Read-a-Thon Summer

I don’t know if anyone has noticed, but my posts have been slightly fewer the past month or so. There’s a good reason for that, too. Between the two of us, Hubby and I are having a read-a-thon summer, and between that and the multitude of other things that intrigue us in our retirement, like movies, Nintendo WII games, just sitting around and swinging in our new swing on the back porch, my blogging is liable to fall behind a bit.

Last week I re-read an old book of mine, THE LEGEND OF NANCE DUDE (by Maurice Stanley) after I’d written a semi-review of it and published it on my Book page. It has been one of my most consistently read posts over the year or so it’s been published, and I’ve gotten comments and emails from several members of Nance’s family from all sides. Some of the remarks made me want to go back and re-read it to see how I’d react a number of years later. One thing that surprised me was how much I’d forgotten; it was almost like reading it for the first time. I’d forgotten that Stanley mentioned in his notes at the end of the book that he’d made up several of the main characters as a dramatic device to tell his version of the story of Nance. While I can understand why that was probably necessary, given that there was little information about Nance’s private thoughts and life available, I wish he hadn’t done that. It would have been just as good as a “novel based on” book. All the same, the intrigue remains. What in the world would drive anyone to take a two-and-a-half-year-old child into the mountains and trick her into a cave, then close her in with boulders to die alone.

People had different expectations those days, especially people born into some economic and social environments who believed it was up to each of us to make our own way in the world, to pull up our bootstraps and make the best of the way things were, not the way we wished they were. As I re-read it I couldn’t help but wonder why no one seemed to know or care how desperate the circumstances for Nance, her daughter and granddaughter.

To the end she insisted she was not guilty. Her only crime–in her mind at least–was giving the child away to a strange man. Would a 90 pound woman, all by herself, be able to roll heavy boulders to cover the cave opening? There’s just enough “reasonable doubt” in my mind to believe that she might have been innocent, after all. That didn’t keep her from paying 15 years of her life to hard labor at age 65 a life completely alone from age 80 (she lived to 104) and taking care of herself.

After finishing NANCE, I went on to THE SPACE BETWEEN US by Thrity Umrigar, a recommend by Terri at Island Writer. This is a haunting novel of the frailties of relationships and family bonds as told through the observations of two women in modern-day India, one an upper middle class Parsi woman and her faithful, slum-living servant of twenty years. It’s an insightful look into the ways we let these relationships keep us tethered to the same socio and economic limitations from generation to generation. It was a good follow up to Nance Dude. Poverty and problems know no bounds.

The past several times I’ve attended movies in local theaters, particularly those located in Sandy, I’ve noticed the posters and large cardboard cutouts advertising the new movie docudrama, My Story, about Emma Smith. Ever since I’ve moved to Salt Lake City where polygamy is still practiced to this day although not condoned nor sanctioned by the LDS church, I’ve been wondering what kind of woman could willingly enter into such a relationship.

Then yesterday I tagged along with Hubby to a branch library to browse while he attended a committee meeting. I noticed a book on Oprah Winfrey displaced on a shelf by a large window so I picked up and sat in a nearby chair. I leafed through it and scan read sections of different periods of her life but soon grew bored and got up to return it. Just below it, a book suddenly caught my eye. It was MORMON ENIGMA, Emma Hale Smith, co-written by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery. In my opinion it’s a very balanced accounting, neither sanctifying nor denigrating either Emma or Joseph Smith.

Now that I’m reading Emma’s story, I feel that now I can sense what it must have been like to have lived in such a duplicitous relationship, and yes, duplicitous is exactly the word I use to describe Joseph Smith’s relationship with Emma as I see it. I will no doubt write a more extensive post on this book after I’ve completely finished, as it is affecting my sensibilities very much. I will have to excise those feelings somehow, and writing is the best way I know. First I have to finish it, mull it over, and then read the one about Brigham Young which is waiting on the shelf and is next on my read list.

Meanwhile, although it’s slow going, Hubby’s reading a book published in 2006, THE JESUS PAPERS, by Michael Baigent, “exposing the greatest cover-up in history” according to the blurbs I’ve read and heard about it. Baigent is the author of several books, the most known of which is probably HOLY BLOOD, HOLY GRAIL, but is probably most recalled by most of us as the author involved in the lawsuit with Dan Brown over copyright infringement for some of the ideas presented in Baigent’s earlier book in his bestselling American novel DA VINCI CODE (Brown ultimately won). This book puts forth another hypothesis about Jesus, suggesting a secret deal between Pontius Pilate and the supporters of Jesus, so that he did not actually die during the crucifixion, but merely sedated so that he looked dead and then later revived after being taken down from the cross. He not only lived, but went on to marry Mary Magdelene and have a child whose descendants live on today. Baigent offers several postulations to support his theories, including valuable clues he says are in the Bible.

A long time ago I decided that if I had to choose between writing and reading, reading would win hands down. So, the writing and the blog posts may take second place this summer to my read-a-thon. If I get behind in my postings, it’s because I’m probably reading, but I’ll get back here, because so far no one’s held a gun to my head and said I can’t do both–read and write!

Ruminating and Illuminating

Yesterday’s snowy (4 inches here in the Wasatch benches) spring morning seemed like a good time to catch up my own blog reading, plus explore a few “teckie” blogs as I’m always hoping to learn how to do new things. As usual I got quite lost for awhile, had no idea where I was, but somewhere along the way I caught a snatch of a post that mentioned something about whether a photo of “you” first thing in the morning or a photo showing a random bookshelf showing what books you’re into would most define you as a person.

Later as I was remembering and thinking of it, I decided a variation on the theme would be a great idea (and quick!) for a post of my own. I’m sorry I can’t remember what blog gave me the inspiration (so I could attribute and link to it) as I was following lots of links and can only remember beginning somewhere in Germany. I’m sure there are lots of you blogaholics out there who are very much like me in your online meanderings and will understand perfectly.

So I decided to expose myself as I look early in the morning without so much as combing my hair or getting dressed. Here I am the way I look most every morning after I put my glasses on so I can see. Now you see what Hubby has to face over coffee every morning! It can be worse at times, but never gets better than this! not even after a trip to the beauty parlour!

What does it reveal? My sagging eyelids that I hate. Fat cheeks. My wrinkles. Thinning hair. But is that the real me? Nope! Not by the hairs on my chinny chin chin! It does give the impression of an old woman who is either crazy or very brave. I’ll let you be the judge of that! 

Then I went downstairs to my bookshelves. Which section of books most represent the essence of me? The fiction section? Maybe. If the picture were magnified a bit, you’d see that I’ve organized each book alphabetically by author’s last name. Does that tell you anything? On the left side, that book second from the left, is Iris Murdoch’s 1965 novel The Red and the Green about the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin. That tells you if I bought a book I like it stays around for a long, long time. The Eragon and the book beside it by James Patterson (in the center) are Hubby’s, not mine. Salmon Rushdie is there on the right edge with his Satanic Verses which I haven’t read at all other than scanning; It’s a very complicated book and I bought as a political statement more than for reading, and there’s even a Joyce Carol Oates and an R.K. Nagarajan. There’s even The Raj, that pink book that I didn’t even like that much except for the glimpses of British India it gives me.   

arranged alphabetically 

What might be slightly more revealing is the picture on the right that tells you I’ve collected a few children’s books over the yearsRepresentative of Shel Silverstein is A Light in the Attic and Where the Sidewalk Ends which belong in every home in my opinion to remind you to keep in touch with the child inside you. There’s several Caldecott winners there, too. That book on the right stack, on the top, is Duey’s Tale, about the death (and rebirth) of a leaf that fell from the tree in the fall by a surprising author. I wonder how many people know that Pearl Bailey wrote a book for children? It’s very long, and probably wouldn’t have been published if it hadn’t been written by a celebrity, but who I am to complain?

So there you go. Depending on your frame of mind, this is either a very revealing post about me, or more blogging trash deserving no more thought than that. Which one!? I wonder myself all the time.

Update:  The mystery for my inspiration has been solved! If you’ll click in the comments section following this post, you’ll see a link from bigappletobigbear, the blog in Germany. BABG is a transplanted New Yorker now living in Berlin. I’ve also added it to my Blogroll; you could visit her there if you’d like. Thank you, bigapple!