BOOKS I NEVER READ BUT SAID I DID

Today’s Daily Prompt is a duplicate of one which WordPress offered less than two weeks ago. So, here’s something else. It’s about books. We’ll split the difference, okay?


Ulysses James Joyce

It starts in school when they give you lists of books to read.

I was always a reader. Most of the time, I’d read most of the books on any list. The remaining few were not a big deal. Reading any book, no matter how thick, was rarely a problem for me. After all, I love books.

But literature courses inevitably include books that I would never read voluntarily. Maybe books that no one would voluntarily read. I’m not 100% sure, but I believe that’s the entire point of literature courses — to force you to read books no one likes and maybe no one ever liked.

How about Silas Marner? When was the last time someone read that because it sounded like a fun read?

Despite current trendiness, Jane Austin was nobody’s favorite author in high school. I read it, but I didn’t have to like it. You may lob your stones this way.

Pride and Prejudice was the only book I ever threw in a lake. There, I’ve admitted it. I do not like Jane Austin. Not then, not now. Neither does my husband. We also don’t like the movies made from the books.

By the time I got to college, among the many books I did not read was James Joyce’s Ulysses. Not only didn’t I read it, I barely got through the Cliff Notes. But I got an A on the paper for my “unique understanding of the characters and motivation.” Good Cliff Notes, eh? I did read Portrait Of The Artist As A Young Man and thought it wasn’t half bad. At least I could discern a plot and everyone in it wasn’t a prig — as they were in Austen’s novels.

I slogged my way through all of Dostoyevsky’s books. It was voluntary, but I still couldn’t tell you why I did it. Maybe to prove I could? I think the angst of the characters appealed to my younger self. Teenagehood was very angst-ridden.

I read all 1800 pages of Romaine Rolland’s Jean Christophe because my mother loved the book. She also had me read Growth of the Soil, Knut Hamsun’s depressing tale of grinding poverty and despair in the Norwegian highlands. I barely made it through Madame Bovary. War and Peace was a non-starter.

Growth of the SoilI never made it through anything by Thomas Hardy. Or Lawrence Durrell. I loved Larry’s brother Gerald Durrell. He was hilarious and wrote about my favorite subjects, animals. I slogged my way through Lady Chatterley’s Lover only because everyone told me it was hot. I thought it was dull. My brother had some books stuffed under his bed that were a lot dirtier and more fun.

I never owned up to not reading those important, literary masterpieces. When the subject came up — which it did when we were students and even for a few years after that — I would try to look intelligent. I’d grunt at the appropriate moments, nod appreciatively.

So yesterday, I was looking at a review I wrote last January about Dahlgren and realized I was lying about literature again. I hated the book. I didn’t merely dislike it. I found it boring and pretentious. It had no plot, no action, and as far as I could tell, no point. I mealy-mouthed around my real feelings because it’s a classic. Everyone says so.

So my question is: who really read it? Who loved it? Did everyone pretend because they heard it was a great book? How many people lie about reading great books when in fact, they never make it past the preface?

I’m betting it ain’t just me.

BETTER THAN DEAD

I hear a lot of complaining about aging. Some of it is coming from me, so I admit in advance, I sometimes forget to be grateful I’m alive. Getting old ain’t fun, but not getting old is less fun.

Ghoulie at Gettysburg

Age brings financial limitations, aches, pains, and indigestion. On the plus side, it brings an end to commuting, doing whatever your boss tells you because you need the paycheck, and never having time for yourself. Being alive offers significant advantages over being dead. Which, to the best of my knowledge, is the only alternative to growing old.

dark cemetary

I think we are most afraid of age when we aren’t old yet, but see it coming. Most of the bewailing and bewhining about getting old doesn’t come from old people. It comes from middle-aged folks who feel they are quite old enough, thank you, and could we please just stop this aging nonsense? Can’t things stay put?

Not really.

The good news is the fear of getting old is much worse than being old. When you get to whatever age you have defined as officially “old,” probably when you retire or sign up for whatever your country gives to those who no longer work, old turns out to be life, minus going to work.

Just a continuation of life. There’s no sign saying “WELCOME TO OLD, A REALLY BIG TOWN.”

Old House in Hadley

Many of friends and family members died younger than I am now. A lot younger. There’s little point in agonizing about what might happen. Worry doesn’t change anything, but it sure sucks the joy out of now. The worst part of all the stressing over possible future disasters is we worry about the wrong stuff. Inevitably, what actually happens isn’t what we worried about. It’s something we never expected, for which we are utterly unprepared.

Someone quotable said that in this secular age, worry has taken the place of prayer. I don’t know whether or not prayer was ever effective at preventing bad stuff from happening, but I’m sure worry isn’t.

In the long haul — if you’re lucky enough to have a long haul — there will be sufficient real problems to keep you busy. You don’t need to worry about stuff that may never happen. Figure out what to do about the crisis when and if it happens. Otherwise, enjoy what you can.

75-UUSteeple1-HP

I gave up worrying sometime around the time I got the second cancer diagnosis. Clearly, the whole worry thing had failed. It was time to try a different approach.

I recommend living in the moment. Try it. You’ll see.

I don’t mind getting old. I resent being sick and hate being poor. On the positive side, I’m alive to complain about it. A lot of folks I used to know cannot say the same. They can’t say anything. That’s the down side of being dead.

Getting old, with all its hazards, will always beat getting dead.

WRATH OF THE HAG

I used to do stuff, but my son grew up and decided I was incompetent. He stole all my tools (which he called “borrowing”). Since he never intended to return any of them, I feel he and I need to reassess our language interface. I have managed to save a lightweight Dremel. I keep it hidden in the linen closet. I’m pretty sure it’s safe there. I have a hammer stowed in the silver chest where no one but me goes.

72-Garden-Tools-0502_17

I don’t have a screwdriver, staple gun, tape, glue, or nails. Nor thumb tacks. The son who took my tools is too busy to do the little jobs I could do and Garry is a 10-thumbs kind of guy. I knew that when we got married. I never expected him to be Mr. Fixit.

In our house, what gets broken, stays broken. Forever and ever, world without end. Limited as I am by age, infirmity, and a paucity of tools, when I heard for the umpteenth time another feeble non-promise, I blew at least three gaskets simultaneously. I had reached my limit for empty promises.

For all these years, I believed. Someone said “I’ll take care of it.” I assumed it meant he/she/they would take care of it.

72-dustmop_02

I have finally worked it out. Husbands, children, grandchildren, brothers-in-law — and paid contractors — make promises. More accurately, they say stuff I think are promises. They would be promises if I said them, but the words have an entirely different meaning when used by them. What they mean and what I hear are unrelated.

They are not breaking their word. They were merely making soothing noises. They never had any intention of doing whatever. Genuine intentions — real promises — come with a schedule. A plan.

“I’ll plant those seeds tomorrow,” is a promise. “I’ll plant those seeds … ” is not a promise. Tomorrow is the key word. Tomorrow afternoon is even better. Today, after lunch is golden. The narrower the time-frame, the more likely “it” is to occur. Otherwise, the words are meant to shut me up without saying “shut up.”

72-Gloves-Tools-0502_22

It has taken a lifetime for me to figure out when words sound like promises, resemble promises, but are not promises.

After making this revelation, realizing I’ve been waiting for nothing, my Hag popped up. That’s the me who isn’t nice or forgiving. She doesn’t care about your other plans. Do it or face Her Wrath. There is nothing quite as pissed off as a granny who realizes she’s been duped.

computer gargoyle

Suddenly, the air conditioner is installed. Well, at least one of them. The other one is supposedly getting done today (still waiting). A new shower installation graces the bathroom. The front yard is clean and the walk is usable at long last.

Dave, the Well Guy, finally capped the well!

I’m on a roll. I don’t expect it to last, but in the meantime, it’s satisfying.


Flip Flop – I used to believe everyone. Now, not so much.

NINETY DEGREES

Eleven months ago, I bought a Waring Pro Digital Convection Oven. Basically, it’s a high-end toaster oven with an added convection baking function. I picked it because it has the features I wanted, it got good reviews … and it would fit in the space I had available.

These days, I cook pretty much entirely for Garry and I. We rarely have company, much less dinner guests. I figured I could bring our electric consumption down considerably by not using the huge oven in my electric, glass-top range.

waring mini oven

Since I bought it last June, I’ve used my full-size oven only once. I love this little oven … except that the design of the rack can make it very difficult to get the baking sheet out.

art waring oven multi lens

It gets stuck under the claws of the oven, which I believe it is designed to do. It has been the source of significant frustration for me, especially since I use it nearly every day for everything from baking chicken to frozen pizza.

Our electric bill dropped by 50% between last year and now, so I figured it was worth the hassle.

Today, I solved the puzzle. I figured out how to prevent the baking tray from getting stuck on the rack. What was the solution? I changed its orientation from east-west to north-south. In other words, I rotated it 90 degrees on the rack and the problem vanished.

waring mini oven trayFor eleven months, I struggled with the oven pan, trying to get it out of the oven without burning my hand. I have hundreds of little burns on my hands because the pan got caught every time I used it. Which, I remind you, has been almost every day.

In all these months, it never occurred to me I could turn it.

What point is there in having a high IQ if it takes 11 months of getting burned on an oven rack before you consider turning the pan in the other direction?

Garry said he was glad it was me, not him.

I guess I will never be too old to be really stupid.

SAME OLD SAME OLD AND AN HISTORICAL NOTE

Ecclesiastes 1:9 — New International Version (NIV)

What has been, will be again,
what has been done, will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun.

I’ve given this a think and come to realize not only have I not done anything completely new or outrageous in recent memory, I don’t know that I ever have, or wanted to. If I’d wanted to do it, I’d have done it.

I’d love to get a repeat performance for some places I’ve been. I wouldn’t mind a first run at a couple of spots I always wanted to go — if someone will transport me there without complicated travel arrangements.

Irish Signs Ireland

My mind wanders towards travel because I love traveling. Sadly, that’s one thing that’s lost its savor. It was more fun in years past. Not mere nostalgia. Fact.

Airline travel especially has fallen to the bottom rung of the desirable-modes-of-transportation ladder. That alone would put a damper on any lingering travel lust.

I fear not flying, but I dread airports. Luggage handlers. Airport food. The so-called lounges where we wait for flights that never arrive or never take off. Incomprehensible announcements over garbled sound systems. Delayed flights. Security checks.

And the eternal question. Why is the connecting flight inevitably at the farthest point on the opposite side of an airport the size of Alaska? And why is that connecting flight on time when the flight on which you arrived, is late?

I haven’t done anything “beyond the pale.” Not recently and, on further reflection, ever. I’ve always been the same old me. How dull.


Historical Footnote: Does the author of this prompt know the derivation of “beyond the Pale?” It refers to the Pale of Settlement, in which Jews were allowed to live, other places being forbidden to them.

Catherine the Great created the Pale of Settlement in Russia in 1791. This was the name given to the western border region of the country, in which Jews were allowed to live. The motivation behind this was to restrict trade between Jews and native Russians. Some Jews were allowed to live, as a concession, ‘beyond the pale’.

Pales were enforced in other European countries for similar political reasons, notably in Ireland (the Pale of Dublin) and France (the Pale of Calais), which was formed as early as 1360.

MY STORY, BY JAMES LEE BURKE

I’ve sort of already written my autobiography. I called it The 12-Foot Teepee. A few people read it, but a fresh approach would surely give it new life.

Or maybe a less fresh approach. Definitely a different approach. Less sentimental. Darkly descriptive. Faulkneresque with shadowy, flawed characters trying to get past their guilt and regret for bad choices, damaged relationships, and murky pasts.

How about James Lee Burke?

75-JLBurkeShelf-NK-08

I love your books, Mr. Burke. Not just Dave Robicheaux, either. I love all of them, the flawed, crazy, haunted, alcoholic, bunch.

Will you please write my story? Pretty please? You’ve got the right style. You can describe my abusive childhood while adding a sufficient amount of wry humor to highlight the ironies of my adulthood. You do flawed people brilliantly and God knows, I’ve got enough flaws for a series.

Bizarre characters and plenty of them. The legion of the weird have marched through my life. They hung around for decades and they aren’t all gone yet. I seem to emit some kind of magnetism which signals to the misfits, miscreants, loners, and strangers in a strange land to come to me. I call them “friends.” Or I did. Many are gone.

James Lee Burke

Mine could be the story which could be the movie you want to make. I know how hard you’ve struggled to get one of your wonderful books properly translated for the screen. So far, no dice.

I hope you don’t take it personally. Hollywood murders most books. It’s totally not you. It’s Hollywood being Hollywood.

Stephen King is a great author who keeps trying, but ends up hating “the movies” do to his material. The only recent author who manged to escape that fate was John Irving. He wrote the script for Cider House Rules himself. Got an Oscar for it. Have you considered that?

Script-writing isn’t easy … even when it’s your work. Maybe especially when it’s your work. But I’m digressing.

Maybe there’s hope for you, if you have the right property. Me. Stop laughing. I’m semi-serious here. If you add your brooding, sardonic, Southern style to my outwardly ordinary upraising, meld it with the ugly reality of those years, and add a dollop of the bizarre life I’ve lived as an adult … In your unique style, how could it miss?

Good for you, good for me. It’s possible I’ll be dead by the time the book hits the virtual shelves and ultimately the silver screen, but it doesn’t matter. I’ll be a ghostly character, like the soldiers from In the Electric Mist with Confederate Dead. Maybe I’ll hang around to see the reviews.


Your Life, The Book – The Daily Post

YOU’RE JUST FINE!! GARRY ARMSTRONG

This week, I had my six-month checkup with my primary care doctor. I’ve had the same doctor for 15 years. She has seen me through some rough times. She knows me pretty well, physically and mentally.

I’ve been feeling my age recently and was sure it would be reflected in the examination. My vitals were taken, my prescription list tweaked and I received a pneumonia booster.

The doc chatted with me about how things were going at home, with life in general. I mused about recently celebrating my 73rd birthday and not feeling very celebratory.

I explained how my hearing was getting worse. Almost gone in my right ear. “My hearing aids help,” I volunteered, “But not enough.” I told her I didn’t socialize much anymore because of my hearing problems and found it to be demoralizing, if not outright depressing.

The doctor knows Marilyn fields most phone calls because of my hearing. To some degree, my wife is my “handler” in many situations because I’m so hard-of-hearing. I admit here my hearing problems are also the source of unnecessary arguments with Marilyn. She’s a trouper.

I hate the word “deaf.” but that’s probably the reality these days. The doctor shook her head sympathetically as I vented.

The conversation (my jabbering) crisscrossed over the lousy winter, the mediocre (or worse) Red Sox pitching, agitated conversations at home about old movies and too-often-watched repeats.

Frustration with lousy drivers involving a conspiracy to drive me crazy.

Garry with Bonnie and Nan

I’m absolutely convinced there is a conspiracy using high-tech eavesdropping and radio equipment to alert slow drivers I’m about to leave home. Marilyn concurs.

The doctor smiled as I whined. I was sure she could see how my world was turning.

A recheck of my pulse and then another careful monitoring of my heart. The doctor looked up at me with a funny smile, almost like she was flirting with me.

“You have the heart of a 25-year-old”, she beamed. She said I was in terrific physical condition, concluding with a robust: “You’re just fine!”

I groaned and left the doctor’s office.

SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY PROMPT – WEDNESDAY, 2015 #3

SERENDIPITOUS PHOTO STORY PROMPT –
WEDNESDAY – 2015 #3 – A  Story of Nan

I’ve decided to do this once weekly. I will endeavor to put it out every Wednesday. Because Wednesday is the middle of the week. I have no better reason, but anyone who can give me one, I’ll use it.

I’m not quite sure why I decided to do this prompt. I’m sure it started with the Daily Prompt — which is limp, unimaginative, and sometimes slightly offensive.

Maybe I was lulled into thinking it was easy by how many other bloggers manage one or more challenges, yet apparently retain active lives away from the computer. I’m sure, after all my blathering about how feeble WordPress’s editors are, I needed to prove myself less feeble.

Garry with Terriers - Dogs

I am not convinced I am achieving that goal, but I am trying. However ineptly. My effort for this week follows.

Please try to add your own links. If you aren’t sure, put your link in a comment and I will add it manually at the first opportunity. Don’t get too bent out of shape if it takes me a few hours. I am not always at the computer. It may seem I am. but actually, I’m away for whole days sometimes. I know you don’t believe me.


 A TALE OF NAN:  OLD DOG, OLD BLOGGER

I remind me of my little dog Nan. She is 15 and deaf. Going blind. She isn’t always sure who we are, or for that matter, who she is.

Biscuit time - All dogs

Which is why sometimes, in the middles of attempting to go down the stairs, she decides she can fly and leaps into the air. It’s super dog … splat. I try to grab her and not let her go down on her own. Every time she splats, my guilt level goes off the charts.

That’s analogous to how I decided to create a prompt/challenge. I thought I was super blogger.

Splat.

NAN Norwich Terrier dog biscuit

 

A few days ago, we had Bonnie and Nan groomed. They smell good, feel good … and it won’t last. I wanted to get a few pictures, but as usual, it went badly.

The moment I pull out a camera, they charge forward. I drafted Garry to hang on to them … then he had the brilliant idea of tempting them with biscuits. These are the results.


I like telling stories linked to pictures. To help the process along, every Wednesday or until I throw in the towel, I’ll publish a picture and write something about it. Some days, it may be long, others day, just a couple of sentences. You can use any of my pictures — or one of your own — as the prompt. If you find the subject interesting, by all means, extrapolate.

Please link it back to this post (ping back) so other people can find it.

What do I mean by “story” and “pictures”?

Story. Words. Poetry, prose, fact, or fiction. A couple of lines, a fanciful tale.

Pictures. Video if that’s your thing. Scanned pictures from your scrap-book. Weird pictures from the internet. Cartoons. Pictures of your family vacation and how the bear stole your food. Any picture you ever took and would like to talk about

What to write about?

Your trip to Paris. You flight from Irkutsk. You favorite dog, cat, ferret, cockatoo. The weird boyfriend you had in high school. The last book you read, the next book you plan to read, why you don’t read books (but you write them)(don’t write them)(would like to write them).

Television shows, movie stars, classic film, history, language. Fiction, non-fiction. Everything, anything as long as you include a picture and some text.

SIMPLE

It sounds simple because it is simple. Every picture has a story or ought to. There are no rules. You are free to follow my lead, ignore me, follow someone else’s idea. Any picture plus some text will do it. Short or long, truth or fiction. Prose or poetry.

One final thing: If you want to get notices of these posts, you’ll have to subscribe to Serendipity. I’ll try to title relevant posts so you can easily recognize them.