Monday, January 28, 2013

as I flounder along






I periodically check in with this 1897 book of daily quotations--it makes me feel connected to the past. In 1897 there were no radios, televisions, computers, or cars. Women couldn't vote. But January (then as now) was cold and the trees were leafless. Weeds rose above the snow.


I've only been to the Catskills a couple times this winter, because of the mess of construction of the new kitchen and much of the work being done on weekends. I ache with missing it--arriving Friday night, getting out of the car stiff from the long drive, to the cold sharp smell of the air, the pounding waterfall, the crisp stars. The worst of the kitchen work will be done in a couple weeks, and I look forward to returning, to making new discoveries, to getting back that deep connection to nature I seem to need.


Whenever I have time this winter, I've been burrowing with books, making nests of blankets, reading materials, cats, mugs of tea and the occasional oatmeal raisin or ginger cookie. (okay, more than occasional.)  I recently stayed up all night reading A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, a vast novel about India from the 1947 era of partition and independence through the 1970's state of emergency. It follows the intersecting lives of four characters with fascinating, heartbreaking realism, through small daily acts  and enduring ones. It is both panoramic and wonderfully detailed, exploring family and friendship; cruelty and corruption; heroism and sacrifice.

Currently I'm reading Perfume, recommended by Shelley, and all I can say is Holy Cow, what an intense, strange and mesmerizing book. Next is The Round House, by Louise Erdrich. I also have some non-fiction going, but I'll save that for another post. Yesterday I saw Silver Linings Playbook. It was poignant and funny. There was dancing, crazy football fans, mental illness, an Italian family, and great characters/actors. I loved it.

Any good books or movies in your life recently?


26 comments:

  1. Hello Jen;
    What a wonderful picture you paint here of your life so taken up with reading. And is there any better time to indulge oneself than in the depths of winter when the days are short and, as is so often the case, bitterly cold. There will , with the coming of spring, be time enough to reconnect with Nature and the natural world.

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    1. You are so right...To everything there is a season.

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  2. One of winter's great treats is the fact that you can allow yourself to nest with a book and of course a cookie! I have just checked out 'Perfume' and will be ordering a copy. M x

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  3. Hello Jen, I love dipping into old books like that "Nature's Diary". It is easy to picture someone getting it as a holiday present back in 1897, then savoring it over the ensuing year.

    I have read Perfume, and while admitting its many good and interesting points, I also found it to a large degree strange and unpleasant, and I think that the central extended metaphor tended to break down.

    Just recently I have been revisiting the stories of Stephen Crane, and find them as intriguing as ever. What a pity he didn't live longer to write more.
    --Road to Parnassus

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    1. Yes! And so many of them have wonderful inscriptions.

      I may agree with you about Perfume. Loved the first half-- but now, 2/3 through, I've put it down and am not sure I will pick it up again.

      I'm not sure I've ever read any stories by Stephen Crane--will take a look.

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  4. 'perfume' was so different, utterly tantalising. i've seen too many bollywood films to have been swept away by 'a fine balance', and the tragedy upon tragedy got a bit too hokey after a while, but i did enjoy it anyway.

    i'm still on chopin, not much reading time. watching woody allen films...

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    1. The poetry and momentum of the first half or so of Perfume was incredible. I'm just getting a little nervous now about the creepiness factor.

      I've probably seen Annie Hall 15 times. I never get tired of it.

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  5. Loved Silver Lining Playbook. Just saw Beasts Of The Southern Wild.

    A little too much magic realism for me. But the acting was wonderful.

    I was glad when the movie ended.

    Watching Downton Abbey devotedly and rereading comfort books.

    I've decided I love January.

    xo Jane

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    1. I LOVED Beasts--bought into the whole thing. :)

      I feel like I'm the only person who hasn't seen Downton Abbey. I'll catch up one day.

      You're the first person I've heard say nice things about January. Good for you!

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  6. I'm cathcing up on my reading as well. Just read a book in Spanish by Carlos Ruiz Zafon whose books I just adore; and then started The Imperfectionists, so far so good. I find tht I can't read as much as I used to because I did so much of it while commuting on the train, have to readjust things. I hate it when I wind up 2/3 through a book and lose interest so too bad about Perfume and you. My movies tend to be Netflix these days, just saw "The Salt of Life" a fun Italian movie sort of a follow-up to "Mid-August Lunch" from a couple of years ago which if you haven't seen run out right now and rent it. you will not be disappointed. Boy, this is a long comment!

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    1. I love getting your recommendations!

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  7. Well, since I've been 'slugging ' it lately, I've had time to read some and watch some movies. Funny about Perfume: I remember speed reading through the last 1/3 to find out what happened..have to agree it slowed down but the end is, well...
    Tried to watch Mozart's Sister without subtitles and got so frustrated..just as my French would kick in, there would be a whispering scene or the dialog would go fast, or i'd not understand an idiom. I have Au Hasard de Balthazar, but am scared to watch it...a fable about a donkey and it's owner who supposedly find spiritual transcendence through their separate sufferings.
    And, Jen. I put down Dog Stars because I'm so worried about the dog!!! I'm a light weight when it comes to animals!
    Do you read in that red chair? It looks very comfy!

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    1. I know what you mean about animal stories--I can't stand reading about any cruelty. You're okay to finish Dog Stars, if that's what's stopping you.

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  8. I'm enjoying the other comments esp for the book feedback... and books are why i also like january. I love rainy days and they are somewhat scare here, so the rainiest month of our siuthern Cal year is always welcome to me. Just saw Life of Pi ...unfortunately the 3-D effects muddled the beautiful visuals, and the at-sea drama dragged just a bit, but its got a killer ending and great performances. Reading Tell the Wolves I;m Home and Angelmaker. The first is enjoyable but a bit repetitious; the second is a marvel so far (I'm only about 20% along.)

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    1. Never heard of Angelmaker, so I took a look, and it sounds like a great read for a dreary day. Thanks!

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  9. Hi Jen!
    it's been lovely to read your post Brings back that wonderful cozy feeling of reading. The joy and comfort it brings. I seem not to have the time (or maybe the mood) for it lately. I keep starting something and leave it after a couple of pages. But I know it'll come back to me sooner or later.
    I have watched a good Danish film lately, that stayed with me. It's a film from 2003 called Reconstraction. Scandinavia has some really good actors and two of them, in young age, are on this weird and sencitive movie. It is filmed in a dark and gray Copenhagen and it won the Camera D’Or at the Cannes Film Festival in 2003.

    Hope you 'll be back to your beloved Catskills soon : )

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    1. Demie--

      Dark and gray Copenhagen/weird sensitive movie/good young actors sounds good to me!

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  10. Forgot to tell you that Perfume is one of the best reads I've had.
    When you are finished you might wanna see the film :)

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    1. I love when a book evokes strong reactions--in both directions!

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  11. I bet your read Red Badge of Courage by Crane. Jay likes thrillers, so last night I suggested we stream from Netflix From Time to Time with Maggie Smith. Jay said he would go read if he got bored. He sat through the entire film. I cried at the end - haven't done that for a while. Just an enjoyable movie based on a series of children's stories by an English author, set during World War II in an old family estate with secrets from previous lives. Tonight I'm reading W.B. Yeat's Reveries over Childhood online for free.

    Remember Jen, the days are getting longer like the hop of a flea. Soon is will be spring.

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    1. "Like the hop of a flea." That's a new one for me. Love it.

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  12. Your description about devoting to reading is really encouraging for me to read. I'm reading The Narrow Road to Oku,by Basho and translated by Donald Keene. The classical writing is so difficult that I feel it easier to read in English sometimes, strangely.

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    1. Your comment about translation is very interesting. I so admire you being fluent is a different (very different) language!

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  13. Hey Friends--

    I love getting these recommendations, and am taking note of all of them. Thanks for brightening up my winter!

    Stay cozy--

    Jen

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  14. the perfume is great, isn't it? have you ever read anything by Tove Jansson? I'm absolutely in love with her story telling.

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