I have been doing a bit of Spring Uncluttering and Rearranging this past week and it has come to my attention that the books are taking over! It is getting harder and harder to find places on my shelves for the strays that find their way onto side tables, chair seats, and into bags on the floor. I try to keep my collection pretty much corralled on three shelving units. You can see them here at my contribution to Danielle's Lost in the Stacks which ran about a year ago. Believe me, the shelves are much fuller now. Not that this abundance is a bad thing, but I do like my space to be tidy. And it gets harder and harder to part with books as my library is pretty much filled with ones that hold some sort of sentimental value for me - either because they come from my family library or they were purchased on a trip. And some I just simply want to keep. I will have to be ruthless! Perhaps I should have another Belle's Book Giveaway. Or maybe I could just build more shelves... What has been occupying your time now that Spring is here?
For the past three-plus years I have attended a once-a-week yoga class. Not the hot and sweaty, downward dog type of class, but a gentle yoga workout that focuses on breathing, flexibility, and strength. The class is made up of women of a certain age - although the occasional man does show up. It is a small group, perhaps six or seven regulars, and we are all just trying to stay limber and balanced. We started out doing the poses in a chair, but now we have graduated to the mat. There is no competition, we laugh often, and breathe, breathe, breathe. I am not one for group workouts, but I enjoy this class, rarely miss it, and have seen some healthful changes in all parts of my life. The instructor is calm and soft-spoken and I trust her. So I was attracted to a small book on the library's New Book shelf: Yoga Sparks - 108 Easy Practices for Stress Relief in a Minute of Less. It is written by Carol Kurcoff, a yoga therapist at Duke Integrative Medicine in Durham, North Carolina. Her book incorporates not only physical Sparks - simple poses that can be done anywhere from at your desk to in your car to standing at the kitchen sink - but spiritual and mental practices as well. There are five main sections outlining practices that can be performed: Anywhere, Around the House, At Work, On the Go, and With Others. Within each section are the Sparks that focus on four aspects of yoga practice: Posture (with helpful drawings), Breathing, Meditation, and Principles. So not only did I learn a few new stretching poses, but I also got tips on deep abdominal breathing to relieve stress, how to still my mind (I need a lot of work on that one!), and thoughts on the ethical and moral values in the yoga tradition.
I was delighted with this book. It reinforces some of the techniques that I have learned in the class and offers some new poses. The author is clear with her instructions and encouraging with her words so it is perfect whether you are a beginner or have been going to formal classes for some time. I have already added some of her practices to my own daily round. No special clothing or yoga mat needed.
This is a report on a couple of books I finished this week.
Dave Barry's Greatest Hits - As I knew it would be, this is a hoot. It contains a collection of columns Barry wrote for the Miami Herald and was published in 1988. Barry offers his bizarro thoughts on a wide variety of topics from a review of his son's kindergarten play "The Cave Man" to pot shots taken at Reagan, Oliver North, television evangelists, and dinosaurs. He is a funny, funny man.
Diamond Dust - Another mystery starring Bath's most famous murder investigator Peter Diamond. I love this series written by Peter Lovesey. In this, the seventh, someone very close to DS Diamond is murdered. As he is not allowed to be involved in the formal investigation - he is even considered a suspect - he has to conduct his own unofficial inquiry into the crime.
The Southerner's Handbook - A couple of years ago I was spending a quiet weekend at a fine old hotel, the Beaumont Inn, in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. On the bedside table were copies of a magazine I had never heard of - Garden & Gun. I thought it an odd juxtaposition of subjects but found the publication to contain some finely written articles on Southern living. This book is a collection of short essays on Living the Good Life put together by the editors of G&G. It is a delight and takes a look at the food and drink, style, sporting and adventure, homes and gardens, and arts and culture of the large area of the country that makes up The South. Here the genteel reader will learn how make Southern biscuits and gravy; how and when to wear seersucker; ways to collect mint Julep cups; how to get invited back as a house guest; the intricacies of college football rivalries; and, how to create a year round cutting garden. There is a laugh-out-loud ode to that iconic Southern libation, sweet tea (also known as hillbilly heroin!). But best of all are instructions on how to stock your home library. Here is the list of five essential Southern books according to Richard Howorth, founder and owner of Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men (1941) by James Agee and Walker Evans The Moviegoer (1961) by Walker Percy (I wrote about this one here.) The Complete Stories (1971) by Flannery O'Connor All God's Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw (1974) by Theodore Rosengarten Long, Last, Happy (2010) by Barry Hannah Per chance, do any of these books grace your shelves?
Well, I am sorry to report that the three best things about Harriet the Spy - the movie - are Eartha Kitt in a cotton-candy pink wig, the theme song, and oh, dear, maybe there are only two best things.
I recently discovered the book this Nickelodeon movie is based on about 11-year-old Harriet and her spy route. Harriet carries her notebook with her everywhere she goes and writes down everything she observes because she wants to become a writer and childhood is her training ground. You can read my thoughts on this classic here. I enjoyed the book - celebrating its fiftieth year. And I will admit that the overall arc of the story in the film followed the original, but the 1996 version of Harriet loses something in the intervening decades. To me, the casting of Harriet wasn't right. Actually, not one of the kids was very engaging or memorable. For some unknown reason, the grocery store owned by an wild Italian family that Harriet spies on in the book becomes an Oriental store in the movie. Rosie O'Donnell as Golly the Nanny plays her part with absolutely no expression or warmth and has the deadest eyes imaginable. The background music seemed very loud and the camera angles and shots were frenetic and dizzying. Sigh. Maybe if I were eleven, the movie would have appealed to me. As it is, I will stick with the book. You might want to as well. Anyway, here is the theme song "The Secretive Life" written and performed by Jill Sobule.
It just has to be said - Delight by J.B. Priestly is a delight! I got my hands on this book, published in 1949, through an inter-library loan. Hooray for my public library. It actually came from the shelf of the University of Louisville Ekstrom Library so it didn't have far to travel. Maybe two miles... Anyway, Priestly, a self-professed grumbler, wrote this book with the intent of helping raise the morale of the British people after the end of World War II by giving them reasons to rejoice of life's simple pleasures. It contains 114 short essays on such delights as fountains, smoking, a gin and tonic, old photographs, charades, a walk in the pine wood. Easy enough to be delighted by any of those (except maybe the smoking!) But digging deeper, Mr. Priestly comes up with such pleasures as: not going, suddenly doing nothing, discovering Vermeer, a first time abroad, found money, orchestras tuning up, and departing guests. The longest essay here runs to maybe three pages; most fit on one page or two. All are written in the richest of language and with more than a twinkling of humor. If you can get your hands on a copy of this Delight, I don't think you will be disappointed. And it may get you to thinking about some of your own delights. It certainly did me. You will see what I mean. Here is Number Fifty-one: There is a peculiar delight, which I can still experience though I knew it best as a boy, in cosily reading about foul weather when equally foul weather is beating hard against the windows, when one is securely poised between the wind and rain and sleet outside and the wind and rain and sleet that leap from the page into the mind. The old romancers must have been aware of this odd little bonus of pleasure for the reader, and probably that is why so many of their narratives, to give them a friendly start, began with solitary horsemen, cloaked to the eyebrows, riding through the night on urgent business for the Duke, sustained by nothing more than an occasional and dubious ragout or pasty and a gulp or two of sour wine (always fetched by surly innkeepers or their scowling slatterns), on side-roads deep in mire, with wind, rain, thunder-and-lightning, sleet, hail, snow, all turned on at the full. With the windows rattling away and hailstones drumming at the paper in the fireplace, snug in bed except for one cold elbow, I have travelled thousands and thousands of mucky miles with these fellows, braving the foulest nights, together crying "Bah!"
I hate to admit it, but I am really not much of a reader of poetry. Billy Collins and Mary Oliver aside, I don't spend much time immersed in the poets of the ages. But I am a sucker for a vintage book. When I discovered A Little Treasury of Great Poetry on the Friends of the Library sale table, I snatched it up quicker than you could say "Tyger! Tyger! Burning bright..." This anthology, which boldly promises to hold The Best Poems of Seven Centuries, was published in 1947. Its editor was Oscar Williams, himself a poet, although he was more well-known for his collections of others' poetry than his own. What I like about this anthology, American and British poems ranging from Chaucer to Dylan Thomas, is that the works are divided into categories.
So we have Poetry of the Earth, Beginnings, Spirit of Man, Mortality, Snow, Auguries of Innocence, Time, Age and others. And finally there is the delightful section of humorous ditties, Jabberwocky. In all there are 766 pages of long, short, narrative, and lyric poems; ballads; songs; and, passages from great plays. There is an index of authors and titles, an index of first lines, and lo, and behold, portraits of the poets. I just love looking at their faces! Only two females are featured in this gallery - Elizabeth Barrett Browning and the anthologist's wife, poet Gene Derwood.
The book is just the size to sit on my bedside table which may encourage me to pick it up and read a stanza or two before bed. I kept thinking that Mr. Williams' name sounded familiar, so I searched my shelves and sure enough, I came across Immortal Poems of the English Language which he also gathered. It was given to me by a dear friend on my birthday (which just happens to be tomorrow - I hope there will be cake!) many years ago. To give you an idea of just how long ago, the little paperback cost seventy-five cents. Are you reading any poetry these days?