Wednesday, July 27, 2016

In the North Carolina Mountains.

Smokers at the motel must smoke outside their rooms.  They don’t seem to be enjoying.  They look at the ground or askance at the property.  They don’t smile.  They look tired.  They cough.

The mountain road curved, and I smiled to find myself driving through large bubbles.  I’m in a Fellini movie!  Then I saw children in the car ahead releasing bubbles from wands waved through the back seat windows.

The raptor’s glance caught my eye while I was walking down the dirt path into the wildlife rescue center.  Approaching the large cage, I saw that it was a peregrine falcon.  I did not look at him directly, but as my eyes crossed his face, I knew at once that he knew more about the universe than I would ever know, at least on this plane.  His sudden, unbidden message to me was, “Own what you have, with pride.”


This summer’s issue of The American Scholar has this quotation in a collection entitled “Commonplace Book,” quotations compiled by Anne Matthews:  “Ah, summer, what power you have to make us suffer and like it.”  (Russell Baker, The New York Times, June 27, 1965.)  There are heat and humidity and stifling hot car interiors.  But there are also brilliantly beautiful, sunny days. fresh vegetables, a profusion of flowering crepe myrtle trees, wildflowers, refreshing and cool melons, and homemade ice cream.

Notes on Reading.  Fiction.  Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage (1895).  In Stephen Crane: Prose and Poetry.  The Library of American, 1984.

This was a re-reading of this novel which I first read in a class, American Fiction, 1865-1915, one of my favorite college English courses.

Through vivid imagery, skillful use of third person, limited point of view, and outstanding control of sentence structure, Crane presents the chaos, confusion, desperation, frustration, and camaraderie of young soldiers in the midst of war.

There is much of interest to pursue, were I wanting a project:  Crane’s use of color, the use of religious imagery, parallels to a real Civil War battle, and use of dialect.

Notes on Reading.  Nonfiction.  Anu Partanen, The Nordic Theory of Everything: In Search of a Better Life.  HarperCollins, 2016.

The author, who married an American, moved to the United States and became a citizen, compares and contrasts life in the U.S. and in her native Finland.  Showing both advantages and disadvantages of life in both places, she includes separate chapters on education, health care, government services, economics, and concepts of  the good life.  There are useful notes and an extensive bibliography.

Notes on Reading.  Nonfiction.  Thad Carhart, The Piano Shop on the West Bank.  Random House, 2001.

Some books are fun.  This book is fun for me because it involves two of my favorite subjects, France and pianos.  The story frame of the book is the friendship that develops between the author and a piano repairman.  The author learns of the mechanics and buildings of pianos, and this knowledge enhances his love of music.  He decides to buy a piano, take lessons, and provide lessons for his two children.  We have sketches of teachers and their methods (particularly interesting are two master classes), revealing sketches of French people, comments on the power of music on the psyche, and a brief history of the piano.  It’s an interesting and entertaining book.

Quotation from Readings.

“It seemed refreshing to follow a Presidential campaign where erudition was revered, where the various sides were more or less sane, and where democracy was seen as a communal enterprise, not as a carnival for television.”  (Adam Gopnik, “Cool Runnings:  How To Become President of Iceland,” The New Yorker, July 11 & 18, 2016.)



About billwednesdayblog

Retired high school English and French teacher.
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2 Responses to Wednesday, July 27, 2016

  1. Irma Furbeck Boltman says:

    Oh how I miss crepe myrtles! Enjoy them for me!
    Abrazos, Irma

  2. Beth Beasley says:

    Hi, Bill! Thanks for posting. Glad you got to spend some of the sweltering summer in the mountains! I just read the NYTimes review of Partanen’s book and thought I would like to read it. It’s on my list! Hope you are staying cool!

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