvious effects of everything that’s happening that I hadn’t originally considered. 

Chief among those effects is ALL THIS TIME of hunkering down at home in self-isolation. As an introvert who likes nothing better than curling up with a good book, I feel I’ve been preparing for this situation my whole life. But some others are already exhibiting signs of cabin fever after only one week of a three-week-or-longer period of “social distancing.”

Right now my biggest annoyance is bandwidth strain caused by all the students and employees working remotely. But if you need something to distract you, here, to ease that discomfiture, are 10 interesting articles I’ve collected over the past week. 

An Eviction Notice’: Chaos After Colleges Tell Students to Stay Away

Colleges and universities were some of the first educational institutions to cancel classes to minimize individuals’ potential exposure to the virus. But, at least initially, those plans caused problems for students unsure of whether they’d return to campus later to finish the semester. Especially hard hit were students with financial aid who didn’t have extra funds to cover out-of-dorm living or storage expenses or travel expenses for an extra trip home. Also hard hit were foreign students, especially those whose visas require in-person rather than online classes. This article from The New York Times reports how some of these problems worked out.

A Week at the Epicenter of America’s Coronavirus Crisis

Seattle-based writer James Ross Gardner provided this look at the first week of response to the influx of the virus in my local area, around Seattle, WA. 

As coronavirus spreads in 2020, here’s how Seattle handled the 1918 flu that killed 1,513 people

This story from The Seattle Times provides informative context for the current situation. It’s likely that other papers, at least those in large metropolitan areas, produced similar local-interest pieces, but I’m linking to this one because it’s in my local area.

The 25 Best HBO Series of All Time, Ranked

If you subscribe to HBO and are stuck at home wondering what to do, Esquire magazine offers this ranking of the best HBO series you might want to catch up on.

Some streaming television services (such as Hulu and, I think, Netflix) offer free one-week trial subscriptions. Now might be a good time to sign up, but don’t forget to cancel after the trial time is up if you don’t want to continue.

Your coronavirus reading list: reader suggestions to bring joy in difficult times

The U.K.’s Guardian has some reading suggestions to help fill the time. Even though many libraries are now closed, check your local library’s website to see what ebooks or audiobooks are available for download.

kid with books

On Pandemic and Literature

Ed Simon in The Millions provides this historical look at literary representations of the 14th century’s Black Death and other pandemics, both real and imaginary.

The Infectious Pestilence Did Reign

In a similar vein, Ben Cohen explains in Slate “How the plague ravaged William Shakespeare’s world and inspired his work, from Romeo and Juliet to Macbeth.”

The Best Books to Elevate Your Reading List in 2020

Though not created specifically for the purpose, these recommendations for the year’s best books so far from Esquire offer some suggestions to supplement the Guardian list.

Coronavirus cleaning tips for your iPhone, Android

Originally from the Chicago Tribune, this article provides instruction on how to clean something we all probably touch more often than our faces, our phones.

In a Pandemic, Musicians Play in Empty Halls for Audiences Online

Anthony Tommasini, chief classical music critic for The New York Times, describes an eerie experience:

I was watching on my computer at home on Thursday afternoon as the Berlin Philharmonic finished a streamed performance of Luciano Berio’s “Sinfonia.” The cameras panned over rows of seats. No one was there. The musicians, dressed in their black-tie best, seemed not to know quite what to do. Finally, they began greeting each other cheerily, then stood and faced the empty hall.

It was one of the most disorienting yet profound views of a performance I’ve ever had.

Tommasini writes that his local (New York City) public radio station provided a listing of available streaming classical music resources, so you could check to see if your local station is doing the same. He also includes a few direct links in the article.


© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown